Sunday, March 22, 2015

Confessions of a Twihard

Middle school me was a total Twi-hard. That is, I was a diehard fan of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. I had the hard-cover box set, the movie posters on my walls, tee-shirts, calendars, pins, cups, and more.   (Fun fact; I’m drinking out of a cup with Edward’s face on it as I write this.)  I had more than one Twilight themed birthday party. I had a black hoodie proudly proclaiming my obsession with Twilight.  Yet now I cringe when I see tween-girls (or anyone else) reading them.  I have to resist the urge to lecture these girls.  While I would’ve ignored any criticism of Twilight as a tween I wish someone would’ve made me realize how messed up a lot of the series’ content is.

     The books focus on the love triangle between Bella, a mortal and flawed damsel in distress; Jacob, the buff boy-next-door werewolf; and Edward, the mysterious and thrilling vampire.  Bella spends the four books navigating between the two boys.  Fans identify as either Team Edward or Team Jacob.  Middle school me was Team Edward, much to my current dismay.  Edward is possessive, controlling, manipulating, and creepy.  Jacob is not much better.  He is immature and aggressive.  I did not once hear anyone mention a Team Bella.  The idea of a Team Bella is exceptionally applicable in the second book of the series in which Bella falls into a deep depression when Edward suddenly leaves her life.  Bella needs a legitimate support team of friends, family, and professionals to help her.  While Bella might be fictional there are many real life women and girls in similar (minus the vampires and werewolves) situations.

Victim blaming is a recurring motif in the Twilight series.  Edward and all the other vampires blame Bella for having fragrant blood.  No one blames the vampires for wanting to kill her.  Bella is blamed for being selfish and foolish when she jumps off a cliff.  No one blames Edward for creating and encouraging Bella’s complete dependence on him and the depression that follows his abandonment of her. 

Edward sucks Bella's blood in order to
save her from turning into a vampire.
One aspect of the story that contributes to Edwards’s creepiness is his intense desire to suck Bella’s blood.  I was eleven years old the first time I read Twilight.  It scares me now to recall how Edward’s behavior raised zero red flags for middle school me.  I saw his possessive nature as love.  I saw his stalking habit as protective adoration.   I saw his disregard for Bella’s safety as him sweetly indulging her wishes.  I saw his abandonment in the second book as a noble effort to help Bella.  Edward and Bella have a veryveryvery unhealthy relationship.

The final book in the series revolves around the existence of Bella and Edward’s child.  Carrying a half-vampire-half-human baby is unheard of and risky.  Edward tries to force Bella into an unwanted abortion.  Some people point to this instance and claim that Edward is finally looking out for Bella’s best interest.  Dictating another mentally capable person’s medical care is in no way sweet and loving.  Bella wants to carry her fetus even though it breaks her bones, rips its way from her body, and brings her to the edge of death.  Some pro-lifers look at Bella and see a dedicated mother.  I see a pregnant teenage girl who has been disempowered into opting out of a life saving medical treatment.  Bella’s pregnancy should not be seen as a rallying point or silver lining.  Can we start the Team Bella social movement yet

There’s a quote from ABC’s Private Practice that rings true for me, “Don't let the perspective you have now diminish the feelings you had then. That wouldn't be fair.”  I can’t delete Twilight from my childhood and I don’t want to. For all its downfalls the Twilight books were a source of comfort to me for many years.  If you see someone reading the Twilight books please don’t lash out at or criticize them.  Take the opportunity to have a conversation about the intense sexism and the demented portrayal of love in the Twilight series. 

I’d also like to recommend two YouTube videos by the talented Laci Green about Twilight.  Search for “Dangerous Role Models: Twilight” and “Twilight, Mormonism, and Meyer” to learn more and join the conversation.

This Spring, Unfurl With Yoga

When I was younger I liked to try to live by the mantra, ‘Do what feels good.’ It gave me a liberated sense of how to go about being. Like a free pass for everything: if it feels good, it must be good! This laissez-faire attitude when it came to flirting, driving, shopping, eating—everything, really—might have actually gotten me into more trouble than not.

That said, I’m not abandoning the mantra. Rather, what defines my motto has needed to be motto-fied. I still believe in doing what feels good, simply because it feels good, but my ideas about what exactly that means have changed. The behaviors I allowed myself before, in hindsight, might have felt good in the moment but weren’t that good for me, not really.

