The flip side of romance

This is gonna sound crazy, but I watched Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf the other night for the first time since high school, and I’m thinking it’s probably one of the most romantic pieces of fiction ever.

That’s right: More romantic than Romeo and Juliet. After all, the histrionic Tweenagers of Verona end up dead, so there’s not a whole lot of “happily ever after” going on there. In Virginia Woolf, this couple who love to show their love by declaring—loudly—their undying hatred for each other live to scream another day.

For anyone who’s never withstood the shrill voyeuristic torture of this movie classic, here’s a fairly biased and wise-assed summary:

Liz Taylor and Richard Burton are unable to have children, so they belittle and antagonize each other all the time just for sport. They come home tanked after a party one night, only to have George Segal and Sandy Dennis come over to participate in the sick, sad games while they all pour enough booze down their gullets to kill a couple of horses.

In the end, Dick says his and Liz’s son who never existed has died, which sends Liz into paroxysms of overacting that make George say “I think I understand” about fifty-seven times.

I’m glad somebody gets it. I’m pretty sure I don’t. Even after reading it for a college German class as Ver Hat Angst vor Virginia Woolf and finding out from the Cliff’s Notes of our day, Wikipedia, that the whole shebang is supposed to a metaphorical to-do about “living in illusion.”

I always thought the movie, which was based on an immensely popular and universally acclaimed play by Edward Albee, was overheated claptrap about how a million little jabs in the boxing match of the sexes will knock a romance to its knees.

I don’t know. I don’t seem to be living that life.

Or writing that book.

One thing you gotta like about romance novels (and most romantic plays and movies) is that while there’s plenty of fun and games and sturm und drang, they ultimately do have happy endings. That added greatly to the joy of getting to the end of Fast Lane. Wow! After all that, unlike poor Romeo and Juliet, they have their whole life ahead of them—and unlike Dick and Liz, that’s a good thing.

But, hey, if two people find themselves happiest when they’re most miserable, we should be glad the central characters of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf hooked up and left the rest of us alone.

Finding your perfect match. How much more romantic can it get?

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