Marilyn Monroe: “Who’d Marry Me?”
As a wife I wouldn’t be completely unprepared. I can broil chops or make a salad. I can make a bed. I can sew something simple and darn socks. I can iron a shirt, and I can actually bake bread. I can do all these things and would—if my heart were in it. But it isn’t. The safest place for my heart, I have found, is all wrapped up in a breathless, interesting thing called a career. The boy would have to tear off all this wrapping . . . and probably without any encouragement from me at first. Who would take the trouble to marry me?
These are my reasons now, but right from the start of my life I wondered-about it, it seems. I remember my first “romance” . . .
He was 22 and I was not yet 14. He lived across the street from me, and I know now that I was just a kid as far as he was concerned. I should have known that from the way he would pat me on top of the head when he came home and I happened to be standing near the fence on his side of the road. But I didn’t. To me he was the center of my thoughts, my feelings, my whole world.
One day he came out of his house and was already in his car when he noticed me (there I was hanging around again!). “Hey! I’m going to a movie,” he called, impulsively. “Ask your Aunt Anna if you can come along. It’s a good picture.”
Aunt Anna, who was my guardian, and who liked him, said yes, and I flew out to join him. When I sat down beside him my heart was pounding, my head in a whirl, and an inner voice kept whispering to me, “You shouldn’t have gone. You won’t know how to conduct yourself. He will never bother with you again.”
That voice was right. I not only tried to act like an older girl and failed, but I was too far affected by being out with him to even act my own age. I was gawky. I was giggly. I was stupid. When I had been sitting too long in the car without saying anything I got nervous. Not being able to think of an idea of my own, I read an advertising sign we passed, read it aloud and mispronounced practically every word! When he made a driving error and I should have kept mum till the incident was forgotten, I laughed and earned an annoyed look. When we pulled up in the parking lot of the theater and he was coming around to open the door on my side, I not only opened it myself first, but closed it again quickly so he could open it after all! When we got inside my feet went rubbery and he had to save me from stumbling a half dozen times. And all through the picture I was in a daze.
He still said hello after that night, but no more smile, no invitations, not even a pat on the head! I cried off and on for weeks and that was the first time I thought—“Who’d ever marry me?”
Maybe my worrying about it that much was why I did get married when I was only 16. But that was so unwise and short-lived a marriage that it was as if it had never happened. So the old thought still comes back to me every time I meet someone I like. And now there are other reasons that keep popping up in my head making me wonder. When I was 14 it was silly to worry about it; maybe it still is silly, but I can’t help it.
Of course, all girls get vague fears like this at times. I think something of this nature accounts for the fact that I had two ) periods in my life when I stuttered every time I tried to talk. Naturally shy to begin with, this affliction made me withdraw into myself altogether. I would start to say something and my lips would get fixed into an “O” shape, a lost feeling would come over me, and I would stand there frozen. One day when I was attending Van Nuys High School in the San Fernando Valley, I auditioned for a school play. I had memorized my lines perfectly. The other kids were standing around when the teacher gave me the cue. I opened my mouth—and nothing! There was a long silence and then curtain!
The fear was not one that I analyzed then as concern over being “wanted,” but it certainly bore a close relationship to this. I worried about being left out of things, being passed up by the “crowd” as a goof and all that. I never could get over how glib the other kids could be, standing around the school yard and rattling away whole streams of merry talk. Like everyone else with a handicap, I worked hard to get the best of mine and I improved. But not sensationally then. And the other girls were fast to point up my deficiency whenever they could.
I’ll never forget the little items in the school paper on this subject. Any boy who took me anywhere was reported as having “drug” me . . . the implication being that I was a dead weight, of course. Well, so I didn’t talk the ear off a boy when I was with him! There were some, I found, who didn’t mind silences between sentences. One was the boy who always played the lead in school plays. We could just stand or sit together, and have just as good a time as if we were yakking away.
I started dating by drifting into it. After that one bad experience with my “dream man” who lived across the street, I classed myself as a bad prospect for any boy. But there would be fellows who walked me home from school and we would stand outside the house and talk a while. Other kids would come along, and before long there was such a group of us that my Aunt Anna said we resembled a mob. She would invite us in just to get us out of the eyes of the neighbors. And sometimes one of the boys would suggest our going somewhere, and that way I sort of slid painlessly into going out.
I cured my stuttering, which was really an inability to get the opening word out. And after that I slowly learned to be myself and not act like a stick when I was out with someone. But there were other problems to lick. I remember that when I left school and got work as a model, it was terribly difficult for me to work in front of people. It was bad enough professionally, and it was awful for me socially. Suppose there was someone present who might be interested in me . . . what would his reaction be to a girl who could hardly hide her nervous state?
I remember modeling once at Bullock’s big store. My job was to pull down little roller signs. Painted on them were illustrations of the wardrobe accessories a designer was discussing for some buyers.
“Now here is a very versatile scarf that can be made to do for almost any occasion,” the designer would say, and I would pull down an illustration of a leather belt!
