A couple of weeks ago, Amanda and I and our friend Bee went to Dallas Shakespeare in the Park to catch their production of Romeo and Juliet. Which was great. It was actually the first time I’ve seen the bard’s most famous play staged, and I was struck by something about this great love story.
It’s not actually about love. Romeo and Juliet are really just lovestruck teenagers. (Which, in the play’s defense, is something that like 5 characters point out to Romeo.)
Romeo and Juliet meet at a party. They ‘fall in love’ which actually means they each think the other is attractive. They don’t even have a full conversation. They read some poetry to each other (which in their defense is MUCH better than any of the poetry I wrote as a lovesick teenager). Importantly, they do not get to know each other very well.
Then the whole world is against them (because yeah, when you’re in puppy love, it absolutely feels like it’s you against the world). And in this case, they’re sort of right because all their friends and family hate each other.
They make a plan to run away together, and they get their wires crossed. They then each kill themselves, which could have been prevented if either of them had… waited like 2 minutes.
Despite its position as one of the great love stories of all time, it’s pretty easy for us to look at that and say, “That’s not love.”
Compare that, for instance, to the first 15 minutes of the Pixar film Up. In what is essentially a short, silent film, we watch as two young people meet and fall in love. We watch them grow up, see their joys and failures, their successes and struggles. And we see the wife die, leaving the man alone and grieving (which is where the rest of the film picks up).
When you put those two side-by-side, it’s easy to identify the couple in Up as truly loving and Romeo and Juliet as infatuated.
Which, to be clear, isn’t bad. Every romantic relationship begins there. In fact, a lot of friendships begin there too – I can’t count the number of friends I have who, when I first met them, I just though they were so cool and couldn’t wait to be their friend.
But one of the things I love about that opening cover song is it sketches out what can happen with infatuation. Yes it can blossom into love, like we saw in Up. Or it can fade into indifference, as it does in the song.
Either way, we can see right away that what’s between Romeo and Juliet, the thing that ends in their deaths isn’t real love.
We’re going to talk a lot about what love isn’t. Because we mistake a lot of toxic stuff for love.