Last week, Kristen Stewart became the highest-paid female actor in Hollywood. On Thursday, when Us Weekly published photos of her kissing Snow White and the Huntsman director/married dude Rupert Sanders, she paid the tax.
In a quickly issued mea culpa, the 22-year-old Twilight star apologized for causing "hurt and embarrassment" and "jeopardizing the most important thing in [her] life." Strange: Her career seems just fine. What she meant, ostensibly at least, was her relationship with fictional vampire lover and boyfriend Rob Pattinson. Only, she didn't say this over the phone to Rob. She said it, via press release, to whom it might concern. That's a lot of people. The problem is that not all of them are in actual high school, and what's our excuse?
Whom Stewart is having sex with should concern whom she is having sex with and whom those people are having sex with – and nobody else. Stewart is not a Mormon running for public office on higher moral ground. She is not your sex-addiction swami. She's an actor and a human and 22 years old. Her celebrity makes her a role model to tweenybopper know-nothings, but only insofar as she chooses and plays her roles, then promotes them in public. Twilight's scare-tactical orthodoxy about sex and abstinence is as punishing as the Old Testament. Stewart's affair with some husband-cad seems unorthodox, but is – if you've ever been pretty and unsure and 22 – painfully familiar, the kind of the thing that tends to be its own punishment. If Stewart drives drunk or litters or gets racist on Letterman, that's public harm. This is private harm.
And as regards the erstwhile Bella's privates, her most helpful response – especially in an American election year defined by the GOP's downright gynecological interest in women's bodies – would have been to tell everybody to stay the bleeding hell out.
Instead, Stewart said sorry, and made her first mistake.
I have yet to see a Hollywood tartlet apologize for weighing 95 pounds, or for playing dumb to stay popular, or for always being the sidekick when there's action. I've not heard one sorry from one girl who gets banked by Maybelline to make my kid sisters feel bad about themselves. I'm not saying they should be sorry. But if we are going to have girlpologies, let's have them for the whole host of patriarchy-enabled behaviours that, at least in my own baby-femme experience, had far stickier and more perturbing effects than any bedroom scandal. Let's not have them for independently screwing up.
An apology to Rob acknowledges that she did something wrong to him. An apology to us implies she did something wrong, period. It takes on faith a heterogeneous, bourgie morality and gives the lie that tween girls – or, more accurately, their movie-ticket-buying parents – want to hear. It lets, in effect, a bunch of virgins who can't drive decide what a grown-ass girl does in her own car.
And so the apology is wronger than the wrong. Relationships make their own rules; morality is fantasy. Adultery is no more absolute a sin than love is a virtue, and anyway, Stewart wasn't the married 41-year-old in that scene. By getting caught in that "momentary indiscretion," she shattered a glass house of fairy-tale promises, sure, but those never did girls any real-life good anyway. I wish she'd just said, yeah, sometimes princes aren't enough.