In the twenty-first chapter of Eclipse, Meyer makes it a point to have all her characters say that they love each other, but then makes them act is if they despise the very existence of everyone around them. Jacob continues to break character and joke about sexual assault, considering it a great way to change a woman's mind. And then there's a tent, which sets up chapter 22, which is going to be the worst thing of all time. Intrigued? Then it's time for Mark to read Eclipse.
CHAPTER 21: TRAILS
I am a victim of abuse.
It started after my sister was born. I was adopted by loving, wonderful parents who seemed to transform when my biological mother had another child and my mom was contacted about adopting her and keeping all of us together. My sister joined our family and years later, as she began to get older and require more and more attention, things started changing.
The abuse didn't start happening until I was about 7. It started with hitting, but nothing that seemed out of the ordinary for most families. My brother and I rarely fought, but if we did do something wrong, my mom or dad may have smacked us (not too hard) just to knock a bit of sense into us. But it wasn't until my sister was nearly 4 and able to compose sentences that she started setting me up.
I remember the first time I felt genuine fear at the hands of my parents. I was washing my hands before lunch, a daily ritual before any meal, one that still sticks with me to this day. My mom stormed into the bathroom and grabbed my hand and dragged me silently into my sister's room, which used to be mine before I was forced to move in with my twin brother.
My sister stood in the middle of the room wearing her pink, frilly summer dress that she wore often. She loved it. She said it made her a beautiful woman. And there she stood, holding a bottle she still clung to long after she started using cups. The front of her dress was wet, dark in splotches down the center.
"Did you do this???" my mom shrieked at me. She gripped my left arm tighter and it felt a sharp burst of pain run up my arm to my elbow.
Ow mom. Mom you're hurting me.
"You little brat, did you spray your sister with water? Did you?"
No mom. I didn't do it. I didn't do it.
My mom raised her hand back and hit me across the face, her ring catching the skin on my cheek and tearing it. I started crying and bleeding and my mom wouldn't let go. I pulled away and this angered her more. She squeezed harder and I felt like I couldn't breathe.
She pulled me out of her room. I glanced back and saw my sister smiling at me.
I could smell lunch as she pulled me into the kitchen. Spicy chicken patties. White rice. Broccoli. There was a plate set out for me at the counter. My brother was there, already eating, and he watched in horror as my mom pulled both my hands up on to the counter and told me to leave them there, open, palms down.
The first time she slammed down on my left hand, I coiled it back. She yelled at me again. Called me another name. She pulled my hand back to the counter. "Don't you dare move this, you little asshole." Slams her hand down on my hand again. Slams her hand down on my right hand. She repeats this until my hands are red and start to swell. She stops. "Don't you ever bully your sister again. She's just a little kid. Now eat your fucking food."
Tears pouring from my eyes like waterfalls, I raise my hands up to my plate and try to grab a chicken patty. My mom smacks me in the back of my head so hard I choke on my spit. "Eat your food right. I didn't raise you to be a slob."
I climb up in my chair and try to wrap my hand around my fork. I can't. It's too swollen. My sister skips by in my peripheral vision and I turn and see her laughing as she goes to her designated spot at the dinner table behind me. I try to swallow, but my throat is raw from crying and coughing.
This happened periodically. I'd go days, weeks, sometimes even months without provocation, but then it would build to some sort of fever pitch, almost always in my mother, that involved her lashing out in extremely absurd ways. I don't even remember what I did to anger my mom, but shortly before we moved from Boise, Idaho down to Riverside, California, my mother beat me with one of my father's belts. When I started crying because I was 8 years old and that shit hurts, she claimed I was just crying to get sympathy and to make her stop. She called me a liar. So she beat me harder, telling me to stop crying or else I'd get it worse. It didn't work.
So she pulled me into the bathroom, made me bite off half a bar of soap, and hold it in my mouth for an hour. If I swallowed it, I'd get beat. If I spit it out, I'd get beat. So I cried in my bed, my mouth full of soap, and tried to find a way to cope.
