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Mom, put down my 'Twilight' book!

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Twilight Moms pose with a cardboard cutout of teen vampire Edward Cullen (played by Robert Pattinson). (Courtesy of Regina Schatz Krush)

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The vampire romance between Edward and Bella in "Twilight" captivates teens and moms alike. (Photo Credit: Deana Newcomb)

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"Twilight" fans snatched up nearly 30 million copies of the book last year alone. (Courtesy of Little, Brown Books)

They’ve pored over the books in the teen vampire series “Twilight” so many times that the binding has come loose and the cover is wrinkled and faded.

They’ve swooned over the lead teen vampire, Edward Cullen, in the “Twilight” movie. They’ve sneaked onto film sets, waited for hours to get their books signed by the author, even made dates with strangers to talk about the book and, of course, Edward.

These aren’t obsessed teens. They’re obsessed 30-something, 40-something and even 80-something fans of the vampire romance series written by Stephenie Meyer.

“My husband thinks I’m absolutely nuts,” said Regina Schatz Krush, 47, a confessed “Twilight” addict and mother of two.

Professional and stay-at-home moms have put off housework, their jobs, or forgotten to feed the kids. They admit to hiding out with a copy of “Twilight,” to read over and over the story of teen vampire Edward Cullen and his love for a girl named Bella, whom he has to resist in order to keep from biting and killing.

Marketed to teens, “Twilight” has nonetheless touched a nerve in adult women, who turn to the vampire saga for a dose of fantasy. When they’re not reading one of the books (which sold 29.7 million copies last year) or watching the movie (which earned $60.9 million on opening weekend), many chatter like school girls on Facebook and TwilightMoms.com. The series has renewed their sex lives, they say. They refer to their husbands as “their Edward.”

The Facebook group has 736 members. Twilightmoms.com, which started as a group of about 10 moms on MySpace, recently enlisted member number 25,000.

“Even if it remained just the 10 of us posting back and forth, we were happy with that,” said Britten Johnson, mother of three, and one of the original members of Twilight Moms on MySpace. “We would just be insane together.”

Johnson is now a volunteer administrator on TwilightMoms.com. She helps members with registration and manages other aspects of the site, in addition to holding down a full-time job and caring for her family.

Johnson said it is a lot of work, but she enjoys talking to people her age about something she loves.

“Sure, we talk about how wonderful Edward is, like teenagers,” she said. “But we also talk about symbolism in the books and dive into the characters and their histories. It’s like an online English class or like an adult playground for the mind.”

She can get defensive when her love for teen literature is questioned. “No one thought it was odd for adults to like Harry Potter,” she said.

Perhaps, but Harry Potter wasn’t a sex symbol for adult fans, as Edward Cullen is for fans of “Twilight.”

“Technically, Edward is more than 100 years old,” explains Jan Burroughs, 47, with a giggle. She has read each book in the series three times.

But Johnson believes there is a reasonable explanation for the adult obsession.

Meyer “was writing with just herself as the audience,” Johnson said. She geared the book toward adults without even thinking about it. She just wrote it for her own entertainment. If a woman our age wrote it, why wouldn’t women with the same types of lives and circumstances like it too?”

Meyer would likely agree. She wrote of Twilight Moms, “It’s just so cool that I’m not the only 30-plus mom in love with fictional under-age vampires and werewolves.”

There are more academic explanations.

“It’s the tension of the forbidden love,” said Kristin Lagattuta, associate professor of Psychology at University of California, Davis. “It’s the love that would be perfect, but that you might not be able to ever have. So maybe that’s why it appeals to older women. They are looking at their lives, and their kids and their husbands and it’s just sort of like, ‘Ah!’

“It’s not that these women are upset with their lives. It’s just that as you get older you get in more of these routines—there’s the work routine and the childcare routine. And then you have this whole other world that is so far removed from where you are in your life.”

Even a few of Lagattuta’s academic colleagues have gotten hooked. One had to put the books away, just so she could get her work done. Another saw “Twilight” on a plane from Italy, then read the entire series in eight days.

“They’re quick and fun to read and they don’t require a lot of thinking,” said Lagattuta. “You get so bogged down with more stressful things in life, and this is very quick and exciting—the twist of the forbidden love, and the mix of the supernatural, but very real characters at the same time.”

Many moms are so taken with Edward, they will do anything to be with him. There are photos all over the Internet, of mothers posing with a life-sized cardboard cutout, or with pocket Edward, a tiny doll version of the teen vampire.

Regina Schatz Krush, from Orlando, Fla., recently hosted 22 Twilight Moms at a DVD house party. Before walking the red carpet to the door, partygoers got their photos taken with cardboard Edward in the driveway.

“We were so silly,” said Krush. “But we had such a good time.”

Inside, they took a “Twilight” quiz for prizes. Not surprisingly, a fan who saw the movie 30 times won first prize.

The ladies sipped Bellatinis (pomegranate martinis) and ate mushroom ravioli, the same meal Edward and Bella had on their first date. They watched “Twilight,” many of them for the umpteenth time.

“We always attribute these imaginary friends and characters to kids and assume they outgrow that with age,” said Lagattuta. “But it’s still fun to imagine the what-ifs of life, and that can be very healthy. Obviously, taken to the extreme it can become unhealthy. Everything in moderation.”

E-mail: bli2101@columbia.edu