I distinctly remember my father, who was never emotional about anything except when angry, being noticably saddened when Marilyn Monroe‘s death was announced. His father (who lived in nearby Rahway, New Jersey, when we were residents of Westfield) also wore a long face. The idea of my father and grandfather having been on the same emotional page as Elton John and Bernie Taupin still blows my mind to this day.
In a 2006 American Masters doc called “Marilyn: Still Life,” Gloria Steinem talked about how the doomed Monroe might have been saved by the women’s movement if she’d somehow lasted until the late ’60s or better yet the early ’70s. I wrote something similar a few years ago, about how Monroe might have felt less trapped or certainly more understood if she’d managed to stay afloat until the arrival of ’60s freak culture and everything that followed.
Or maybe not. Monroe was so brutally abused by her mentally-unstable mother that she might never have found stability under any condition.
Living with feelings of vulnerability and putting yourself through contortions to live up to expectations of the opposite gender has never been a women-only thing. I went through a lot of this in my 20s and especially my 30s — job anxiety, creative failure, crash-and-burn love affairs, being found wanting for fickle or substantial reasons, heartbreak and anger over the constant ‘no, no, no, no, no’ of things — and a lot of it was truly hellish. The Steinem narrative is that women of her generation (reared in the ’40s and’50s, early adulthood in the ’60s and ’70s) had it much tougher than guys of that era. Maybe they did but life is never a picnic for anyone. It haunts from all sides, cradle to grave.
Again, the Longworth/Monroe mp3.