For ‘Twilight’ lovers of a certain age, convention is escape

You’ve seen these women before. When the weekend ends, they will go back home — to children, husbands or co-workers who know them as the lady with Taylor Lautner on her nails.

They have gathered for the Official Twilight Convention, which came to Arlington County last weekend, one stop on a multi-city U.S. tour. Inside the Sheraton National Hotel, it soon becomes clear that “Twilight” fandom is not just for teens. In fact, if the crowd here is any indication, it’s not for teens at all.

In the young adult section of every bookstore in America, there is a shelf heavy with swooning vampires, fallen angels and werewolves that just want to be loved — all the monstrous progeny of the “Twilight” series. But the conventioneers aren’t the fans who the book marketers and moviemakers envisioned, the ones who initially embraced the series.

These are grown-ups: women in their mid-20s to late 40s. Sure, some came to the book through their daughters. But most say they met online in groups such as Facebook’s Twilight Sorority or discovered Stephenie Meyer’s novels in their book groups. The convention finds them sitting together at the hotel bar, laughing over cocktails and wearing fitted T-shirts expressing their preference for Team Edward or Team Jacob — or Team Threesome.

Fangs? Nowhere to be seen. Skin glitter? Only at Saturday night’s Volturi Vampire Ball.

The word “convention” calls up visions of pasty teenage boys in glasses repaired with duct tape strolling around looking for die-cast spaceship figurines. But the “Twilight” gatherings are less the female equivalent of “Star Trek” conventions than they are ladies-only spa retreats.

It’s a “weekend away from reality with no redeeming social value,” said Kara, a librarian from Arlington.

To be sure, conventions such as this one separate the women from the teens; most teenagers don’t have the disposable income to come to the Sheraton National for a weekend, where ticket prices range from $25 for a one-day pass to $250 for a VIP weekend package.

“Not a lot of younger kids,” said Erica Watts of Virginia Beach, here with her book club friend Doris Higgins-O’Brien. “Normally late 20s and up, believe it or not for a teen book series.”

She scans the room. There might be as many as eight men. “There are more men here than ever,” Watts notes.

“We have a group. We’re all in our 40s. It’s been a nice friendship. It’s 99 percent women,” said Benay Dunn of Crofton. “I brought my husband here last year — ” she trailed off, shaking her head. “Too many females.”

It’s true that male “Twilight” fans are a rarity. “I guess I’m officially outing myself,” Henry Holzmann said, grinning behind his wire-rimmed sunglasses. He conceded that this is “displaying some mild form of insanity. None of my family watches it. I only talk about it on, like, Facebook and stuff. I joined the Twilight Sorority, a Facebook page. I was reluctant to do so, being a guy. I didn’t even join a fraternity in college and here I am, joining a sorority.”

He contended that this is a great place to meet women, although he didn’t seem to be having much luck. And — well, so many of them are married. Or have boyfriends. Or kids.

And meeting real men is not what this adult fandom is about. It’s about embracing escapism, about knowing “real life” all too well.

This crowd has moved past teen obsessions. People here know the difference between love and stalking, between fairy tale and reality. Those girls who pine for vampire Edward? “Sweetheart, that is a fairy tale,” said April Hancock, a mother of five on her second vacation in 10 years. (The first was also to a “Twilight” convention.) But they still enjoy the romance — and the company of women who understand.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.
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