Late-Night Liberty: Cougar Moms Edition

Are you a cougar?

After reading this Seventeen magazine article — in my defense, I found it on MSN! — I would say I am not. And boy, was I misusing the term. My reading Twilight and lusting after Robert Pattinson has nothing on these moms:

Bri’s mom is the perfect example of a cougar: an older woman who’s into (and almost seems to hunt down!) way younger guys. Lots of girls say their moms are on a cougar kick too: Meghan, 17, says her 46-year-old mom dated the same guy who’d dated one of her 18-year-old friends; Hunter, 18, sometimes feels as if her friends like her cougar mom more than they like her; and Jessica, 16, reports that ever since her parents got divorced last year, her mom “dresses up in short skirts and dates guys who are barely 25, then tells me everything about her sex life. It’s so awkward.” The truth is that you want to be open with your mom — but it feels unsettling if she’s that open with you.

This mom takes the cake:

Still, girls who are cool with cougar moms are the exception: The majority of girls who shared their stories with Seventeen wished their moms would change their embarrassing ways. Take Erica, 17. After her parents split up two years ago, her mom dyed her hair blonde and started wearing clothes “so tight they could be mistaken for a second skin.” But that wasn’t as traumatizing as what she says her mom started doing next: partying all night at clubs and sometimes not even coming home. After a few months, Erica says her mom even drained Erica’s college tuition money to buy herself breast implants. “One night, a friend called to tell me she saw my mom leave a club with some guy,” Erica says. “Hours after the call, my mom still wasn’t home, so I made my dad drive around town with me to look for her — I was worried she could be hurt or in an accident.” When Erica arrived at the club to look for her mom, she found her — in a car, hooking up with a guy who’d recently graduated from Erica’s high school! “I was so humiliated and angry. I shouldn’t have to be a 17-year-old babysitting a 40-year-old woman. It’s not cool at all to have a cougar mom. I feel totally robbed of being a teenager.”

Ayayay. This story reads like one of those “trend” pieces from the lifestyle section of the New York Times. But the article was sadly in a teenage girl magazine and actually offered real advice on how to deal with a cougar mom.

So now I must ask: are you a cougar mom? Was your mom a cougar? This is, yet, another open thread so feel free to discuss what you’d like!


Most Challenged Books of 2009

….And I have actually read six of the 10. What does this say about me? LOL!

According to the American Library Association, these were the 10 “most challenged books” in libraries that cater to young adults:

  1. ttyl, ttfn, l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle

Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs

  1. “And Tango Makes Three“ by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

Reasons: Homosexuality

  1. “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,“ by Stephen Chbosky

Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide

  1. “To Kill A Mockingbird,“ by Harper Lee

Reasons: Racism, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

  1. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer

Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

  1. “Catcher in the Rye,“ by J.D. Salinger

Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

  1. “My Sister’s Keeper,“ by Jodi Picoult

Reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence

  1. “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things,“ by Carolyn Mackler

Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

  1. “The Color Purple,“ Alice Walker

Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

  1. “The Chocolate War,“ by Robert Cormier

Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

I am surprised that the Twilight books were challenged. I mean, Bella waited until her honeymoon to have sex! LOL! :)

To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye are classics. What, exactly, do these parents deem acceptable? Why have a library at all? Jeez.

What say you? Have you and/or your children read any of these books? I am curious if you moms of teenagers ban any books at home?

I am not there yet, but I have read And Tango Makes Three to a six-year-old Ari and he loves it.


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Tiger Woods was slapped with a $164 fine and four points against his license for careless driving, according to the Washington Post.

The number of law schools offering animal rights courses has increased from 9 to 100 this decade, according to a press release by the Massachusetts School of Law in Andover. (Again, I have no clue how I get on all these lists!)

In somewhat related, although very disturbing, news: Two-thirds of store-bought chicken harbor salmonella and/or another bacterial cause of foodborne disease, campylobacter, according to Consumer Reports. The publication recommended cooking chicken at at least 165º F and to prevent raw chicken or its juices from touching any other food.

My heart breaks for this mom. An Egyptian mom on her way to show off her 4-week daughter to relatives accidentally smothered the baby on the flight when she fell asleep while breastfeeding, according to the Daily Mail of the UK.

The New York Times had one of those trend stories about parents taking a page from the show The Dog Whisperer to raise their children.

And taking a page from the studio that released the Harry Potter movies, the studio making the Twilight movies is thinking of splitting the final book, Breaking Dawn, into two movies, according to Variety. The movie based on the second book of the series, a New Moon, has grossed $481 million in just two weeks.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Movie Review: A New Moon

Yes, I shamelessly went to see this movie the day after it opened. But in my defense, I went to the 10 a.m. showing on Saturday and not the midnight viewing the night before with all the hipsters.

And despite what all the critics have said — they can kiss my ass, by the way — this movie is incredible. I was swooning like a giddy high school girl. It is the first time, in which I preferred the movie to the book.

Based on the second book of the Twilight vampire series by Stephenie Meyer, A New Moon deals with a love triangle having to do with a high school girl named Bella Swan, a teenaged werewolf named Jacob Black and a hottie vampire, Edward Cullen, who is forever frozen at 17. Bella is in love with Edward, who is trying to get away to protect her, while Jacob very badly wants Bella.

Compared to the first book, I found A New Moon disappointing in that Edward disappears from most of the novel and I thought Jacob was annoying. But there is more depth to Jacob (Taylor Lautner) on-screen and it certainly helps that he is incredibly hot. The theater, packed with almost all women, swooned when Lautner-as-Jacob took off his shirt. “Okay, he is hot,” I admitted to my friend, after I had declared myself a member of “Team Edward.” (In my defense, I did NOT buy the t-shirt, which was available at the movie theater for $20. I am not that hard core!)

The casting director for the movie is brilliant. At least to me, all the characters looked exactly the way I had pictured them in my head — mannerisms and all — except for Jacob who was much hotter and more charismatic on-screen. There were some funny moments, too, like the memorable part in the book, in which Bella goes to the movies with human classmate Mike Newton and Jacob and both guys, who have crushes on her and are anxious to sit with her in the theater, get sick. Newton gets a random stomach bug, and it is the night that Jacob becomes a werewolf.

If the critics are right about one thing it is that this movie is for the fans. I could see how some of this would come off as silly without having read the book, or without any context. Also, the idea of a pacifist and asexual vampire is probably offensive to the diehard fans of “true” vampire novels like the Anne Rice series. Describing it to my husband who ate up all the Anne Rice books and now has True Blood on our TiVo, he doesn’t get the appeal of Twilight at all. “Vampires that don’t have sex? What’s up with that?” he has asked me.

I described the books and movies as touching upon this girl fantasy of innocent first love; the lust, the anticipation of a love interest’s visit and the naive willingness to give up yourself — your life — so freely for love. It’s very much like the young Romeo and Juliet, who Meyer constantly refers to in her books.

As for the love triangle in A New Moon, what girl would not want two ridiculously gorgeous, charismatic and kind-hearted people to fight over her? Can’t a girl pretend — even if it’s only for two hours?


Weekly Parenting News Roundup

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

What’s up all?

My family is in the thick of the holiday season, which means back-to-back birthday parties for kids with November and December birthdays plus holiday parties. I am already burned out and we are not even in Thanksgiving! Ayayay!

Anyways, some girlfriends and I are treating ourselves to the 10 a.m. showing of A New Moon today. I know, it is utterly shameless that moms in their 30s are cramming in a theater with teenagers — if they are up that early — to see this movie. LOL! Oh, by the way, there was also a lot on the news front this week, too.

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, a co-founder at, wrote an essay on the real reasons women are not happy — as gleefully reported by media outlets.

