I was at once both surprised and delighted when I learned of this epistolary phenomenon — letters to Juliet. How it began is difficult to say; the important thing is that it did. People from all over the world have been confessing their deepest, silliest, most sacred thoughts and desires to the female constituent of the world's greatest love story since the 1930s. Letters simply addressed, "Juliet, Verona" will reach their destination, which is the fabricated tomb of Juliet Capulet in Verona, Italy. There, volunteer secretaries belonging to the Club di Giulietta will receive and respond to the letters. Some of the letters, along with the story behind this marvel, were published in a book last year, aptly entitled Letters to Juliet, by Lise and Ceil Friedman. The letters are fascinating little snippets of the human psyche. Each is colored with a different shade of love — love at its earliest, at its best, at its worst, at its most confusing.
Here is one of the letters from the book that tips its hat to infatuation:
I live on the third floor. My parents don't allow my boyfriend to come to my house. So I have to sneak him in. But it's very difficult. Can you tell me how Romeo got to visit you? Tell me his technique for climbing into your room!
Cari V., Lausanne, Switzerland"
And this one leans more toward the heartbreaking, serious side:
I am married to a charming man who blankets me with gifts and looks after me splendidly. But the problem is, I don't love him... Juliet, advise me; should I choose stability with my husband and daughter or happiness with my lover?
Jeanne C., Arles, France"
In this book, one finds the story of a small town that adopted a big legend, and it also tells of the people who found an unexpected outlet for personal triumphs and tragedies. In the back of the book is a pretty piece of paper with a sophisticated pink and red envelope included to encourage readers to write their own letters to Juliet. I was compelled to do just that:
Sweet ingÃ©nue, I don't know how I let myself be tricked into this. Let's set aside for a moment the fact that you are not now nor have you ever been real, but if you were then that would mean I am writing to a compulsive teenager about my relationship issues. I suppose writing to you is like falling in love itself — there is no rhyme or reason, but we do it because we are led to and ultimately we need to. That being said, I am happy to play along.
First of all, I should tell you I don't think you had to go so far as to kill yourself. The gesture is sweet — can't live without your love — but there are a handful of men who I convinced myself I couldn't live without either, and I'm happy to say I was wrong. I suppose you already know about my last (almost) love. He certainly had the potential to be someone I could have adored for a long time, but he was quite the cad. Don't worry, I knew he was a cad all along, and I allowed myself to savor him for a sweet second. Even though I knew better, I still couldn't help but be disappointed when it was over. I am, however, pleased to announce that I was not devastated. Disappointed not devastated is a great compromise for me.
I'm starting to think, forgive my cynicism, that mutual love is nothing short of a miracle. I've got that clichÃ© problem where I'm either dating someone who adores me or someone I adore, and I can't seem to happen upon a scenario where we're both in it fully for each other. Now, I'm actually going to take back what I said earlier about you killing yourself. This is only because it was, if not smart, completely mutual. He was with you every gruesome step of the way, and that is a gift.
Let's make a deal: If I ever find this mystery, mutual love then I will proudly bring this man to Verona and deliver a letter of thanks to your tomb in person. The three of us can have our picture taken together. If this type of love evades me then I will still live my life to fullest, but when the time comes for me to retire I'll do it in Verona. I will gladly be one of the many volunteers who spends her days reading and writing letters on your behalf. Sounds divine. Thank you for indulging me.
Tomorrow's Blog: I'll reveal my fast formula for writing thank-you notes, as well as tips on writing letters for graduation and/or Father's Day.
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Books mentioned in this post
Samara O'Shea is the author of For the Love of Letters: A 21st-Century Guide to the Art of Letter Writing