This continued until I was 16. It moved away from physical abuse to emotional abuse over the next years, most of it deeply homophobic. (Though the physical violence didn't stop. I was left without food quite a few times, punch, slapped, and once nearly stabbed.) My parents both called me a faggot fairly often and challenged my gender. I was told from a very young age that I wasn't a man. I was routinely ignored, mistreated, yelled at, belittled, and made to feel as worthless as possible. It's much more complicated than this, but my home life, combined with the bullying at school, led me to attempt suicide twice by the time I was 15. This was all despite the fact that I was a straight A student without a single disciplinary problem ever. Ever.
Despite all of this, for the 10 years I was in school before I decided to run away, when people asked me how I was and how my family was, I always lied. I am fine. My parents are fine. I love them and everything they do for me. They always support me. They are the best family in the entire world.
I took all of the pain and dysfunction with me as I began to support myself. I also continued to lie to everyone and tell them I was straight. It was easy to pretend. I couldn't deal with the shame of being abused; how could I deal with the shame of being a homosexual too?
I came out in the month before I went to college. I spent years of feeling left out and excluded in the gay community for being different. I couldn't ever keep a stable relationship and I was routinely used and cheated on. At the end of the summer of 2006, I met the guy who'd become my first real boyfriend. My dad died the next day.
I spent half a year feeling vacant and hollow. I also spent that time pursuing a relationship with a man who, like my parents, emotionally abused me. Used me for money. Used me for affection. Used me to fuel his drug addiction.
I've never publicly admitted the next part, because, like much of what I experienced as a kid and teenager, I avoided shame. And I'm still deeply ashamed of myself for allowing this to happen, but I was in a relationship with a guy who withheld sex the entire time, wanting us to wait for some noble moment in the future when we were close enough and it would mean something.
He dumped me, through MySpace, before that day ever came.
And again, repeating the pain and shame I had come to know and accept, I told everyone that we were in love. That, in fact, this guy was my true love. That we had no problems, that the sex was great, and that we were in the best relationship possible.
Chapter 21 of Eclipse brings to mind so much of my experience, but it mostly disturbs me because Stephenie Meyer appears to be glorifying all of the symptoms of people who have been abused. I know because I've lived it.
As Edward and Bella prepare for the night before the giant vampire battle, we begin the chapter with this:
- Somehow, my plan for last night had gone horribly awry, and I needed to come to grips with the consequences. Though I'd given back the hand-me-down ring as soon as I could do it without hurting his feelings, my left hand felt heavier, like it was still in place, just invisible.
Remember, this couple is supposed to be so in love that they'll do anything for each other. One begs the other for sex, is denied, and instead agrees to marry him. The marriage isn't an act of love, but a stipulation, a condition, more akin to a business transaction than a romantic gesture. Bella is also clearly ashamed by her relationship, or at least the public display of it. And despite that this couple loves each other, they don't seem to act like they do.
This shouldn't bother me, I reasoned. It was no big thing--a road trip to Vegas. I would go one better than old jeans--I would wear old sweats. The ceremony certainly couldn't take very long; no more than fifteen minutes at most, right? So I could handle that.
And then, when it was over, he'd have to fulfill his side of the bargain. I would concentrate on that, and forget the rest.
He said I didn't have to tell anyone, and I was planning to hold him to that.
Again, they are deeply in love. Yet Bella is, much like Edward, treating their marriage ceremony like an irritating business transaction. See all that shame? Bella doesn't want to tell anyone about their marriage. At all.
- The urge to fight must be a defining characteristic of the Y chromosome. They were all the same.
Not on point, but SERIOUSLY. SERIOUSLY.
"What's wrong, Alice?"
"Don't you love me?" she asked in that same sad tone.
"Of course I do. You know that."
"Then why do I see you sneaking off to Vegas to get married without inviting me?"
"Oh," I muttered, my cheeks turning pink. I could see that I had seriously hurt her feelings, and I hurried to defend myself. "You know how I hate to make a big deal out of things. It was Edward's idea, anyway."
Of course these people love each other. They deceive one another, lie to them, and are filled with a deep embarrassment for everything they do.