In case you aren’t bidding for Leggo waffles online, Kellogg’s has reported that there is a Leggo waffle shortage in the country that will last until the middle of 2010, according to MSN Money. One of its bakeries was flooded.

A Canadian couple won a legal battle to exclude their three children from completing homework assignments, according to the Guardian in the UK. The couple, Sherri and Tom Milley of Calgary, Alberta, filed their lawsuit after years of struggling to make their children complete homework assignments, especially since there is no evidence it actually improves school performance. Do you agree or disagree with the Milleys’s actions?

We had a helpful thread on the best parenting advice we have received. What would you add to the list?

The Washington Post had a fascinating feature on how Arizona is the “wild west” of charter schools. Stanford researchers have found that while some charter schools are fantastic, others woefully lag behind traditional public schools.

Probably nothing garnered more discussion this week than our suggestions for People’s Sexiest Man Alive. Johnny Depp won the honor, but this Twilight fan was disappointed it wasn’t Robert Pattinson. (Hey, he is 23. That is still legal!) We also had a popular thread on our favorite Thanksgiving recipes. Thank you, “Thank God for Air America,” for putting that up!

If your child received a scholarship to attend a state school and was also accepted to an Ivy League school, which one would you choose? In light of escalating costs at all schools, we had a long discussion on this. Was your college worth the costs?

In case you missed it, our Erika is having a BOY and not the girl an earlier ultrasound showed. Felicades mujer!

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Thank you to all of you who have written or called to ask about my mother-in-law in El Salvador. Hurricane Ida hit the country on Sunday and has killed 124 people, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Fortunately, my MIL is out of the country on vacation and was not affected. But I did call her office in San Salvador yesterday and a worker assured me that they are all safe. The hurricane hit a nearby town, but it was poor people living in huts and shanties who were the most impacted. My heart goes out to them. Let’s keep them in our thoughts and prayers.

In healthcare news: I admit I was so happy that the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill with a public option that I did not allow myself to get hung up over the abortion restrictions in the bill. But this disturbs me: According to a mom over at the RH Reality Check blog, the restrictions on abortion are so severe that even private health insurance companies participating in the exchange wouldn’t be allowed to cover D&Cs following miscarriages. Forcing women to carry dead fetuses/babies — that they wanted — is just cruel. I don’t know what I would have done if after carrying a dead fetus for three weeks — this happened to me before I had Ari — I was told I couldn’t have a D&C. I was distraught and I needed to move on. Okay, I am getting off my soapbox now.

That said, I will still support this bill as long as it has a strong public option. Granting everyone the right to see a doctor — without going bankrupt for it — is better than nothing.

Attention fellow Twilight fans: Author Stephenie Meyer will be on the Oprah Winfrey Show this Friday, November 13, Meyer announced on her blog. She will be on hand to discuss the new movie New Moon, which is based on the second book of her Twilight series.

This is, literally, horribly depressing: Suicide rates are up in the most economically depressed areas of the country, according to MSNBC.

Wal-Mart is shamelessly starting its “Black Friday” deals early, according to MSN Money. Um, can we celebrate Thanksgiving first?

OTOH, Mamapedia had a helpful discussion on what to tip — or what is a suitable holiday gift — to a nanny, daycare provider or babysitter.

Katy Farber over at Non-Toxic Kids has an informative article on how cleaning supplies at schools are harmful to children. Also by Katy Farber: Children are consuming unsafe levels of the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA), which is in canned goods and plastic plates and cups.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Late-Night Liberty: End of Summer Reading List

A writer over at Open Salon gave a list of books President Obama took with him on vacation last week and added her own suggestions.

Out of all the books mentioned, I read only two: John Adams by David McCullough and the The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. I highly recommend both of them!

What is on my night table besides a pile of magazines that won’t all get read? I just started A supposedly fun thing i’ll never do again by David Foster Wallace, who I learned tragically committed suicide a year ago. I have never read anything by him and was intrigued to learn he was an inspiration to writers like Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections). For a book club I just joined, I plan to read Twilight by Stephenie Meyer and Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. Please no giving away the plot or endings!

