Twilight Recap: Bella has fully recovered from the incident in the parking lot, but she is discouraged by her repeated dreams of the unreachable Edward Cullen and his overt unwillingness to speak to her despite her attempts to be polite to him in class.
Twilight, Chapter 4: Invitations
Despite my outright lies, the tenor of my e-mails alerted Renée to my depression, and she called a few times, worried. I tried to convince her it was just the weather that had me down.
Last week it was pointed out in the comments that Bella's frequent mental dismissal of herself while still feeling superior to others was not, in fact, inconsistent with depression. And now that that's been pointed out, it's impossible for me to not see this week's segment in the same light -- indeed, Bella even calls out in the first sentence here that she is depressed and her mother realizes it.
No one should have to "justify" being depressed. Depression is, in fact, something that many people suffer regardless of any outside cause. However, if we were looking for causes for Bella to be depressed, I'd say she actually has a few pretty good reasons to be depressed -- or perhaps it would be better phrasing to say that I have a hard time identifying any support structures to help her out of her depression. So today's post is going to be pretty sympathetic.
Let me count the ways. Bella's mother is a functional child who has monopolized Bella's own childhood into taking care of her, and who now doesn't need Bella anymore with the appearance of Baseball Phil. Bella's father is a provider who has given child support, paid for extensive summer visits, arranged for a car, and paid for a hospital visit for Bella, but who deliberately works over the weekend or goes on long "fishing trips" to the reservation to avoid having to converse with his daughter. Parental support for conquering depression: zero.
In the meantime, Bella is exceedingly popular at school, but her popularity is apparently due entirely to her good looks and her novelty as the new city girl in town. Whether this is actually true for her girl friends like Jessica is debatable, but I recognize that depression could make Bella feel this way. As for her ever-increasing entourage of boy admirers, it seems reasonable to assume that Bella doesn't feel like she can engage in an open dialog of her emotions, not if the boys in question are trying to go the Stealth Nice Guy route into a de facto romantic relationship with her. Peer support for recognizing and combating depression: zero.
Add to all this that Bella has just experienced a majorly traumatic life event. She very nearly died that day in the parking lot. In the shock of the situation, she leaped into defensive anger, and then in the days to follow, she sunk into a awed gratitude -- but it's extremely likely that there's more than just gratitude going through her mind right now. In the wake of a major non-accident, it's very normal to feel subdued. There can be a lot of feelings to deal with in the wake of almost died and it can be hard to grapple with those feelings when, you know, nothing "really" happened. But the fact that you didn't die and you're safe doesn't mean that day was a normal day like any other and it doesn't mean that Bella wouldn't be grappling with a lot of conflicting emotions in the wake of it.
And, of course, the accident has made her a celebrity in an environment where she just wanted to blend in and be left alone, which reinforces her fears that her "friends" are only interested in her drama, as well as the notion that her mortality is a source of interesting stories.
Then there's the problem of Edward. Prior to the accident, he was actually somewhat warm (if intrusive) to Bella in their Biology class. Bella has made it clear that she's intensely attracted to Edward and the morning of the accident she was looking forward to seeing him and hoping that some kind of unlikely romance might bloom. Instead, he ended up saving her life, which should have brought them closer together (if romance novels have taught me anything) but instead has mysteriously resulted in him absolutely shunning her.
So. Not only did the near-accident bring her to abrupt terms with her mortality, further highlight her fears that her friends don't care about her as a person, and exacerbate her relationship with her parents, it also ruined her hopes of a romance with the one boy she was interested in. And meanwhile, Forks is a never-ending parade of cloudy days and rainy nights. Knowing my own history with depression and S.A.D., I'd be kind of where Bella is now, too.
Mike, at least, was pleased by the obvious coolness between me and my lab partner. I could see he'd been worried that Edward's daring rescue might have impressed me, and he was relieved that it seemed to have the opposite effect. He grew more confident, sitting on the edge of my table to talk before Biology class started, ignoring Edward as completely as he ignored us.
The rain continued heavily, though, and the weeks passed.
Jessica made me aware of another event looming on the horizon -- she called the first Tuesday of March to ask my permission to invite Mike to the girls' choice spring dance in two weeks.
"Are you sure you don't mind . . . you weren't planning to ask him?" she persisted when I told her I didn't mind in the least.
