Don’t let this post lead you to believe I care about Kristen Stewart. When I told a friend that my editor had asked me to write about Kristen Stewart, that otherwise well-spoken girl’s response was:
“what are you going to write about Kristen Stewart?! That she’s a dumb ho who inexplicably cheated on EDWARD CULLEN and is one of the biggest paparazzi magnets ever — how did she think she wouldn’t get caught in public with a MARRIED MAN? HO. And, she aint even that pretty. BURN.”
I do care what people think of Kristen Stewart. Because it’s funny as hell. And my absolutely scientific survey of the girls gathered at my friend’s house to watch the Olympics last night proves, beyond any possibility of a doubt, that even the most pop-culturally unplugged female has an opinion on Kristen Stewart’s infidelity. My boyfriend adds, “Even I heard about that. Don’t you go quotin’ me.”
And then there’s my fellow PJM blogger Leslie Loftis, who writes about Stewart’s infidelity as a sign of the times – yet another young woman persuaded by others that she shouldn’t settle down too young, even if she’s met the “perfect guy.”
I won’t pretend to know anything about Kristen or her relationship with these two men – I don’t know what life was like in private moments between her and Robert Pattinson, and whether he was the perfect guy he seemed in public; whether Kristen was feeling vulnerable when she cheated, or if she just recklessly did something selfish as so many people our age do. Who knows if he wanted her more than she wanted him and she didn’t know how to extricate herself without hurting him so she waited too long and then did something dumb; after all, it’s not an unusual story for people their age — they just happen to be celebrities so we pay attention.
As stated already, I don’t care. But other people’s opinions on the scandal fascinate me. Because that’s the sign of the times cultural commentators are seeking in the tea leaves of celebrites’ lives. So what’s there to find?
People actually care that someone cheated. Twilight fans wanted to believe in the real-life version of their perfect romance, two people bound together by a love so searing that infidelity is a laughable impossibility. A love that’s always fresh, always passionate, never worn-in and never changing. One endless blissful union, in which every moment is like that first tingle up your spine when you realize He might like me.
That tells me two things. First: my generation hasn’t been brainwashed enough to give up on the idea of lasting monogamy. If you think all love is doomed and lifetime partnership is just a shackle on female self-fulfillment, you wouldn’t be that upset to hear Kristen Stewart was embracing her sexual liberation with another man. If we’d given up on monogamy as a lost cause, there wouldn’t be the cultural phenomenon of Twilight’s success, an epic story of eternal love if ever there was one.
The second thing the outrage directed at Stewart tells me is that a lot of women of my generation are complete adolescents when it comes to love. I’m no expert either. At 24, what have I got to tell you about lasting partnerships and maturity? Though I’m still working out the details in practice, I have learned one thing: love comes in seasons.
The blissfully exciting moments of discovery, the deep wells of warmth found in recognition and mutual respect, the pride for another’s achievements, the gratitude for his apology or forgiveness. Love isn’t a continuous ecstatic moment. Teenage girls will be foolish about Twilight-style love for as long as there continue to be teenage girls, bedroom doors, and moments stolen from homework to daydream. And grown women will continue to secretly indulge in these fantasies too, as long as we have nightstand drawers and gal movie nights and moments stolen from the unrelenting chores of being an adult.
But what are we missing?
But where is my generation’s Jane Austen? Where is our blockbusting romantic novelist who tells tales about sensible love? Jane Austen love can coexist with Twilight fantasy, but I wonder if the same attitudes women my age have been taught about flinging off the restrictions of traditional marriage have also scared away our serious thoughts about love?
Love, the kind that is not the Twilight fantasy of welded souls, but the evolving, irascible, elusive, perplexing, frustrating, joyful thing that takes time and care to grow; the time and care and attention that comes from a committed relationship that isn’t just an accessory to your busy life. Today’s women are caught between the “legitimate” discussion of relationships in contemporary literary fiction and essay, which tends to reject, or give up hope for, the idea of lasting monogamy; and the unrealistic Twilight version. If you want to believe in lasting and happy monogamy, where else are you going to turn?
Maybe Stewart didn’t know either. Or maybe she wasn’t seeking lasting monogamy in the first place. Or maybe she was, but she’s just like so many other young women, and figures she’ll find it when it’s time. I won’t shed any tears over her decisions. Let’s just hope Twilight love doesn’t become the only love young girls grow up looking and hoping for, or their tears for Stewart won’t be the last they shed.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Leslie Loftis: What Kristen Stewart’s Betrayal Means for Robert Pattinson
Kathy Shaidle: How Women Ruin Romance by Talking Too Much
And more from Hannah Sternberg: