5 August 2009

Sexuality, motherhood, and aging: Marilyn Monroe

Revised June, 2012

Marilyn Monroe, had she lived, would now be in her eighties. Marilyn, aka Norma Jeane Mortenson (Baker) was born on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles, California, less than a year after Margaret Thatcher was born! I don’t think Thatcher is relevant to Marilyn’s story, but it’s quite a contrast! Marilyn died 50 years ago this year, 2012, (Aug 5, 1962) at her Brentwood, California home. She was 36 years old.

Marilyn didn’t have children of her own, although she did get pregnant, says Lisa Manterfield in ‘Life without baby,’ 2011). She had wanted children, and adopted children too, but her career was also important to her. This was at a time when reliable birth control in the form of ‘the pill’ wasn’t available.

Fast-track ahead, and psychoanalyst Corinne Maier, in her best-seller, ‘No Kids: 40 Good Reasons’ (2009), takes a humorous look at her own life with children, and at the choices people are making today, seeing them as reasonable alternatives (see Doug Saunder’s article, 'I really regret it. I really regret’, 2007, 2009). As Melanie Notkin writes, more women today are choosing to remain childless, as well as seeking alternatives to a situation not of their choosing (see Truth about childless women, 2011).

Hilary Mantel presents her views on powerful, ordinary older women, recalled from her childhood, in the article ‘Women over 50 – the invisible generation,’ 2009). A brief mention of Margaret Thatcher is included. One wonders, though, would Marilyn have aged well?

Ayn Rand wrote ‘Through your most grievous fault’ – a tribute to Marilyn - within two weeks of Marilyn’s death. In it, she says,

“Envy is the only name she could find for the monstrous thing she faced, but it was much worse than envy: it was the profound hatred of life, of success and of all human values, felt by a certain kind of mediocrity--the kind who feels pleasure on hearing about a stranger's misfortune. It was hatred of the good for being the good--hatred of ability, of beauty, of honesty, of earnestness, of achievement and, above all, of human joy” (Marilyn Monroe: Through Your Most Grievous Fault, 1962).

That was very kind of Rand to say all that, but it doesn’t seem very objective. I’m quite sure that Marilyn’s way of life, projecting herself as a sexual, sensual woman, could well have been the reason some people didn’t approve of her. Calling it ‘envy’ just doesn’t seem to catch the significance of any disapproval she experienced. Perhaps Rand was thinking of her own accomplishments, and criticism of them when she spoke. The idea of envy certainly takes away from the more complex reasons people have for being critical of someone’s views or lifestyle.

The song "Candle in the Wind," originally written in 1972 by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, in honour of Marilyn Monroe, is performed by Elton John here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uvux60fqNU8 (courtesy of 'libysin', You Tube). Also see tribute to Marilyn: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IotIPev5NBY&feature=related (courtesy of Danielle625, You Tube).

Life Without Baby: Marilyn Monroe
By Lisa Manterfield
Mar 29, 2011

No Kids: 40 Good Reasons Not To Have Children (also published as ‘No Kid 40 Raisons De Ne Pas Avoir Enfant’, 2007)
By Corinne Maier
McClelland & Stewart

On This Day: 5th August 1962: Marilyn Monroe found dead
On this Day, 1950 - 2005

The Truth About Childless Women
By Melanie Notkin
Huffington Post
July 11, 2011

Women over 50 – the invisible generation
By Hilary Mantel
The Guardian
Aug 4, 2009

Marilyn Monroe: Through Your Most Grievous Fault
By Ayn Rand
Capitalism Magazine
July 22, 2003

'I really regret it. I really regret having children'
By Doug Saunders
Globe and Mail
originally published Sept 2007, last updated Jul 29, 2009

links updated June 2012