At 13 years old, Juliet’s got it all figured out. Yup, at the ripe old age of 13. At 13, I had New Kids on The Block and Bon Jovi posters hanging on my walls. Not to mention zits, braces, and over-teased hair. Thinking about those days, I knew it all too. Didn’t you?
There was a boy I was madly in love with. Madly, I tell you. We weren’t from the same neighborhood, so we’d meet up at the roller skating rink (that’s where we met originally, actually). It was our hangout, along with 20 or so other teens. When said love of my life, at the time, and I broke up . . . I may as well have been Juliet. I was heartbroken. Looking back on those emotions, however young and naïve, I have to say, I was in love. Young love, but love nonetheless.
If I'd lived in 16th-century Italy with my Roller-Romeo, I may have died trying to be with him for eternity just as the tragic Juliet did. Now think about what you know now at your heightened age of superior intelligence and experience and answer me this: What the heck would you say to Juliet to try and talk her out of marrying Romeo? Would it have worked?
The more I think of their sad, sad, story, the more I wonder—what about Romeo and Juliet makes them top the lists of the Best Couples in Romance time and time again?
It’s not like they had a lifetime together with history and memories to build on. I believe the tale spans a couple of days, less than a month at the most. Even at thirteen, Roller Romeo and I hung out for a whole spring before we kissed.
So is it the plot that has inducted these teens into the Romantic Couples Hall of Fame?
Don’t shoot me, but I believe it to be so . . . “For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” (Dude, I’m a poet . . .)
Now, they met at a party and something sparked: attraction, puberty, the spiked punch, who knows. So she’s madly in love with a boy she just met, and they make plans to marry in secret. Plus—bonus!—they can neatly end the feud that’s been going on between their families for years. Smitten, they cannot keep their hands off of each other, but alas, curfew. Forced to separate, they part ways, but Romeo cannot stay away from his Verona babe. He goes to her balcony and overhears Juliet talking to herself . . . out loud . . . about him. (No red flags there, questioning Juliet’s sanity). Romeo is a horny 14-year old, so he takes it in stride. Imagine, if you will, the modern version: Juliet in a Justin Beiber t-shirt, removing her retainer, and applying Clearasil. Romeo wearing a Harry Potter t-shirt, listening to his iPod, cruising to Juliet’s on his skateboard . . . look at the 13 and 14 year olds today, I’m just sayin’.
They actually marry and do the deed to consummate it (My daughter is twelve; I shudder at the thought). As head over heels in love with Roller-Romeo as I was, getting felt up was a big deal back then. Something that a guilt-ridden, repressed Catholic knew you’d burn in hell for.
So, the teenage lovers are married, but marriage is far from bliss. (We could have told them that!) The ongoing family feud has Romeo breaking up a fight between his cousin and Juliet’s. Romeo didn’t do such a good job because his cousin gets whacked. Enraged, Romeo stabs Juliet’s cousin out of vengeance.
Juliet, sad and distraught, forgives her groom. Guess the nookie was that good? Romeo is banished from town, and they cannot be with each other. So Juliet fakes her death so she can sneak off to be with Romeo forever. Romeo doesn’t get the memo that she really isn’t dead and thus goes to her heavily sedated body, believing she has truly met her maker, and kills himself. Well, when Juliet finally wakes up, she finds a dead Romeo. Life is not worth living without him, so she takes his dagger and joins him in the afterlife.
No HEA here. But the tragedy of it all is what makes this tale timeless.
Today, the couple can’t truly be taken seriously. First of all, their age alone disqualifies them. Juliet talks to herself all the time and mouths off to her mother. Romeo has impulse-control issues, topped off with a lack of anger management. Today, they’d be too self-indulged to kill themselves. Worse, they’d end up on reality TV. Romeo and Juliet could be the next stars of 16 and Pregnant or, worse, The Jersey Shore . . .
Being 30-something, I see Romeo and Juliet as two spoiled brats who were told “no” and ended up completely destroying themselves in the process of getting what they wanted. Because we all know that, as a teenager, there is no way you are falling in love instantaneously at a party one night and killing yourself over it by the next weekend. No sane person would do that, anyway.
So, this timeless tale is really about the tragedy. How circumstance after tragic circumstance crumbled on top of one another, making a HEA far from possible. The more I think about it, Romeo and Juliet should not be read by teens in high school. I read it my freshmen year, at 14. I thought it to be so tragically beautiful (BTW, I love that phrase tragically beautiful; it’s mine, so back off). Anyhoo . . . thinking about Romeo and Juliet as an adult and especially as a parent, I see it as a tragic waste of life, the result of poor parenting and mentally unstable youth left to their own devices. It may not be a tale about love at all. Infatuation, attraction, wanting love so badly you jump at the first chance . . . ’tis a heap of tragedy, weaved together by great lines and tension.
So, for me, Romeo and Juliet as a couple should not be amongst the Romantic Elite. They are not an Uber-couple of Romance. Not at all. Not even close.
Chemistry: A single HA out of a full HA-CHA-CHA. Underage smooshing is not for me.
Tension: 3 of out 3 MUSCLE KNOTS
Conclusion: 0 out of 3 SIGHS, more like 3 out of 3 WTFs!
Did you know that the play Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare was an adaptation of well-known poems and stories? We forget the man was a playwright and that many plays of the time were based on existing tales.