What is on your night table right now?


Late-Night Liberty: Let’s Talk About Sex

This article in Ms. magazine caught my eye. It is about mothers and daughters bonding over Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books and the books’ harmful message to tween and teen girls about their sexuality.

I have never read the books, but here is what English and women’s studies professor Carmen Siering had to say about them:

On the surface, the Twilight saga seems to have something to please everyone. Moms are reading the books and swooning over Edward right alongside their teen and tween daughters. Librarians and teachers are delighted to see students with their heads tucked into books, and since Twilight’s romantic sensuality is wrapped up in an abstinence message, all the kissing and groping appear to be harmless.

But while Twilight is ostensibly a love story, scratch the surface and you will find an allegorical tale about the dangers of unregulated female sexuality. From the very first kiss between Edward and Bella, she is fighting to control her awakening sexuality. Edward must restrain her, sometimes physically, to keep her from ravishing him, and he frequently chastises her when she becomes, in his opinion, too passionate. There are those who might applaud the depiction of a young man showing such self-restraint, but shouldn’t the decision about when a couple is ready to move forward sexually be one they make together?

Bella is also depicted as being in need of someone to take charge, someone to take care of her. Edward isn’t just protective, though, but often overprotective of Bella. Edward is jealous of Bella’s relationships with other boys, going so far as to disable her car to keep her at home. He is condescending, assuming that he knows what is best for her in every situation.

Maybe it’s difficult for Edward to see Bella as an equal because Bella has almost no personality. Meyer writes on her website that she “left out a detailed description of Bella in the book so that the reader could more easily step into her shoes.“ But Meyer fails to give Bella much of an interior life as well; Bella is a blank slate, with few thoughts or actions that don’t center on Edward. If Meyer hopes that readers see themselves as Bella, what is it she is suggesting to them about the significance of their own lives?

Meyer also insists that she sees Bella as a feminist character, since the foundation of feminism is being able to choose. What Meyer fails to acknowledge is that all of the choices Bella makes are Meyer’s choices—choices based on her own patriarchal Mormon background.

Aren’t these books about vampires? Perhaps it is a generational thing, but I thought this column read way too much into the books. Sometimes fiction is just fiction, you know?

But she touched on a good topic we have often just scratched the surface here at MotherTalkers. What values — if any — would you instill in your daughters in terms of sexuality? Surely, there are different ways to approach the topic based on our culture, religion and personal experiences.

Being the Catholic school girl that I was and having a positive experience in waiting until college to have sex, I will probably encourage my own children — both son and daughter — to wait for the “right partner.” I just saw so many female family members and friends get burned. I know I would have been freaking devastated if I guy I liked and slept with didn’t bother calling the next day. I would be afraid that my children would neglect their studies or lose themselves if they engaged in a sexual relationship too young. Clearly, I am putting my own experiences and hang-ups on them. And of course, I am not naive to think it will all go according to plan, which is why I do not believe in abstinence-only education in schools. Nor will birth control be a dirty word in our household.

But my instinct is to be as honest and open as I can about my own experiences and feelings and hope they will have a variety of viewpoints — not just peer pressure — on what I think is a life-altering event. What about you? What do you think of Siering’s essay? How have you or would you approach the topic of sex with your daughter?


Twilight: Eclipsed by the Ick

I just finished Stephenie Meyer’s rambling, overwrought, vampire saga turned girlie phenomenon.  I have to say, I’m speechless.  No, not breathless, in the Bella Swan sense, but completely taken aback by the unexamined, creepy, 19th Century take on paternalistic romantic love this series represents.  First, to give credit where credit is due, the writing may not be the greatest but the story was gripping enough to have me on the hook for all four books in one week-long sitting.  That’s my last bit of charity, however.

