Last weekend I made what I should publically refer to as a “shame-purchase.” When nobody was looking, I bought the entire movie collection of The Twilight Saga. Don’t make it a thing, but modern teen vampire stories are my kryptonite, and they almost always follow the same plot structure:

Awkward, fragile human (female) falls in love with strapping, obsessive vampire (male). Love between them is so sexy and intense that only way for the human to survive and thrive — to live — is for her to become vampire. Needs more blood.

This script hits really close to home. Mortality is so restrictive!

We need a lot (water, food, shelter, warmth, help). Beyond just basic survival, we also need control, to flourish, to exhibit strength, and to matter. As far as I can tell, time and humanity are the cousin-thieves of all these elusive things.

Edward Cullen never dealt with this bull hockey!

Once, in our elementary school-years, my sister and I conceived a prank against our younger brother that was sure to make all three of us burst a hernia in innocent, jubilant laughter. That night, Din and I would wait until Bruce fell asleep, put on all of our school clothes, throw our backpacks over our shoulders, and then apparate into his room like tiny banshees yelling, “BRUCE! It’s time for school! You slept in! We’re going to be late! Hurry up! AHHH!”

Genius.

The plan went down exactly as devised, only amidst all the shouting and comedic hysteria on Din and my part, Bruce did not actually find this scheme hilarious at all. He was completely panic-stricken, white in the face, out of breath, and darting around this way and that, like a noble general caught with his pants around his ankles. It rattled me. And it (almost) took the fun out of the whole thing.

I find that much of the human experience rings true to this awful and confusing scenario inflicted upon my brother. Right when we think we’ve got it all together (homework finished, clothes laid out for the next day), we realize the nightmare we’re having — hanging naked on the monkey bars — is not actually a dream. Back-pedal, back-pedal, back-pedal. FIND A FIG LEAF, TOUT DE SUITE!

I have sought mastery over this simmering state of panic, uncertainty, and lower-handedness my entire life, especially throughout motherhood. I bale the water and tape up all the holes just so. But time and again I must wave my tattered white flag and submit to the horrible truth: I am human. Gross.

Back in the early 2000s when Twilight made waves among impressionable teenagers, the internet was abuzz with negative chatter about the book’s anti-feminist undertones and the unhealthy (bordering on sociopathic) illustration of young love blah blah blah. I can’t lie. It’s all true. But the element of vampire stories that captivates me most is not [just] the eternal love story; it’s the promise of the human romantic counterpart eventually becoming a vampire. The mounting hope of this transformation is the motor behind what keeps me reading and watching these stories, book after book, movie after movie.

In 2009, a Slate article entitled “Mother Suckers” noted: “The real-life plot twist here, though, is that it’s not ‘tween’ and teen girls who make up Twilight’s ardent — and profitable — fan base. It’s their mothers.” At the time, critics posited that moms were vicariously living out the forbidden romance aspect of Twilight, bored with their beer-bellied, 9-to-5 husbands. But I submit that the real source of the drool was/is the seductive notion of immortality. What would the protagonist (Bella Swan) be like when she “turned”? Beautiful, capable, undying?

What would I be like?

Motherhood and your 30s are like slow-burning forest fires to any real-world delusions of immortality. In this role, I almost always fall short, letting somebody or myself down. If I’m too focused on my kids (as if this were a problem), I cannot keep up at work; and if I overly engage in work, my family suffers. I am not physically or emotionally able to live up to “my potential” as a wife, a mother, a friend, a writer, an editor, a churchgoer, and (according to my mom) a vocalist. There is not enough time in the day to make it all happen, and the weight of these “un-done’s” and “cannot-do’s” is one of the most unexpected and oppressive loads I’ve ever failed to carry.

But if I were a vampire…I wouldn’t need sleep. That’s seven or eight extra hours (not to mention all of eternity) to satisfy the ravenous demands of life’s laws.

As a 30-something mother, I am starting to show my wear-and-tear. Much to my children’s dismay, I cannot lift both of them at the same time anymore. I can’t answer every question intelligently, or keep up with them on the playground the way I’d like to. I require things like herbal supplements, red wine, and chiropractic care. If I eat a french fry in the afternoon, by nighttime I can’t button my jeans. Between illness, anxiety, aches (and let’s not even get into my sad lack of skin elasticity), I feel my body dying every day. Nobody would read a four-part “Saga” about these years, and yet I continue to write it.

But if I were a vampire…ka-chow.

Following the vampire narrative, in order for the human to become immortal, she must die. How seemingly backwards (or Biblical) is the sense from the audience that life for that character will only truly begin after — what J.R.R. Tolkien calls — the eucatastrophe of her death.

In his essay, “On Fairy-Stories,” Tolkien says,

The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous ‘turn’ (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially ‘escapist,’ nor ‘fugitive.’ In its fairy-tale — or otherworld — setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace…It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

Vampire stories like Twilight offer, in the face of things like crushingly ordinary life or suffering, the extraordinary joy of deliverance. We gun for the human’s transformation, for her death, all so that we can see her become something we can never be in this life — perfect, unbreaking, spectacular…improbably yet utterly alive.

My mortal days are generally lived out like a general caught with her pants down.

But if I were a vampire…

I would spend most of my “time” at peace, delighting in my children, and sitting alongside my husband (also a vampire) in a rocking chair on an elaborate wrap-around porch that overlooks some glistening body of water. We’d smoke American Spirits all day and drink from a bottomless pitcher of margarita. No one would wear shoes. Although we wouldn’t require food, we’d feast on pizza, bacon, and mayonnaise. I would write every night while the rest of the world (poor muggles) slept. I’d finally catch up on seasons 3-5 of Orphan Black. I’d read. I’d call my friends back. We’d set off fireworks on Sundays and visit every insignificant corner of the world. There would be boats, parades, and endless games of capture the flag. I’d have a new body; it would be stunning. I don’t know all of the details except that my boobs would be at least three inches higher, and I’d probably take on the best characteristics of the following individuals:

  • Pocahontas
  • Lady Gaga
  • Albus Dumbledore
  • Eowyn from Lord of the Rings
  • Tina Fey
  • Ginger Spice
  • Lorelai Gilmore
  • Khaleesi, mother of dragons
  • Wendy Peffercorn from The Sandlot
  • Mick Jagger
  • The Edge
  • Queen Latifah

Or maybe I would just be me, and that would finally be enough.

Bella says in the final Twilight installment, Breaking Dawn, “My time as a human was over. But I never felt more alive. I was born to be a vampire.” In the narrative of the gospel, we too were born to die. When grace emboldens us to succumb to our humanity — to acknowledge and confess our complete powerlessness over sin and life — we experience a euchatastrophe wherein we die to ourselves here and now, and are made perfectly alive in Jesus. And so our blind spots and shortcomings become more like blessed vaccums to be filled and animated by the One who died the ultimate euchatastrophe, so that we might have life now and life eternal. This is a joy as poignant as grief.

The plot elements of the modern teen vampire story exhibit, therefore, a precious whiff of the gospel story:

Awkward, fragile human (check), love story (check), Savior (check check). Death begets life. Everything made new. Needs more blood — the regenerative blood of the lamb.