How Do I Love Thee?

By Paula Hilton


A long, long, long time ago, back in the ‘90s, I co-authored a book called When Romeo Wrote Juliet. A friend came up with the idea because he had, in his short 35 years of life, quite a collection of handwritten “love letters” from quite a collection of women.


Yes, he was kind of a womanizer, and yes, he saw himself as some kind of Romeo himself, but when he approached me to co-author (code for write the book from his notes) I didn’t take it on because of his personality or appeal. I took it on because it seemed like a real challenge. He probably had 60 pages of handwritten notes and letters, and the idea of taking all of that and turning it into a book appealed to me.


I came up with the idea to break his notes into different chapters about different types of relationships, and how a love letter might look for that type of relationship. Each letter was written from Juliet to Romeo or Romeo to Juliet, and each took on an entirely different tone depending upon their relationship. A love letter from a husband to his wife of 30 years, for instance, would be quite different than a love letter from a boyfriend to his new girlfriend of just a few months.


It was a fun experience. I wrote the book in the comfort of my own home, meeting about once a week to brainstorm (and drink wine), and in the end we had a lovely hardback complete with illustrations and some real love letters included from family and friends.


The whole point was to help people come out of their shells and share their loving feelings on paper (although I suspect in addition to publishing his own love letters, he also wanted to flaunt his extensive knowledge about pens, something he really loved. Needless to say, he wrote that chapter.).


Anyway, the book is, as you can imagine, quite outdated by now. Paper? Pens? Using snail mail? Who in the heck does that anymore in this age of e-cards, e-mail, and e-everything?


But love is love, regardless of how you express it. My daughter was telling me recently about how she and her boyfriend sometimes prank each other by hiding and jumping out of the closet and scaring the bejeezus out of each other. “Why?” I asked. “Because it’s fun!” she laughed. “It makes him laugh, and I love making him laugh.” It’s not a love letter, but it’s certainly one way to show your love.


One of my recently married friends posted a note on Facebook that her new husband left for her on her pillow. It was adorable, scrawled out like a child, asking the age-old question, “I love you. Do you love me? Yes or no,” complete with boxes to check indicating your answer. Silly? Yes. Loving? Most definitely.


My book may be outdated, but one thing that hasn’t changed is there are no rules when it comes to expressing the love you feel for your significant other. So keep that in mind this Valentine’s Day. Go out for a special dinner, see a movie or show, or take a day off to just be together.


And maybe try your hand at writing a love letter. But be brave. Use your real name and leave Romeo and Juliet out of it. You’ll feel good about sharing your feelings, but the object of your affection will feel even better.

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