The Story: Spoiler Central,  All Four Books

Bella Swan is an absence.  All we get to know about her is what she is not.  She does not care about sports, clothes, the prom, or cars.  If there are any other interests teenage girls might have, Bella is not aware.  She is a good student but apparently never gives any thought to anything deeper that she might actually care about, such as the world outside her depressing little coastal Washington town.  She does not mind her father treating her as a convenient domestic servant.  She doesn’t care if she lives or dies.  Her only defining characteristic is her love for Edward, who is controlling, dangerous, and manipulative.  She is so loved for her tolerance and vaccuousness that his cult-like family immediately embraces her:  they recognize that she will keep their secrets at all cost, that her family is too self absorbed and absent to do anything about her suffocating new lifestyle.  As long as she keeps serving up a tasty lasagna and doesn’t interfere with his game schedule, her police chief father is happy not to question why she so often comes home bruised, or “falls down the stairs” and is nearly killed when she runs off with Edward for the weekend.

All of this sounds like a Lifetime movie of the week depiction of a girl in an abusive relationship, except that we learn that Edward is really a good guy after all.  You see, despite continually wanting to kill her, he doesn’t.  Not only that, but he won’t have sex with her or even kiss her too hard.  He is completely happy to do nothing but sit by her bed and watch her sleep day in and day out, while she trembles at his touch and makes weak attempts to tempt him away from chastity. See?  No sex!  He’s great.  When he leaves her, (to protect her, you see) making her believe that he does not love her anymore, she wanders lost in the woods for a week, and is found curled up completely catatonic as her non-self tries to figure out what she could possibly do without him.

Her father responds to this alarming development by doing nothing, until he discovers one day that she has decided to awake from her “zombie” state through the only catalyst that seems to really do it for her:  another boy.  He is overjoyed, sending her off happily to spend her days building motorcycles with a giant teen with an apparent pituitary dysfunction.  Now that Edward is gone, Bella can only be happy when she is with Jacob, a Native American boy who turns out to be decendent from a race of “spirit warriors” and becomes a kind of werewolf.  Whatever.  Bella hangs out with Jacob because she wants to do risky things which get her adrenaline pumped.  (Which then prompts her to hear the voice of Edward in her head, telling her to be careful.  Ick.)  Unable to come up with any other way a 17 year old girl might get a little thrill hanging out with a hunky 16 year old werewolf, naturally Bella decides to spend months watching him rebuild a motorcycle so that she can be adorably incompetent and crash it a few times.

Tragically, the motorcycle just isn’t enough of a thrill.  So, one day when all of the werewolves are out risking their lives to protect her from a homicidal vampire, she decides to throw herself off a cliff.  Underestimating Stephenie Meyer’s ability to crank out another 3,000+ pages of creepy neo-victorian “romance” Edward thinks she has killed herself and through a long and tiresome plot device returns to her life, never to leave her again.  Naturally, the werewolf is a little pissed off, transforming himself suddenly into a complete asshat and forcibly kissing her.  She breaks her hand, punching him in the face.  Her father looks up from his game for long enough to let her know he thinks that’s really funny.

500 or so pages later, it’s finally time for Bella to become interesting.  Or so we think.  Edward’s family has agreed to make her a vampire, but she wants Edward to do the deed.  Predictably, he refuses to unless she agrees to marry him.  After all, if she’s going to become sexy, strong, and interesting in her own right, he’d better stake his claim now.  Freshly married, they finally decide to be intimate.  Despite thousands of pages of buildup, we don’t get to hear anything about that other than Bella awakening in the morning, covered in bruises and absolutely thrilled about it.  

Since a good beating is really not enough punishment for having sex in a gothic romance novel, Bella conceives a demon baby.  Although she’s never so much as hinted at an interest in children, suddenly, she’s plotting with a sister in law to help her keep the child who grows at a freakish rate, forces her to drink blood, and breaks her ribs when she kicks.  Ultimately, the baby completely obliterates whatever was left of Bella, snapping her pelvis and ripping her body apart.  

