Friday, December 30, 2005

I wanna be loved by you

Today I visit a museum exhibit, “I wanna be loved by you.” It's a series of photographs taken of Marilyn Monroe. I feel as if I've had a personal visit with her.

My image of her is from the early ‘60’s: on the cover of Life, a celebrity who committed suicide, once married to Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio, and someone took a rose to her grave every year. I think it was Joe.

A burgundy floor to ceiling poster says:

I knew I belonged to the public and to the world, not because I was talented or even beautiful but because I had never belonged to anything or anyone else. The public was my only family, the only Prince Charming, and the only home I had ever dreamed of.—Marilyn Monroe

The photos in the exhibit are poignant yet erotic. Come to think of it, there are a lot of men at the Marilyn photos, men of all ages, with ball caps, with spikey hair. Clearly she looked fabulous in a sheet. There’s a celebrity section: “Marilyn and Jack Benny,” “Marilyn and George Cukor,” “Marilyn and Tony Curtis.”

But there’s one photo of her in a white V-neck sweater, at a lunch room, pointing at the camera. The title of the photo is “Marilyn caught off camera.” She looks smart, savvy. Her eyebrows are up and she looks about to say something. She could be in the courtroom. She could be my dentist. She doesn’t look ready to kiss anyone. She could be me. That's my Marilyn.

It’s said she completely changed before a photo shoot, rearranging herself, a consummate actress for the camera. Then there are the 100 life-size Marilyn cutouts grouped behind movie ropes and a video playing of her singing happy birthday to JFK. I wonder what she’d think of all this cardboard homage to her. All these models of yourself with your skirt blowing up from the subway air, dressed in red, white, blue or green, like so many Christmas lights. Twinkle, twinkle. Did anyone really love her?

Then, hidden in the back corner, there’s the room of Norma Jean Baker, a slightly prettier than average girl who worked on an assembly line, before she imagined herself into being, before she took unprecedented control over the movie Bus Stop with her savvy, and before she left the planet.

Marilyn said The public was my only family, the only Prince Charming, and the only home I had ever dreamed of. The title of the Marilyn exhibit is “I wanna be loved by you.” I didn’t realize she maybe wanted to be loved by me.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Are Men Necessary?

Dear Friends,

Pardon my dust while I try to figure out what I want my blog to be. (Blog-to-be: is that sort of like I may marry it, after we set the date? It's my blogicee?)

While I originally thought I’d share my errant but brilliant, pithy thoughts (on a daily basis!) many of them are unbloggable. Not x-rated—ok, maybe some of them—but not of the sort I want to place in this forum.

Instead, I’ll share with you that I dream of being a sort of Maureen Dowd, and saying wildly funny and insightful things about my daily surroundings, an archaeologist of the present, sending letters from today, without being so strident and as self-consciously clever as I find some of her writing.

By the way, Maureen, I’m sorry, that’s the way it is here, in the hinterlands, today, although your writing makes me smile, and sometimes it exposes actions I haven’t known about, a marvelous combination. But I’m bothered a bit about the strident nature of some of your comments, which come across as, well, sort of self-righteous. Still, I like your NYT column. This leads me to your book, Are Men Necessary.

As a single 50-something who raised two sons alone and who is managing her own brilliant career, I find the title a little off-putting and not ironic. I guess I’d wonder a little if I saw the title, Are Women Necessary? There’s a he-man on the cover, a cartoon spidey man replete with bulging muscles and saviourism shining is his bright blue eyes.

Excuse me while I run right out to the kitchen and throw a roast in the crock pot and be sure to take my hair out of curlers at 5 pm, comb my hair, and surround myself in saran wrap. I’m busy being swept back to some earlier, black-and-white, slightly-post Leave It To Beaver time where my role is defined, and I am necessary. Please keep me, Walter. The severance pay is lousy.

Then again, perhaps I’d just find Are Women Necessary a buzzing annoyance and swing at it with my fly swatter, a mere trifle to be put out of its misery. Are Women Necessary? And I care what the writer thinks because why? I seek engagement, not estrangement.

But, Maureen, I know you will write back, and tell me things like I’m taking all of this too seriously, and how, since I haven’t even read the book, I have missed the boat. In fact, I fell off the dock and nearly drowned.

All that’s going to change, though, because you’ll convince me to read it, and I’ll share what I learned from your book as a potentially sympatico 50 year old single woman. Perhaps we’ll be friends for life. Looking forward to hearing from you.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Techno Butterfingers

Dear Mary,

Thank you for your kind words in my last entry. I'd like to visit your journal and make a comment. In fact I'd love to visit many entries, numerous journals, whip out brilliant thoughts and perhaps engender world peace.

But the problem is, among other things, I am a techno butterfingers. Just moving to blogspot has created a bit of a boondoggle for me. Taking time to create links, search, upload pictures, and (yikes!) think about what bloggers are saying has me downright frazzled. Plus, I have a tendency to break mechanical things when I touch them. Truth is, I can't be trusted with a toaster.

Which leads me to my thought process. I hope it's not a butterfingers, too, but it may be. It's way slow, with good thoughts coming after I've put them on the stove to mull and stew for a day. Now, why is that so? Can I hasten things up a bit? Is there a thought enhancer, a mind speeder-upper? (I'm not talking illegal substances, mind you.) Could it be the irony of slowing one's thoughts, meditating, in fact increases thinking ability? And then are the thoughts themselves sloppy and slippery, based on hidden and perhaps inaccurate assumptions? Or are they pithy and original?