"No, Jess, I'm not going," I assured her. Dancing was glaringly outside my range of abilities.
"It will be really fun." Her attempt to convince me was halfhearted. I suspected that Jessica enjoyed my inexplicable popularity more than my actual company.
A part of me wants to make a throw-away joke here about not being able to imagine at all why Jessica might not enjoy Bella's company, but instead I'll put on my Serious Business cap and point out that this is an unfortunate side-effect of depression: depressed people are often not "fun" to be around and thus they are shunned and isolated. It becomes a vicious cycle of depression and loneliness and a lack of external support structures to help overcome depression.
So while I don't blame Jessica for not being dazzled by Bella's morose personality, it makes me sad that no one -- not her parents, not her teachers, not her friends, not her school counselors -- feels the need to step in and offer some serious, honest-to-goodness help to Bella as she struggles with her depression.
The next day, I was surprised that Jessica wasn't her usual gushing self in Trig and Spanish. She was silent as she walked by my side between classes, and I was afraid to ask her why. If Mike had turned her down, I was the last person she would want to tell.
My fears were strengthened during lunch when Jessica sat as far from Mike as possible, chatting animatedly with Eric. Mike was unusually quiet.
Mike was still quiet as he walked me to class, the uncomfortable look on his face a bad sign. But he didn't broach the subject until I was in my seat and he was perched on my desk. As always, I was electrically aware of Edward sitting close enough to touch, as distant as if he were merely an invention of my imagination.
"So," Mike said, looking at the floor, "Jessica asked me to the spring dance."
"That's great." I made my voice bright and enthusiastic. "You'll have a lot of fun with Jessica."
The other positive thing I can say here is that I'm glad that Bella is actively working to get rid of Mike: she doesn't want him, Jessica does, and so she reassures Jessica clearly and candidly that Bella doesn't consider herself to have any kind of claim on Mike. It's not that I dislike Mike, but if Bella really isn't interested in him and he can't or won't to take her social cues, and she doesn't feel comfortable telling him more overtly that she is Not Interested, then this seems like a good next-best step.
I also like that Bella is being, in her own way, very sensitive towards Jessica. She tells Jessica that she "doesn't mind in the least" if Jessica asks Mike, which is a candid endorsement of Jessica's suit and not a grudging passive-aggressive offer -- Bella is making it very clear to Jessica that this isn't going to damage their friendship and that Bella isn't going to be bad-mouthing Jessica around school the next day. And then, Bella actually notices that Jessica is subdued and thinks long and hard about asking her about it -- she decides that Jessica would probably prefer not to share with Bella, and whether wrong or right, this shows that Bella is actually considering things from another person's point of view. You know, like a real friend would do. I think that's awesome.
The fact also, that Bella can speak up and reassure Mike that he'll "have a lot of fun with Jessica" in a bright, enthusiastic voice is also a great thing from my perspective. Bella's enthusiasm should leave absolutely no room to question whether or not the news disappoints her, and it goes a long way towards confirming my beliefs that Bella has been sending off strong Not Interested signals and Mike has simply been ignoring them. This passage, for me, puts Bella in a very sympathetic "wow, that could have been me in high school" light, and I like to call those out when we see them.
"Well . . ." He floundered as he examined my smile, clearly not happy with my response. "I told her I had to think about it."
"Why would you do that?" I let disapproval color my tone, though I was relieved he hadn't given her an absolute no.
His face was bright red as he looked down again. Pity shook my resolve.
But... I don't really like this.
First of all, it doesn't really feel like Bella. I can imagine that her resolve might be shaken, but in my mind her resolve would be challenged most by the uncomfortableness of the situation: if Mike can't pick up from the obvious cues that Bella is sending out that she is Not Interested, then more direct action will have to be taken, and direct negative action seems fairly anathema to Bella's character.
Pity, on the other hand, is not something I associate with Bella, and I don't mean that in a negative way. She's passive, yes, and she often doesn't like to voice her feelings beyond slamming the odd car door here and there, and she likes to appear to go along with the rules in order to keep the peace, but she's not usually motivated by pity. The only really piteous thing I can think of her doing so far is giving Renee and Baseball Phil marital space, and I wouldn't even really characterize that as pity. Sensitive, yes. Piteous, no.
