Something's Gotta Give
Four Women Writers on the Lasting Influence of Marilyn Monroe
By the time I was a twelve, I was wearing Bonnie Bell lip gloss and reading beauty and fashion magazines—dog-earring pages of Seventeen. In high school, I attracted boys, and occasionally men who were far too old to be hitting on me. I was distracted by fad diets and scolded for my makeup choices, including once by my dad's secretary who didn't approve of my blue eyeliner. But I also developed a passion not just for reading and literature but for art, museums and design.
I was newly turned on to Andy Warhol, the Velvet Underground and reading about all kinds of counterculture, which is probably how I came to wear a vertical strip of stickers, four of Warhol's Marilyn Monroe images, on my red ruffle-embellished pea coat for several months of high school. The stickers were my own small act of rebellion. When I wore them, I have a feeling that was relating to the power of Monroe's femininity, but also to her vulnerability. Her form and the way she adorned it—fully made-up face, figure-hugging skirts and bosom revealing tops—conjured sex, while simultaneously whispering in a baby doll tone, please take care of me.
Monroe apparently once said, "If you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best." But I wonder how much she truly believed that.
I learned, eventually, that love requires much more than slapping a smile on my face, wearing a pretty dress and pretending everything's OK. The people who love me can handle it. And if they don't, I can handle it.
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