I do not relate to the Marilyn Monroe persona in any conceivable way. Not in beauty, sex appeal, style, dress, voice, talent, or life experience as a world renowned starlet. But I do believe I understand and relate to Norma Jeane, the compliant child-woman, the person she was behind the persona, the real person who is the subject of this post.
I have often wondered if it was the Norma Jeane quality that compelled my young husband Joey, Marilyn Monroe’s step-son, to chose me, marry me and then fervently try to re-make me into his Marilyn Monroe idealized image by changing the way I dressed and behaved.
What was his felt sense about me that reminded him of his beloved step-mother, the “mother” that remained intensely interested in his life─ even speaking with him by phone the night of her death? What caused his attraction to me when we met? What is this Norma Jeane quality to which I refer? On the surface we were nothing alike.
Deeply in love with Joey who I saw as brilliant, funny, and charming, I thought he married me because he loved me. What seventeen year old girl wouldn’t think and hope for that when engaged and newly married?
What he didn’t know, at least consciously, was that from our very first meeting I was a lost girl, fearful of people’s control and demands, confused, in need of guidance, a damsel in distress. I needed a protector. Trying to escape the suffocating depression, sorrow and expectations that permeated the house of my grandmother and mother; I had just run away from home. I needed rescuing in the same way that Joe DiMaggio ─ sometimes referred to as, “The great American Hero”─ rescued Marilyn on several occasions.
Norma Jeane had also been lost; she was without a sense of belonging or safety. Within every child-woman is the search for love but that search is compounded, almost desperate in its efforts to have that felt sense of being loved and belonging, if this fundamental need was not met as a child. Always searching for the eyes like that of the mother ─ eyes that light up with a smile when they gaze upon you. In the absence of such consistent appreciation is the endless search for a sort of substitute human mirror that reflects back acceptance, delight and belonging. The reflection that replaces the delight in the eyes of missing mothers whether by mental illness, substance abuse or absence. Yes, I understand Norman Jeane all too well.
I believe that Joey’s attraction to me had everything to do with the parts of myself, like those of Norma Jeane, that both infuriated men by thwarting their authority and making them want to rescue and protect us, sensing our profound vulnerability. As young girls, Norma Jeane and I had our own strict moral code that perhaps made no sense to anyone but us. Not to mention a tenacity that refused to be subdued despite our penchant to please, placate and surrender our dreams. Tenacity prevailed every time in spite of us. We were not the kind of girls that could be caged in any sense of the word.
And yet! We shared a certain vulnerability that enabled, even elicited, some men to enact their hero fantasies, their desire to be a knight in shining armor. That archetype of course has its own roots, which will be the subject of another post.
The parallels are strikingly similar: As little girls we both grew up with negligence and disregard─fathers who denied our paternity and refused to even meet us, mothers with mental illness, pill addictions and little ability to connect. We were both sent to foster care and endured a variety of abuses, of which fostered a profound vulnerability and a certain type of resistance to control. No, there would be no cages for us.
Read more in my soon to be published book, Ragdoll Redeemed:Growing Up In the Shadow of Marilyn Monrow.