It's how secretive they are with their own lives that bothers me so much and reminds me of what I went through. Despite how much I hurt, I would lie for people I thought I cared about. I didn't care about them anywhere near what I thought: I was just lonely and desperate for attention.
I think Bella and Edward and Alice are too.
You expect deceit from your "brother"? What????
- "I'll bet Edward would like you better if you did this traditionally, though he'd never tell you that. And Esme--think what it would mean to her!"
The man Bella is marrying is so afraid of her thoughts that he refuses to be honest. This is love.
- I groaned. "I'd rather face the newborns alone."
Bella, if you hate this marriage idea so much, don't get fucking married. Why are you doing this?
Alice then begs Bella to have somewhat of a ceremony so she can decorate. And we get this:
- "I'll never, never ever forgive you for this, Alice."
This isn't hyperbole, as we've seen with Bella. She truly hates most things that bring anyone joy. But if you hate something so much, why do you allow it to happen?
- "I'm trying to make you happy, too, Bella. It's just that I know better what will make you happy...in the long run. You'll thank me for this. Maybe not for fifty years, but definitely someday."
WHO ARE YOU TO SAY SUCH A THING? Please die in a fire.
Do you see how this is something I might understand? I hate what my mom and dad did to me (I've since forgiven them) and I hate what my ex did to me. I hated it at the time. But I didn't stop it. I allowed the hatred and the pain to control me. And you know what? I have no problem admitting this:
That is not healthy.
What happened to me and even what happens to the characters in the Twilight series isn't their fault. Despite Bella's bad intentions and decision, at no point is it ever her fault that Edward controls her, abuses her, or manipulates her. Same goes for what Bella does to Edward and Jacob, and what she also does with Alice. (Who, by the way, is pretty manipulative herself.)
And while we're on the subject, let's talk about Jacob, who has slipped so far from his characterization that I feel Meyer is making him such a shitty person ON PURPOSE because everyone liked him so much in New Moon.
Jacob's mission in this chapter is to carry Bella through the forest in his arms to dissuade the vampires from following her to where her and Edward are hiding. They'll smell Jacob and become disgusted and never think to go nine miles into the woods. During this time, however, Jacob makes a point to take advantage of Bella's vulnerability by talking about his sexual assault on her, acting as if it was a gift. A gift, folks.
"Does that mean that he's a better kisser than I am?" Jacob asked, suddenly glum.
"I really couldn't say, Jake. Edward is the only person I've ever kissed."
"But I don't count that as a kiss, Jacob. I think of it more as an assault."
Am I actually agreeing with Bella for once? What is up with Jacob? Why is he doing this?
- "Then it couldn't hurt to double check. Maybe you should try kissing someone else--just for comparison's sake...since what happened the other day doesn't count. You could kiss me, for example. I don't mind if you want to use me to experiment." He pulled me tighter against his chest, so that my face was closer to his. He was smiling at his joke, but I wasn't taking any chances.
So so so so so so utterly creepy. WHY DO YOU TOLERATE ALL THIS BULLSHIT?
Before I close this off with some news about the next chapter, I hope you'll understand that I'm just trying to provide a new context to all of this, maybe give you a different viewpoint with which to gaze at the world. I don't think a person who wasn't abused would see things my way or even interpret them as such. And I understand that. We're all different.
Perhaps I'm wrong about all this and I've read too much into it. It's possible. But never have I read fiction where characters profess their love so much and simultaneously act the complete opposite. Is it love to distrust your partner? To hide your feelings? To live in shame? To do things you hate to please other people just so they leave you alone? Read any of my journals before this or the ones of the two previous books. This behavior has been occurring since the very first book. It appears that Meyer has built an entire series on the premise that abuse makes a relationship work.
The only love I've known like this was the "love" shown to me by the belt, the homophobia, and the emotional havoc my parents gave me. The only love I've known like this was the "love" given to me by my controlling, manipulative, cheating excuse of an ex-boyfriend.
It's hard for me to see it any other way.
Tomorrow should be a LOL fest, because, if I believe correctly, it's the infamous "tent scene" I've heard so much about. Get your GIFs ready. We're going to have a party.