I'm 39 years old. I know that. I don't try to pretend I'm younger. I don't lie about my age when people ask it.
When I was 21, I was flying from Hawaii to Phoenix, tanned and young, happy with the memories of a summer spent working at a vegetarian cafe. The flight attendant came down the aisle before the flight started, stopped at the boy in front of me, leaned over him, and asked, "Is this your first time flying?" He answered, "Yes." She said, "Then wait here after the plane lands, and we'll make sure you get to your connection."
Then she smiled as she leaned over me next and said, "And is this your first time flying, too?" I smiled back at her and said, "Noooo," thinking my boyfriend had found a way to play a trick on me. She asked how old I was, and when I told her I was 21, she stood up straight and looked horrified. "I am SO sorry," she said. "I thought you were much younger and that maybe you needed help getting to your next gate." I politely thanked her and told her I'd been traveling on my own for some time now and could make my connection without help.
So that was nearly 20 years ago. No one's going to mistake me as a kid anymore--nor a teenager, nor would I likely get carded in a bar. And all that's just fine with me. I was never comfortable as a teenager--not remotely. I didn't know how to talk to most other teens, didn't know how to care about the things they cared about, didn't know how to giggle and roll my eyes and gripe about my parents and form cliques for the exclusive purpose of being exclusive. I was never in danger of being voted Homecoming Queen or Most Popular or class president. In many ways, I feel like I skipped over those years entirely, going straight from the girl who might have needed help finding her next gate to the young woman flying home alone after a summer on Kauai.
But--and it's a pretty big and telling but, I think--I love YA fiction. Perhaps it's precisely because I skipped over those years that I dwell in them now. I read plenty of adult fiction, too, of course. In fact, I'd say my reading taste is more eclectic than the average reader's. But I have a tender little spot in my heart right now for the YA label, such a tender little spot that not only do I read it but I write it as well.
So (and here we get to the point) I was drawn to the Twilight series when it came out however many years ago. And I read the sequels within a week of publication, having very firm opinions about whether I preferred Edward or Jacob (Jacob, by the way) and whether I thought Bella was a strong young woman (no, by the way) and whether the name Renesmee is THE lamest name ever of any character ever (that'd be a yes).
And when word spread that the movie was in the works, I had opinions about their choice for Edward (not happy at first, but he grew on me) and Bella (I liked the actress but not her rendering of Bella) and the previews of the special effects (do I really need to comment on this?). I eagerly awaited the movie's opening, ready to sit with my popcorn and pass judgment.
What I was NOT ready to do and had not awaited, eagerly or otherwise, was the experience of watching this with hundreds (literally) of teenage girls who are the real deal. They're teenagers! They're the girls I never "got" in high school. They're the ones who talked about makeup and shoes and cheerleading tryouts while I passed them in the halls, well aware of their eyerolling as I did. They're the reason, I confess, I was okay with skipping right to 21.
Here's what it was like in that theater last night:
The lights went out for the previews: SCREAM! The previews ended: SCREAM! The Cullens walk into the cafeteria: SCREAM! Then Edward comes in: OMG! OMG! SCREAM SCREAM SCREAM!!! And when the girls weren't screaming, they were talking out loud about how Edward or the other vampires looked in that last scene. "I know! Did you see him! OMG I LOVE him!" Carlisle Cullen comes to Bella's beside: SCREAM! Edward's car squeals in to save Bella: SCREAM! They almost kiss: SCREAM! Even after it was over, girls were screaming every time a still shot of one of the Cullens popped up on the screen. We were waiting outside for some of the girls we brought (none of whom screamed, I'm happy to say) and several groups of girls came out a different exit, all still screaming and holding their hands up to their faces like they couldn't contain themselves. One girl ran over to the movie poster and took a picture with her phone, nearly in tears with excitement. I've never seen anything like it. It was like watching those old news reels of the Beatles fans. If I hadn't been there in that theater, I wouldn't have believed it.
And now it's official: watching "Twilight" made me realize I'm old. I'm not just 39. I'm old! And I have been for a long time. Only, I didn't notice until last night when the screams drowned out half the dialogue and the sighs drowned out the other half, and all I could think was, "Thank God I'm not a teenager." I was so inept the first time that the thought of living through those years again and again and again as vampires do horrifies me.
(And don't bother me with details such as "Vampires don't really exist." My blog, my musings.)