By Aryana Motaghian
I killed myself with a bottle of barbiturates. In the glowering half-light of a late autumn evening I departed this world, taking my crushed soul with me, leaving that shell behind, that ‘perfect’, flawlessly made up shell. Into the moonlight I dissolved, taking my bedroom secrets of Mr President and Sinatra with me. The wind whipping my baby doll like something from the Seven Year Itch, stinging my cheeks, causing my heavily mascara-burdened eyes to water. Hey, the world was a great place with me in it, but I couldn’t handle it anymore. Somewhere between Niagara and Some Like It Hot I discovered I was the wrong person; morphed into the ‘dumb-blonde’, ‘the shape’ that was on-screen. And I didn’t like it, any of it. Not one little bit. The pressure of the façade, the strain, the feeling of being in the passenger-seat watching my life unfold before me. It was too fast — spiralling out of control, out of my control. So I stopped it, slowed things down and took control. On that night my stardom grew, my legacy became esteemed, honoured; my name was on everyone’s lips. On that night I became a legend. No more was I Norma Jean Baker with the hand me down clothes and copper curls; that halo of innocence, mediocrity and anonymity – the good days. My name would mean something now. I would be remembered, revered. I was sacrosanct.
To the world I was perfection. My mane of golden corn-silk, shimmered and glistened. My eyes, so big, so glittering they draw you in, captivating. My long, perfectly manicured nails, lacquered candy-apple red. My peachy pallid skin housed me gloriously. Curvaceous and elegant. Red, red lips as false as the smiles beneath them, hiding my secrets and torments. Not once did the mask ever slip. Inspiration to women everywhere, an emblem of female success and power. I am beauty. I am iconic. I am temptation. I am lust. But. I was not perfection.
Men really do prefer blondes, but I ate men whole. Swallowing them like air. My golden medusa hair, filled with unseen whispers and slithery secrets, vicious as serpents, bounced in perfect curls and waves.
Red carpet after red carpet rolled before me (to think what these rugs have seen). Celebrity after celebrity, hiding behind a mask, a pretence carefully constructed and obsessively upheld. Movie after movie, award after award, party after party. I was sought after by most, for both business and pleasure. It was all so false, so monotonous. Just the same routine over and over. The same inane chit-chat with the same people. And, at the end of the night, the same hollow, unfulfilled, isolated feeling consumed me. No matter how surrounded I was, I felt alone. Hollowed out. Empty. Dying.
I am not implying for a minute I didn’t have friends. I did. Just like Eve I had my very own snakes. They were ever-present, suffocating, like leeches feeding from me. Consuming me. Using my name, the name I worked so hard to establish, to get themselves a table at a restaurant. Or a free dress. That was all I meant to them. None of them could be trusted with the real me. With anything. To you it might sound cowardly, but I was not a coward. I wasn’t scared of rejection, I feared exploitation, betrayal, but, in a way also acceptance. I vowed that if I found someone I could trust with me, then I would dissolve the facade and reveal me to the world. What if I found someone who didn’t take advantage of me or my trust in them? What if someone accepted me for who I truly was? I was scared, so I never really let anyone in.
Poor Norma Jean and her tragic life. I cannot be held solely responsible. They reckoned it was those foster homes that had a bad effect on me. Turned me rotten inside. It wasn’t, not completely anyway. The scandal and lies that surrounded me like a second skin was suffocating. These fictitious tales spread like wildfire through my life, turning my trust in the world, and people, to ash. Thus, leaving no-one to trust but me. Only me.
In the end it was all a waste, my effort, my devotion, my career, my determination. The facade, the hair, the make up, the clothes – a shell. All that energy for it just to be snatched from me in my prime. Leaving me to part this plain with unfinished business. But, I must have done something right in my measly thirty-six years, for I live on. Sketched onto paper and painted on canvas, plastered on posters, billboards, magazines. Etched onto the skins of my disciples. I can be a chameleon now; black or white, caramel or cream.
From the outside I am perfection. My hair, shimmered and glistened. My eyes, so big, so glittering draw you in, captivating all. Men, women and children. My peachy pallid skin confined me like a beautiful pearl inside an oyster. Curvaceous and elegant. Blood red lips as false as the smiles beneath them, hiding my secrets and torments. My mask never slipped. Inspiration to women everywhere, an emblem of female success and power.
My name is everywhere, plastered on every newspaper and magazine, falling from everyone’s lips in hushed, excited, scandalous chit chat. ‘Was it murder or suicide?’ they will never know. Will they investigate? Will they speculate? Will they exaggerate? Yes. Yes. And yes. But will they uncover the truth? No. Norma Jean is dead. A star is gone. Speculation and rumour will still surround my life, but now I am free. Free of that shell. This secret will stay a secret.
So the wind whipped up and I flew into the night sky leaving my pale shell behind. A Botticelli for generations to admire. I am beauty. I am iconic. I am temptation. I am lust. I am, Marilyn Monroe.