Dumb, vain and confused: adolescent males, are like, totally overrated.

FORGET Gillard versus Abbott [Australian politicians]. The real debate is Edward versus the modern teenage boy, as Eclipse, the third instalment of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, hits cinema screens.

A new word entered the modern lexicon recently. ''Twihard'' describes those (mostly adolescent females) whose obsession with the hero of the Twilight saga goes way beyond entertainment. What is this obsession with fictional romantic heroes about? Why does the fictional hero win out every time? On the surface, it's just not rational. After all, Edward Cullen is a blood-sucking
vampire. He's rock hard, marble cold to the touch and minus a heart beat. He lives on animal blood. So what makes him so appealing to teenage girls? Could his popularity be an indictment of young males?

For a start, Edward (unlike your typical pubescent male) is not a commitment-phobe. His devotion to Bella is impressive. He openscar doors for her, is always attentive to her needs and does notpresume to take her out without first meeting her father.

Edward is a classic gentleman and a SNAG rolled into one. And he has no difficulty articulating his emotions. What's more, Edward is never confused about his role - he is comfortable as protector and provider. He is impeccably groomed and never has to be lectured about hygiene. He exercises superhuman control in keeping his relationship with Bella chaste, though he does fly into uncontrollable rages whenever Bella's safety is compromised. But then, some of us girls happen to like that.

Let's face it - the average teenage boy doesn't stand a chance against Edward Cullen. I recently had a brief dalliance with a boy my age who could not communicate to save his life. He kept a roll of toilet paper by his bed for ''poo emergencies'' in the night and refused to walk the 10 metres to the servo where he worked, opting
instead to skateboard in order to avoid exertion. He did have a few redeeming features: an endearing upturned nose and a preppy schoolboy haircut. Sadly, these were not enough to sustain a relationship.

We teenage girls are faced with a quandary; we know what we want but are forced to wait for our male counterparts to grow up. We are ready for intense and meaningful relationships but research indicates that males will not reach maturity until their mid-20s. Faced with such news, we have no choice but to fantasise over what it might be like to love a vampire.

Apart from a small minority, teenage boys fall into three distinct categories: macho, metro or just plain muddled. The first type is the beer-swilling Neanderthal who is more concerned about how he is perceived by his mates than winning a girl's affection. These boys think passing wind counts as humour and everything they say is punctuated with some sexual innuendo.

The second type is metro man, whose preoccupation with image is often more important than spending time with a girlfriend. These lads own skinny jeans and hair-straighteners and spend a lot of time shopping for accessories to complement their ''indie'' outfits. Metro man is too aware of his effect on women and usually uses it to his advantage. Scratch the surface and you won't find much substance.

The third type is generally decent, but gives out such conflicting messages that you need telepathic skills to work out what they're about.

There is no denying Edward Cullen has raised the bar. The only question remaining is: how will teen males rise to the challenge? A friend and I were bemoaning the disastrous nature of teen romance recently when she commented that, when asked out these days, her first thoughts run along these lines: ''Can you run at lightening speed? Can you throw me over your shoulder and scale a tree in the event of imminent danger? Will you sit by my bedside every night watching me sleep and wondering about my dreams?''

We joked about the response this might elicit from the real teen: ''Nah, babe, but I can knock back a six-pack in under half an hour, do some impressive grinding on the D-floor and throw up neatly into a garbage bin at the end of the night. Doesn't that turn you on?''

Edward Cullen provides us with a reprieve from reality. Much as psychologists insist we learn to deal with it, we all know reality is overrated. Real conversation can be awkward, rambling and self-conscious; Bella and Edward's exchanges are anything but.

''Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night. Very dark, but there were stars - points of light and reason … and then you shot across my sky like a meteor.'' I don't know about you, but I'll take the romantic hero (even the blood-sucking kind) every time.

source Alexandra Adornetto is a Melbourne author. Her new book, Halo, is due for release on August 1.