Looking for the ‘I’ in the Twilight Series

I just finished Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn which, like the first three novels, I read in less than 24 hours.

But even as I continue to read and buy her books, I find myself increasingly discombobulated.

There are so many things to like.

The deeply romantic ‘girl-gets-swept off her feet by two knights in shining armor' plot.

The fact that ‘Bella is loved because she exists – not because she does everything right – and deep down this is what we all want — to be loved for our very existence', as Janna commented in my “The Allure of the Pom-Pom” post; being loved for our very existence should be (I believe is) an inalienable right.

Then there's Bella's relatedness and nurturing and connecting, traits innate to women, which all too often are under appreciated by others, as well as ourselves.

Twilight_saga

And yet, believing as I do — in the importance of moving ourselves to the center of our life story, learning to establish priorities, to accomplish goals, to learn to say no — I've found myself in a surprising love/hate relationship with Meyer's books.

Because as hard as I try, I just can't find the ‘I'-dentity.

Whether it's Bella having no interest in an education, to her continual physical danger from which she needs to be rescued, to her inability to set boundaries.

In response to a prior post, some have noted that Bella and Edward do not engage in pre-marital sex. Which is true. But only because of Edward's unusual self-control.

Even if I set aside the unrealistic world view that there are more than a few men who could resist their beloved throwing herself at him, I am very uncomfortable with the idea of being beholden to another's integrity. Of doing the right thing not because I choose to, but because I happen to be surrounded by others who do.

Some days it would be nice — I would like to be two again — but most of the time I really do want to grow up, to embark on the Psyche-like journey of feminine development. I think most of us do.

Being loved is an inalienable right, but exercising choice is too.

Can you recommend any books with female characters that are both/and? Connected like Bella, but also learning to establish priorities, achieve goals, to exercise choice?

My friend Kathleen P just recommended the Sandra Gulland series “The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.

I've only just begun the book, but maybe.

Any others?

Some of you are going to disagree with me — some of you are going to wonder why I am spending so much time thinking about this, whatever your thoughts — I'd love to hear them.

Related Posts:

An ‘A' or an ‘F' on the Galadriel test?
Et tu, Whitney?
The Allure of the Pom-Pom
What I've Learned by Identifying My Heroes
Second Thoughts on Psyche's 2nd Task

The Allure of the Pom-Pom

I sort of deserved it, but it stung nonetheless.

One of our vendors (I'm purposely being vague) recently invited me and several other clients to sit in their box at a Celtics game — nope, not a championship game.

In making small talk, one of the fellows asked me if I were a hoops fan.  I could have given several different answers.  Like, Yes, I really enjoyed going to games when I was younger.  Or, No, not so much, but I've enjoyed seeing the Celtics' have a winning season.  Both answers would have been true.

Instead, I said, “Well, I WAS a cheerleader in high school”.

To which he responded, “And, now you're a cheerleader over at Rose Park Advisors.”

Youngcheerleaders

©iStockphoto.com/Jeremy Sterk

Weeks later, I'm still stung.

Was his comment inappropriate?

Yup.

But, given that ‘it takes two to tango', and that this man's comment, albeit the most egregious over the past year, was not dissimilar to comments made by other folks, I have come to wonder if I bear some responsibility for this sort of riposte.

I don't mean to imply that I didn't relish being a cheerleader because I did.  I spent many, many hours making up and perfecting cheers; I loved cheering for my high school.

Even today, I'm happiest when I'm cheering on my family and friends as they pursue their dreams.

But in my professional milieu, cheerleader isn't what I thought I was going for.

So why did I say what I said?

Because I must have meant it — at least a little.

I want to be respected professionally, to have what I say and do be taken seriously.  To have gravitas.

I also want to be loved, adored, and cared for — don't all girls?

And in a professional context, I just don't think you can have both.

So…

I've been asking myself —

Am I going to grow up or not?

Throw down my pom-poms, as alluring as they are to hang on to?

Or get in the game?

Pompoms

©iStockphoto.com/Klaus Larsen

Have you read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series?  Her books play perfectly into our desire to be loved, adored, cared for.  Which is why, in my opinion, they are so intoxicating — I read the first three in a week.

Have you found yourself giving mixed messages?   As a professional, parent, spouse?  Why?

