Romeo and Juliet may be a classic, but it screwed up my concept of love.
I’ll spell it out for you. You have your Montagues and you have your Capulets — they don’t really get along. Romeo is your typical angsty teenager. He broods until he sees a hot, new underage thing. Juliet, at the delectable age of twelve, enters the scene. They chat. They exchange scribes. His life is changed forever.
I can still remember the sweet aftertaste of my first R&J reading. No, I’m not talking about the general lameness of all the characters except for Mercutio. I’m talking about the part where Romeo loves Juliet so much he is willing to leave it all behind. The part where he’s really into her back porch. The part where he’s really into the way the light through her yonder window breaks. It didn’t matter that he was dumber than a gerbil. I thought to myself I can’t wait to have a love like this. And then I waited.
At fifteen I finally had my first boyfriend. Not quite Juliet’s twelve, but three years don’t make much of a difference. His name was Stone. Stone Moon Michael. He liked fixing pinball machines and watching anime children’s movies. His sisters were named Blossom, Meadow and Rain. His dog was named Howard.
Stone Moon Michael and I were star-crossed because he was from Rancho Cucamonga and I was from San Dimas, and neither of us had a car. But we both went to Claremont High, so we sat together in classes that didn’t have assigned seating. I wrote him a poem about Mr. Webner’s history class, and he made me a mix CD. The opening song was a Cake cover of Doris Day’s “Perhaps.” I took it as a sign.
Romeo and Juliet had given me my sexual education. In sixth grade, my classmates and I saw our first live production. The rolling bed was the most utilized set piece in the show, and our two leads would crawl into it before the stage went black. My friends would giggle and look away, much like the day we went to the ballet for the first time and saw men in white tights. Wow, the ceiling is so interesting, was the sudden consensus, except for Lauren Rosenberger who did not look away. It was unclear whether she was more or less mature than the rest of us. I’m sure she had her reasons.
I didn’t understand why my friends kept giggling. I thought consummation? What are they consuming and why are they always so hungry? Finally I swallowed my pride and asked Mrs. Smith. She started talking about birds and bees, which had nothing to do with the play, so I asked Duane Austin instead. He made me hold my hand in the shape of an “o” and oscillated his finger in and out of it, whispering I am the penis and you are the vagina. I had a huge crush on him, so the field trip was ruined.
The first time Stone came to my house, we played Scrabble on my bed. Mid-round he sensually brushed his fingers across my lips. When he went in for the kill he panicked and closed his eyes too soon, landing somewhere on my chin. The second time he got the location correct but used his tongue like a Swiffer. I pulled away on the brink of suffocation, having stayed long enough to reassure him that I was really enjoying this. I turned my head before he tried to hit the triple word score.
After the kiss he said I’ve never kissed a girl before. I very meaningfully responded I’ve never kissed a girl either. He wasn’t amused. What I should have said was the sea, my love as deep; the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite.
At some point I realized we weren’t progressing physically or emotionally. I was always studying and he’d get mad. But at least we didn’t die. I guess I could have also married him. But if I had stabbed myself he still probably would have stopped talking to me.
What I’m saying is that young love is not eternal. If it was, Adele would not be making so much money saying hello and I would not have to keep going on so many shitty coffee dates. Romeo and Juliet found romance but the real world is much harder. I may not be separated from bae by an ancient family feud. But that is mostly because I don’t have a bae. Until I find a suitable victim, I’ll keep thinking that this “love knows no age” thing is bullshit. Love clearly knows an age. I just haven’t found it yet.
(Names changed to preserve the identities of all those involved in this tale.)