Now I do yoga. Every day, without fail, I commit to between 30-45 minutes of time spent sending my dog downward. Make no mistake; I am by no means a placid-faced and lotus-loving zen master. I will never be mistaken for a fitness buff.  Some days it feels like a chore and the thought of waking up just that much earlier seems damn near impossible. But I do it anyway. I do it, because it feels good. It feels good down in my bones and, more importantly, in my head. And if I miss a day for whatever reason, I miss that goodness, in body and mind. I don’t want to cost myself that goodness all day long because of a trifling extra half hour in bed.

I started by getting a yoga DVD out of the local public library. I think I kept the DVD in the player without using it for probably five weeks or so (well over the strictly enforced weeklong check-out duration…those 50 cents a day DVD fines can be a killer!) before actually pressing the button to turn the machine on. I was not exactly chomping at the bit, but I must have had the intention, because hadn’t I trolled through the DVD bin and bothered to find it, then check it out and neglect to return it for over a month? Often times at the start of a yoga practice the yogi will suggest the ‘setting of an intention.’ At first, I would clam up a bit mentally at this instruction. What should my intention be? What was a good intention versus a bad one? Maybe I should Google good yoga intentions…but then who goes to Google to set a yoga intention?! But now I see, without having realized it at the time, that I knew how to set an intention for my practice when I checked out the DVD in the first place. Never-minding that it took me over a month to let the intention manifest into action, my heart and mind must have been in the right place.

From there, I started with just 20 minutes a day. Now that doesn’t feel like enough, but much more than 30-45 minutes to myself in a day is hard to come by, so that is the groove I’ve hit. I love best to do yoga outside, bringing my mat with me and arching up under the overhang of magnolia tree leaves through which the light filters down greenly and goldenly. But temperatures aren’t all that much above zero these days, so for now I do the yoga indoors.
YouTube has an impressively broad offering of all kinds of yoga videos, of widely varying lengths, styles and disciplines. So I take my phone with me to a quiet spot (the other great thing about yoga is that you need hardly more than a mat’s worth of space to get in a really good practice), or a tablet or a laptop and stream whatever video I’m in the mood for that day.  A mat is the only kind of gadgetry (if you can even call it that) required. No funny contraptions or doo-hickeys needed, no assistance or club memberships or equipment. And if you’re reading this, you have means to get on the line.

So why not set an intention for yourself? An intention to do what feels good, what truly feels good.  At the start of the New Year supermarket shelves began hawking every low-fat, low-sodium, flavor-reduced version of real food that can be imagined. Work out gear, special shakes, and scales cropped up everywhere. While I am not one to connote all that consumerist zeal for what one should buy and when, I am on board with embracing the idea of kicking off of a new mindset. And, now that its mid-March and many of us have had enough time to make, then grow weary of, our New Year’s resolutions, why not make today the day to revise that reboot and reconsider that sense of renewal?

While the calendar dictates that our year begins anew in the short and withering days of January, this time of year is when the world us actually starts to feel new. Nature and the elements are just beginning to stretch up and out from where they’ve remained hunkered all the long winter, so why not take up your own expansion, start your own skyward reaching? A lot of yoga is to do with the breath, with opening up and finding or creating space within oneself, within one’s body. As everything else gradually unfurls, so too can you. This past Friday, March 20th, signified a rare cosmic triad purportedly allowing for all kinds of increased karmic openness and potential. (Check out the article, here: Much as I love yoga, I don’t always fully go in for the more—ahem—‘granola’ aspect of it; I’m working on it. But this was interesting reading and, while I realize that the rare and portentous cosmic even has come and gone, as with the overdue library DVD, no reason why the notion of its happening—that idea of cracked-open, newly-hatched potential for broad-mindedness— can’t be carried with you…maybe it just needs a few weeks to percolate. That, and a whopping library fine.  Namaste!


Note: Some of my favorite YouTube videos when I started (and now, still) can be found on the channel Yoga with Adrienne. I adore her and everyone I know who does her videos will admit to having a girl-crush on her. Her candor and personable approach to yoga and acceptance is downright irresistible. I’m also beginning to really like Yoga with Candace. Her narrative is a bit dryer, but the moves and transitions are a bit more advanced and satisfying all the same. Leah Butler’s YouTube videos are equally challenging and satisfying. And, when I crave something very twisty and fluid with a really dialed up Savasana, I go to any of Sarah Ivanhoe’s Yogea Artflow Yoga videos. Mmmm…

 Allison Collins