Have you ever become angered by a comment only to later realize that the person was merely reflecting back to you what you were emitting? 

Even as I write this, it feels that I am grappling for, or missing, something.  What are your thoughts?

Related Posts:
Getting In the Game
Janna Taylor: If You Get Defensive, You're Getting Close
Et tu, Whitney?
The Hazards of ‘Getting in the Game'

Amy Sorensen | A is for Amy’s Choice – Full-Time Mothering

After reading my post about Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Series, Amy Sorensen and I exchanged several e-mails in which Amy shared that her dream right now is to do precisely what she's chosen to do: be a full-time mother. She shares her story below:

Almost a month ago Whitney asked me to guest blog and in the midst of the holidays I put it off and then after the big holiday push my grandfather died and I flew to Boise to celebrate his passing with my parents, aunts and uncles and cousins I haven'€™t seen in forever. It truly was a beautiful celebration, my grandfather was 95 years old and ready to die. We laughed over stories about his garden and the menacing squirrels and it was nice to be with family.

Amystwinchris_150_4
Amy's twin Chris, photo courtesy of Amy Sorensen

It has taken me several weeks to figure out what to say here and how to say it. Whitney asked if I would tell a little about myself and my dream journey. I grew up in Las Vegas, NV, finished my degree in communication studies from UNLV and met my husband, an officer in the Air Force, by the time I was twenty-five. We both wanted a family so shortly after we were married I found out I was pregnant. I was excited and scared and nervous. I was a journalist and publicist for a small publishing company in Vegas and I was worried about what I knew I would do next. I knew that I would leave the professional world behind and become a mom. I knew it would be hard, and it is. I am a dirty and tired mommy most days; I'€™m a taxi driver and a librarian and a teacher. I was a military wife and now I am a student wife with my husband working on his masters. I play and have played so many roles.

When I started reading Whitney's blog I thought what is my big dream? Was my big dream to be a journalist and did I let that slip by? I am a dreamer by nature, I like to think of all the things I could do, all the avenues I could take. I could do so many things. And as I have thought about this precious gift of life I have been given I realized that I am already living my big dream. For me the big dream is to have children who are mostly well adjusted, happy and successful. I want a relationship with my husband that will last and that we will enjoy being together even after 50 years of marriage. For me the best way to achieve these goals is to be at home. I can do whatever I want. I choose this dream; this is the most important thing for me right now.

I could be that writer and I do photography as a paid hobby, Thanks Whitney for encouraging me to have multiple dreams and to follow them. I started a blog and I have started a small business taking family pictures and shooting special events. But even in working with my photography I am still the mom, and the most important thing to me is to be the mom.

Amymom_2
Amy's children, photo courtesy of Amy Sorensen

With the military we have moved from Las Vegas to Southern Georgia to Central Massachusetts and back west to Utah to attend school. And I am the constant in my children'€™s life and I enjoy being that. I figure someday I'll get the opportunity to go to New York and work at a magazine and someday I'll get to go on photo shoots to remote locations and spend hours just taking pictures. But right now I am living my first dream to be the mother of my children.

Please do take a moment to re-read the Pew Research Center post which I've flagged below. Why do you think we don't do a better job of acknowledging and affirming our own decisions as well as those of others?

Do you see in Amy's decision a hero's journey as outlined by Psyche? Especially Psyche's first task — the sorting of the seeds?

Have you noticed how Amy is already harnessing her passion for photography in service of her feminine impulse to connect and collaborate?

Related posts:
Pew Research Center's “Fewer Mothers Prefer Full-Time Work”
Mothering Matters
Psyche's 1st Task – Sort the Seeds
It Takes Courage to Tell Our Stories
Lily Liang: iPhone iNeed?

Et tu, Whitney?

“It is only when an anomaly is identified….that the opportunity to improve theory occurs.” Paul Carlile, Clayton Christensen

In responding to “An ‘A' or an ‘F' on the Galadriel test?” in which I discussed my love-hate relationship with the Twilight trilogy, Amy politely wondered if I would feel as I do had these books been penned by a man.

Specifically, Amy asked, “Is there more to your view than expecting more of people because we know their beliefs? Does it goes back to your discussion of what it means to be feminine? Perhaps your ideas about women and ambition are broader than you had supposed. That it's not just about large-scale power, but rather any time women move outside of perceived guidelines our society squirms?”