Well, as you can probably see, I like to ask questions a lot more than I like to fiddle with sites and keys and scanning and downloading and figuring out techno stuff, so please just know that until I figure everything out, which may be a few weeks, your comment, as are the comments of others, affirming to me. I truly appreciate them.


ps haven't seen jarhead yet. Of course, also haven't cleaned house or shopped for company yet, either. ***sigh***

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Nouveau Knitting

So I’m walking into the gym where I spin, and five or six women are grouped around a bike, with this expectant look, as if someone's about to have a baby. They look a little glum for such a special event, so I wonder if someone’s hurt, but that doesn't seem quite right, and I wonder if it’s just that the bike is broken. Maybe it’s just a look of expectation. Usually the black steeds are lined up against the back wall like stallions, waiting to be taken out for a ride.

I see then that something is sitting on the handlebars, wrapped in tissue paper, and I think it’s someone’s birthday. That’s cool. So I start to reach down to pick up a mat for my stead, when someone says there’s a card, open the card, read it to us, we wanna know what it says, it’s right there, in the box! And then it dawns on me that this is all about me, this is for me, and they are all looking like I should have known this.

Except I am dumbfounded.

For the record, spinning at a women’s gym is nouveau knitting: ten or so women form a semi circle, work intensely to rock ‘n roll, talk about what it’s like to teach children in an inner city school district, or how the traditional American Thanksgiving is going to have a touch of Brazil this year, or whether the woman who went walking topless on the Slippery Elm Trail should be arrested. Then we check our heart monitors, instead of the scarves we might have been knitting in previous times, and go home.

Except now there is a new thread: It turns out the packet wrapped in tissue paper is a single rose in a crystal vase, brought to the gym personally by a man I’d met once just, two days earlier. His entrance into my personal sphere while I was unaware is described this way by a woman who was there: he sashays into the gym, not like our husbands and boyfriends who cast down their eyes, and asks if you exercise here.

I don’t say anything. Then I say I am dumbfounded. Two women look at me—we’re doing a standing climb, hunched over handlebars while being exhorted by a computer printout sign that exclaimsIt’s your ride!—and say, you look dumbfounded. At the end of the class I ask meekly, what was he wearing? They hoot and holler at this.

And so the new thread weaves its way through each spinning class: I didn’t want to ask, but are you still seeing Flowerman? Party girl! Do you, like, need the fan turned directly on you? I’m living vicariously through you!

There are laughs and I knit my own scarf, telling about how before I met him I stared at a piece of paper with his name on it so I’d remember it correctly, or how some odd coincidences have me puzzled.

There is the nodding and the clicking of the pedals. Such is the way with nouveau knitting. Perhaps it’s a bit like nouveau journaling, weaving a garment out of the unknown strands of life, perhaps over time inevitably constructing someone’s destiny, possibly mine.

Quotation of the Week

"Writing itself is one of the great, free human activities. There is scope for individuality, and elation, and discovery, in writing. For the person who follows with trust and forgiveness what occurs to him, the world remains always ready and deep, an inexhaustible environment, with the combined vividness of an actuality and flexibility of a dream. Working back and forth between experience and thought, writers have more than space and time can offer. They have the whole unexplored realm of human vision."

--William Stafford

When an ad banner for love or credit ratings appears at the top of our journals, the writing doesn't seem free: it seems like an endorsement of some dufus product about which we don't care, don't like, or perhaps in some way pains us.

I am traveling from aol to blogspot. It pains me to move, and I understand I may move yet again. I am a nomad, after all. I hope that I don't get unwanted pop-ups instead of ad banners. My journal at my bedside gets winestains. At least that is my own personal endorsement.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Today I realize I want to see the recently released movie Jarhead.

This is not a small matter. Two years ago at this time, my younger son declared that after much thought he was enlisting in the Marines as soon as he graduated from high school. He and I went on a reading bout: Frank Schaeffer's Keeping Faith, Thomas Ricks' Making the Corps, Daniel DaCruz' Boot, Anthony Swofford's Jarhead. ("In time of trouble," Joan Didion writes in The Year of Magical Thinking, I had been trained since childhood, read, learn, work it up, go to the literature. Information was control." Certainly she wasn't the only one who believed information was control.)

In fact my son picked up a first edition of Jarhead at the wonderful bookstore "Bound to be Read" in St Paul, MN, where were on vacation in the summer of 2003, visiting a family member. It's by a sensitive and intelligent writer on what his experiences were to become and be a Marine in a strange and puzzling conflict. It is, in fact, more than that. I appreciated Swofford's journey in the book very much.

Somewhat like the father Frank Schaeffer in Keeping Faith, I was a graduate-degreed liberal who was aghast at the idea of my child choosing an occupation in which I thought, perhaps mistakenly, he'd lose his individual identity, learn to point, shoot, and kill, and become insensitive and cruel. I had campaigned for McGovern in '72, for crying out loud. I wore the original tie-dye, bell bottoms, and jean jacket.

So after he told me of his intention to enlist, I drove to Carter Park, a small park with ball diamond where my sons used to play, and cried. Probably he thought me a wimp. Probably I did not care. I considered him a sensitive and intelligent young man, and much as I tried to dissuade him, I was ineffective.

One week after his graduation, he departed for Parris Island, South Carolina. For those of you familar with the USMC, you know that to some extent loved ones and friends are incommunicado with the recruit except for letters. Perhaps I'll share some of these wonderful letters with you, as I desperately tried to hold on to a young man growing up and to an idea of myself that no longer exists.

For now, I think I'll just go and see the movie, and see what it has to say, even though the reviews are not especially positive. I want to feel re-connected to who I was, and who we were, at that time. It is, in fact, a good feeling.

I think I'll go this weekend, and I'll let you know how it goes.