It's probably a mistake to harp too much on Bella's pity here, as well as the guilt that she's about to experience in turning down Mike. But if we take it as truth, we have to add a new layer to Bella's personality. I've already argued that Bella is laboring under the expectations of being a Good Girl, and I almost have to wonder if this pity is imposed on her by an internal voice that This is how you are supposed to feel. She should be relieved at being almost rid of Mike... and all personality indicators thus far leads me to believe that she would feel that relief... but she doesn't. She feels pity and guilt.
Why? Is it a simple function of the society that surrounds us, that Good Girls don't turn disappoint other people's expectations? But if that were so, where was that inner societal sensor several years ago when Bella was patiently explaining to Charlie that if he wanted to see her for the summer, he was going to have to buy a plan ticket to California? Is it some kind of guilt based on her interpretation of her parent's relationship, where Bella feels she's following in Renee's footsteps if she breaks a man's heart? But if that's the case, why does Bella seem so scornful of Charlie's residual love for Renee? (Or am I interpreting that apparent scorn incorrectly?) There's so many layers here, but I can't seem to reconcile them.
"I was wondering if . . . well, if you might be planning to ask me."
I paused for a moment, hating the wave of guilt that swept through me. But I saw, from the corner of my eye, Edward's head tilt reflexively in my direction.
"Mike, I think you should tell her yes," I said.
"Did you already ask someone?" Did Edward notice how Mike's eyes flickered in his direction?
And now I take back what I said about not disliking Mike. I don't like Mike. It could not be more clear that Bella is Not Interested, but he's pushing this issue like Bella owes him some kind of explanation. It's rude and utterly unfair to Bella; Bella is being clear and straightforward while trying not to be insulting or cruel.
Of particular annoyance to me is Mike's demand to know if Bella has asked someone else: news flash, Mike, it's none of your business. The important thing you need to know is that Bella doesn't want to go to the dance with you; it doesn't matter if she's chosen another boy from school to take with her or if she's a lesbian or if she's not interested in the whole lot of you. Not. Your. Business.
Since Bella has not had any kind of relationship with Mike except "sitting at the same cafeteria table together in a group" and "letting him carry her books because it's too awkward to make a scene", she doesn't owe him an explanation and the only appropriate answer here is, "Thank you, I'm sorry for any misunderstanding, I hope we can all still be friends." Or something. My point here is that I'm sad that "demanding stalker boy" is apparently the template that every boy from Forks is cast from. *sigh*
"No," I assured him. "I'm not going to the dance at all."
"Why not?" Mike demanded.
I didn't want to get into the safety hazards that dancing presented, so I quickly made new plans.
"I'm going to Seattle that Saturday," I explained. I needed to get out of town anyway -- it was suddenly the perfect time to go.
And while normally I would be frustrated with Bella for pulling this excuse out of the air and thereby not being done with Mike 100% once and for all because he can still fantasize that maybe they can get together after the dance, I'm going to give her a pass on the passive-aggressive behavior for once because I feel like Mike is being intensely aggressive here with all his demanding.
Sure, Bella could say "Mike, I'm just not that into you, I'm sorry," but I'm also aware that she's in a precarious position as the new girl turning down the wealthy, attractive, popular boy and there's a lot of potential for danger here. I mean, I'd like to assume that Mr. Banner would step in if Mike got out of line, but considering he doesn't notice Edward "Killing-Me-Softly-With-His-Eyes" Cullen, I'm not hopeful that the Forks teaching personnel have any formal training in violence prevention.
"Can't you go some other weekend?"
"Sorry, no," I said. "So you shouldn't make Jess wait any longer -- it's rude."
...almost as rude as making me have this conversation.
And now, credit where credit is due: "Sorry, no," in this context is pretty full of win for me. Yay for Bella for being direct even though it's not easy for her to do so.
"Yeah, you're right," he mumbled, and turned, dejected, to walk back to his seat. I closed my eyes and pressed my fingers to my temples, trying to push the guilt and sympathy out of my head. Mr. Banner began talking. I sighed and opened my eyes.
And Edward was staring at me curiously, that same, familiar edge of frustration even more distinct now in his black eyes.
I realize that Edward is supposed to be frustrated here because he's straining to read Bella's mind and all he's getting is a blank where he usually expects thoughts to be, but all I can think in context of this sentence is that Edward is frustrated because if Bella doesn't want to be with the angry, demanding, controlling, attractive jerk in her Biology class, then what chance does Edward have?