Completely cleansed of her physical being as well as her personality, she is ready for Edward to give her immortality.   She becomes beautiful, strong, fast, and thirsty, but she barely has a second to give her magically delicious baby a really stupid name before a raging mob of vampires is on its way to punish them for doing the nasty.  While they are waiting to be slaughtered, she learns that Jacob has “imprinted” on her weeks-old daughter, meaning he’ll be her creepy daddy friend figure until he one day marries her.  Edward and Bella think that’s gross but forgive him anyway, because he’s such a swell guy.  Meanwhile, Princess Breaksyourpelvis wins over the bloodthirsty ubervamp crowd, and they all live happily(?) ever after.  The end.

The Ick Factor

This story disturbs me on so many levels, beginning with its popularity.  Picking it up after watching grown women screaming and swooning at the sight of Robert Pattinson (the English actor playing Edward in the Twilight movie)  I was immediately sad to read about the kind of relationship that got them so hot and bothered.  Devoid of sexuality or even much of a plot, the first novel is a retread of a couple of scenes in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but without the Victorian context to explain what all the big fuss was about.

While the sexual aspects of the books did make me wonder if many American women secretly yearned for the perfect gay male boyfriend, I’m not too worried about the grown women who read them.  Unfortunately, they are on the “young adult” shelf, not wedged in with the Harlequin Romances.  Twilight is not Harry Potter, and a lot of parents might not realize what their tween and teen girls are reading.  Here, I am not being paternalistic.  I like to think of it as “maternalistic.”  As a mom, I’d rather my kids didn’t read these books, at least not without a whole lot of discussion.  

Why do I care, if there’s so little sex?  Because the Twilight novels are all about sex, and love, and how to navigate the intense first relationships of adolescence, and they are sending all the wrong messages.  Bella experiences violence countless times and keeps this from her family.  Ultimately, this turns out to have been the right thing to do.  She completely disintegrates when Edward leaves her, only to discover in the end not that he isn’t that into her (which would be the case in real life, 99.999995% of the time) but that he secretly still loves her and is ony being gentlemanly.  She discovers his love through a thinly veiled suicide attempt.  Giving these books to a teenage girl going through a bad breakup is like offering heroin to an addict.  

Add in the promise ring on the toddler, the violent first sexual experience, and the totally self destructive pregnancy, and I think you can understand why 10 year old girls probably ought not to be unwrapping a Twilight boxed set this Christmas.

Why Now?

I don’t understand.  Or I do, I guess, but I don’t understand why these novels would be marketed so unquestioningly as young adult fiction.  190 years after 19 year old Mary Shelly (child of a feminist who died in childbirth) wrote Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, and explored the depths of natural vs unnatural reproduction, why does a 34 year old mother write something so laden with mysogynistic subtext and claim it is just story she came up with about a hot guy, written between swimming lessons and diaper changes?  She is rumored to have run them all by her (Mormon) bishop for approval prior to publication.  Why are her publishers and her adult fans so quick to jump to the “it’s just a story” defense?  It’s not as if vampire stories, madonna myths, science fiction, feminism, or literary citicism are new.  

Why are we making like its the 19th century?  I can understand finding these novels entertaining, I can even understand getting a little titillation from them.  What I can’t understand is pretending we don’t see what’s wrong with the tale of Edward and Bella.  Because if we really want our daughters to grow up accepting violence in their relationships and serving dinner with a smile while they are passed from one manly authority figure to the next, until they are ready to marry and produce a baby, maybe we’ve already turned the clock back to Mary Shelley and beyond.

More Twilight Criticism Around the Interwebs:

Twilight Star Robert Pattinson calls Author Stephenie Meyer “Mad” and Perhaps a Total Quack

The Twilight Books as Fundie-Girl Fantasy

Twilight Sucks, and Not in a Good Way

Twilight:  A Follow Up, and a Promise