Marilyn Monroe vs. Norma Jeanne and Dawn

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.


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  1. just happened to stumble across this site. what a catchy title. congrats on your soont o be published book
    i’m trying to write a book too to share my experience in major depression and stress from corporate life. am working on the proposal and sample chatpers. not easy. kudos to you for accomplishing it!
    take care

    • Hi Noch,

      Delighted to see you visiting my site. Thanks for the book congrats. It is a good thing I didn’t know ahead of time just how daunting writing a book can be. Yiiiiiks.

      Your book/experience about major depression and stress from corporate life sounds like an important book that many people could identify with. I hope you keep going no matter what. You have a lot of important things to say from your personal experience Noch. I will be pulling for you.

      Kind Regards, dawn

      • thanks Dawn – I will keep coming back here, esp when I’m on a downer with my book, so I am reminded of the motivation of my project!

        • Hi Noch Noch,

          Please keep coming back to this site. The book production has been an arduous project but I am about to be quite proud of myself. Keep on keeping on. Best, dawn

  2. Dawn,

    Your blogs are like the old time serial stories they used to publish in newspapers. I look forward to logging on every Tuesday. When is that book coming out?

    Sandy and I related to the love of trees in your recent blog. Coming from the Northwest, it was hard to leave the evergreen forests when I went to Phoenix. I used to spend time under the fir and cedar making fern camps when I was a child. I continue to be awed by the light filtering through their branches. Gayle

    • Hi Gayle,

      I am so grateful that you and Sandy are readind my blogs, it makes me feel more grounded and not so alone in my story telling.

      Thank you both and happy holidays. Many Blessings for the new year as well, Dawn

  3. I am looking forward to reading your book too. Hard to believe we all grew up. I believed women show courage in silence and submission. Still avoid conflict but know I can and do have my opinion and am not alone, and that helps. Happy holidays and look forward to celebrating our birthdays. Sweet dreams.

    • Hi Ridelle,

      It is amazing that we all made it to adulthood. Thank you for following my blog. It means a lot to me. Happy Holidays and have fun on your travels. Hugs, dawn

  4. Hi Dawn,
    I cannot wait for your book to come out so that I can read it. I bet you have some amazing stories in there to share with all of us.

    Take care…

    • Hey Justin,

      Thank you for allowing me to guest post on your site. You have been so generous. Best wishes for a great New Year. dawn

  5. Well written, Dawn.


  6. Good luck with your book Dawn
    judging from your articles, it will be a great book for sure 🙂

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