“What I want to tell- is what’s on my mind:
‘taint Wishes, its thoughts flinging by before I die- and to think in ink.”
MARILYN MONROE WROTE those lines. No, really: Marilyn did! What else would Marilyn havewritten if she had lived to tell her story, if she had had a chance to do more thinking in ink? What would she have shared if she had reached more often for a pen, and less often for pills, booze, and men? She was ready to talk, to tell us what only Marilyn knew— what it had meant to her to be a mirage that vanished when you got too close to it.
Lots of other people—mostly men—were sure they were what Marilyn wanted. They knew what Marilyn meant to them. She was the leading lady in their wildest fantasy.
I have a feeling that Marilyn and I have a lot in common besides the fact that we shared the same last name—DiMaggio—for a while.
We were both born illegitimately to mothers who didn’t want us, and fathers who refused to claim us or our mothers. I’m pretty sure that if we had been born fifty years later, we’d have both been defined as “products of conception.” End of story. A pretty short memoir, that.
But we both made it into a childhood in which we were both treated most of the time, and by most of the people in our lives, like troublesome objects instead of treasured human beings.
Before we were ten, we had learned that we possessed something that men wanted enough to become perpetrators to have: our naked bodies. This left Marilyn obsessed with showing off her body to any man who wanted to have a piece of her—even if only in his mind. It affected me in exactly the opposite way: I wouldn’t voluntarily give my body away to anyone except the man who I thought would be my one and only husband on what would be my one and only wedding night.
Marilyn and I both learned the hard way that a woman has to define herself by something besides whether a man wants her or not, or by what men want from her. Few men appreciate that kind of self-defining, so a woman has to decide if she’s real or just a figment or lust object of a man’s imagination.
I think Marilyn was about to decide, but then she died.
I’d like to write a memoir for Marilyn’s sake as well as my own. I’d like to write about what it has meant to be spared from death long enough to “put the record straight” for myself. I would like to dedicate this book to Marilyn’s memory, and to all of the women who, like myself, are still learning what being a “real woman” means, and to all women who are learning what “real” means to them. (P.g vii-viii) To be continued. —Dawn Novotny
Curtin Photo by: Bigstockphotos