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Real Men Read (And Love) 'Twilight' — Really

My Guilty Pleasure is a new series in which writers talk about the books they've loved only secretly — until now.

There are — news flash here — true differences between men and women.

A friend who has twins (one boy, one girl) told me the story of when they were down at a pond, and the young twins spotted a cute little duck.

The little girl said, "I want to pet the duck."

The little boy said, "I want to kill the duck."

I rest my case.

And with that gender gauntlet thrown, let me say to you as a meat-eating, Entourage-watching, sports-loving (OK, I really don't love sports, or actually understand sports) — heterosexual man who can't sit through a single show on Lifetime television, let me loudly proclaim: I, Brad Meltzer, love the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer.

Now this is the part where I'm supposed to make an intellectual disclaimer like: I don't really love it, but I appreciate it for what it is.

But let me be clear here. I love it. I love Twilight. I love Bella, and I love Edward.

I'm not alone. Since it debuted in 2005, the Twilight series has sold over 53 million copies, making it the hottest thing in bookshops since that nerdy kid with the lightning-bolt scar.

But back to what's really important: Me.

I love this story of the gawky, awkward girl who falls in love with the brooding vampire. And I love that she can't get sexual with said vampire because when her blood gets pumping, it'll send him into a frenzy and he'll kill her. (How's that for a prophylactic?)

I love hearing the dark secret histories of how the other vampires were turned into vampires. And I love when Edward gets all huffy with Jacob the werewolf — oh my God, I'm on the verge of writing fan-fic here — but again, in case you missed it, I love this story.

But for the most part, I've told almost no one.

Y'know why?

Because as a man, this book is not supposed to be for me.

I realized this when I went to see the Twilight movie. Yes, I was there. Opening weekend. We got a babysitter for it. And I sat there in the dark with my wife and a roomful of suburban mothers and a smattering of teenage daughters. I counted. There were four other men (all teenagers) besides me. Me. Four dragged-along boyfriends. And the rest women.

But you know who I blame for this?

I blame my fellow men. That's right. I blame all the men out there who point fingers and call things "girlie" and run like spineless cowards whenever something gets embraced by the opposite sex.

It happens all the time. Remember when men were named Terry and Robin and Leslie? And then a few cool girls were named Teri and Robin and Leslie. And what happened? The men ran. Those names were ceded to the women.

To be honest, I can handle that for Leslie. Leslie is just not a cool name (no offense to Leslie Sydelman, who came to my bar mitzvah). But I will not let this stand for Twilight. We'd never dismiss Romeo and Juliet as "just for women." (Yes, I know — I'm not saying it's Shakespeare, and I still think Harry Potter is better — but don't mess up my analogy.) I won't cede Twilight.

And so I challenge — not the men out there; the men are clearly wusses — I challenge the women. Give Twilight to your teenage sons. Give it to your nephews and husbands and other guy types. Tell them it's cool. Tell them they'll like it. Tell them that it'll help them understand women and therefore help them get dates (c'mon, why else do you think I spent so much time with Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret)

And I issue this challenge — not for sexual equality, not to break down gender barriers. I issue it for the most vital reason of all: The sequel is coming, and I'm tired of being the only guy in the movie theater.

"My Guilty Pleasure" is produced and edited by Ellen Silva.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brad Meltzer