A is for Amy, anomaly, and Amy appears to be absolutely right.

Enders_shadow_2

I have read over 25 books by Orson Scott Card, another fellow Mormon. Yet I've never had the kind of visceral reaction to his books, frequent Ten Commandment non-compliance notwithstanding, as I did to Meyers' book.

Do you remember the Bem Sex-Role Inventory's finding that women are only feminine within the context of a relationship and when we are giving something (resources, recognition) to someone else?

And isn't it true, that when women move beyond perceived guidelines (as did Ms. Meyer), we are crossing into a territory in which we are not sovereign, and are thus figuratively taking something from someone else?

Et tu, apply the double standard Whitney?

Lamentably, yes.

What are your thoughts?

Related posts:

An ‘A’ or an ‘F’ on the Galadriel test?
Why We Are Skeptical of Hillary Clinton
Do You Need to Do-It-Yourself?
Commentary – For Girls, It’s Be Yourself, and Be Perfect Too
Throw Down Your Pom-Poms and Get in the Game
A Space for Women’s Voices

An ‘A’ or an ‘F’ on the Galadriel test?

I recently read Stephenie Meyer's vampire trilogy, Twilight, Eclipse, and New Moon –the story of 17-year-old Bella Swan who moves to the small town of Forks, Washington to live with her father, and becomes drawn to Edward, a pale, mysterious classmate who seems determined to push her away. But neither can deny the attraction that pulls them together…even when Edward confides that he and his family are vampires.”

To say I read these books is an understatement, inhaled or devoured are more accurate.

After picking up Twilight in the Cincinnati airport around 6pm on a Saturday, I began reading immediately, proceeded to read until 3am, and had finished all three books by the following Saturday. My friends that read the books also read them quickly. I couldn't help but use the descriptor “intoxicating”, with the realization that the archetype of Western romantic love (girl and boy meet, their attraction is inescapable, their love immutable) continues to be a story that we love and live by.

Twilight_saga

Apart from not being able to drink deeply enough from these books, which is only marginally relevant to ‘dare to dream', the fact that, in the third book, Bella importunes, even begs, Edward to make love to her, is.

I know this appears to be a non-sequitur, but stay with me.

First of all, you may be thinking, “Whitney, this is not unusual, men and women who are in love (and not in love) have sex before they are married all the time. It's a societal norm in the Western world.”

And I would answer, yes, that is true, but not if you are a Mormon as I am — and as is Stephenie Meyer. Mormons believe that a physically intimate relationship is so sacred that we wait until we are married, no matter how strong the attraction. (By the way, it is difficult; hormones are hormones regardless of race or religion).

So here's the ‘dare to dream' point.

When I started reading Meyer's books, I knew she had gone to BYU, as had I, and is Mormon, as am I. Because I could identify with her on multiple levels, I was eager to learn from her about daring and dreaming.

So — to get to her third book, New Moon, and read that Bella wanted to break with a belief that Mormons generally hold dear, rocked my world.

Alternately angry, but mostly sad, I have found myself repeatedly wondering:

1) While we are daring and dreaming — For our dream to be embraced by a wide audience, do we have to part with cherished values?

2) Once we achieve our dream — Because Bella's fervent plea didn't take place until the third book, long after Meyer's first two books were NY Times bestsellers, is it possible that once we achieve our dream, more and more influence becomes so irresistible that we can't help but grab onto the ring, and fail our Galadriel test?

Bottom line?

I don't know Stephenie Meyer; I purposely excluded her name from the blog title because I didn't want the focus to be her, but rather our having a discussion about what I think is a crucial question:

As we dream AND once we are achieving our dream(s), is it inevitable that we are corrupted by the power that we want or have? If corruption IS avoidable, how? In other words, how do we avoid going to Rachel's dark side, and pass our Galadriel test?

What are your thoughts?

Do you see this differently?

Can you think of women who have achieved a dream without sacrificing their ‘who they are' along the way?

What about women who, having achieved their dream, and already wield considerable influence, continue to pass the Galadriel test?

For those of you that want to explore further the psychology of love, Robert A. Johnson wrote a marvelous book titled We, Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love that looks at the myths our society has about love, using the story of Tristan and Iseult, and then looks at what love can be. I read this book several years ago, and can't recommend it highly enough.


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