I started going to cocktail parties. Next to me would be the fellow who brought me, and around us a sea of strange faces that would move closer and closer, and talk, talk, talk! What to say? What to answer? What were they thinking of me for my nervous laughter? What about the fellow who brought me? If he had had ideas that he liked me . . . weren’t they gone forever? That little voice of mine used to give me the answer. “Better learn to live alone and pretend to like it.”
I didn’t want that. I kept going to cocktail parties and, by determining to conquer my fears, I did attain some ease of mind. A cocktail party is still not my idea of the best evening’s entertainment in the world, but neither is it the worst.
Maybe the easiest feature of a cocktail party (or a dance) to handle is the stag line. That’s probably because there is so little originality in the “approach.” One night seven men talked to me and it was as if all seven of them were reading from the same script. Their lines (leaving out mine which probably were no brighter) ran something as follows:
“Well! The moment I saw you come in the door I knew I had to meet you.”
“You know, you’re like something I’ve never seen before.”
“I’d like to call you up some time. If I had your number.”
These days, now that I’ve been in some pictures, the only variation is:
“I saw you in The Asphalt Jungle. I’d call you up some time, if I had your number.”
“I saw you in All About Eve. I’d like to call you up some time, if I had your number.”
The future dialogue will be the same except that the pictures referred to will probably be my new ones, As Young As You Feel, A WAC In His Life, and Let’s Make It Legal.
The barriers between romance and myself are still up. If I were a fellow, I don’t think I’d be foolish enough to get serious about a girl like me. If it isn’t one difficulty to overcome it’s another, and now it’s my work—or rather that I am just at the beginning of my career and so deeply set on making good. If there were a boy—where would we find the time to learn to know each other well enough to want to marry? And how could I be sure enough about our future to give up my career for it? Because . . . for the sake of marriage alone, I know I wouldn’t.
One day a few weeks ago, I made a date for dinner and a show. I was to be ready at seven in the evening. On the morning of the date I was due in the studio at 8 a.m. to pose for publicity stills. Just before lunch I was interviewed in a session that lasted two hours. A car was waiting then to take me to my apartment for some “home” photographs for a magazine. At a little before five I was back in the studio to discuss a test with the director of my next picture. When we got all set on it the director called in the writer to suggest certain changes. He thought it would be a good idea if I stayed and rehearsed them right then and there. I did.
My date had just rung my bell for the twentieth time and was on the way back to his car when I drove up. He took one look at my face and shook his head.
“The night is young,” he said, “but do you care?”
I shook my head. I felt as I looked—beat.
Yet, I am not consistent. Sometimes I have a hard day, and when evening comes I want to go out. If I haven’t a date I go out anyway—alone. And I like it this way. Just a few days ago when I left the studio I thought I would go for a little drive instead of heading home. When I saw a drive-in restaurant I stopped and had a hot dog and a coke. A little while later I was passing a tiny movie house in Hollywood which shows old time pictures, and went in to see an early Charlie Chaplin comedy. I laughed myself silly and went back to the car still feeling restless. I had no idea which way I was heading when I started off, but found myself stopping at Will Wright’s in Beverly Hills for some ice cream. Inside I met a friend who told me he was just about to drop in on a farewell party for a couple he knew, and asked me to come along. That was the last event on the schedule for the evening, an evening I hadn’t planned, and a very satisfactory one as far as I was concerned.
Even if I were married I think I’d have a yen every once in a while to spend some time like this by myself. What boy that I married would permit it? What would he say about the other things my moods sometimes drive me to? Sometimes if I can’t sleep, I’ll get up and play records in the middle of the night—or take a walk, or go out for a drive. I know this sounds as if I am spoiled, but all my life, because I was orphaned as a child, perhaps, I have had to be my own best friend.
When I am working I have to go to bed early. But when I have no picture I revert back to late hours. Sometimes the two different bedtimes are as much as six hours apart. It would be a habit I don’t think I could change if I were married. Who would put up with it?
Oh, a lot of friendships begin these days but they never get anywhere. Most times when I go to a party there is someone who indicates he wants to see me again. If I don’t encourage him, if I don’t give him my phone number, it’s not always because I don’t like him. It’s more likely because I can see far ahead, and the whole thing seems so futile. Men think I am playing exclusive. I’m really saving them a lot of time, and maybe trouble.
If I were married I would often be up and gone before my husband was awake. I’d be home ready for sleep right after dinner, while he’d be ready for a big evening. Then, suddenly, the whole thing would go into reverse. I would get up late and want to stay up after he got sleepy.
If I did marry, I don’t think the boy I’d choose would be an actor. That’s the way it seems to me now. And that, I notice, often spells trouble to Hollywood romances. It’s hard for a non-professional to become accustomed to the ways of picture people, no matter how many times you read that it isn’t. It’s not only a matter of jealousy, it’s the feeling that you really haven’t full rights to the time and interest of your wife or husband if she or he happens to be in the public eye.
No, right now I have a one track mind—screen work. I want to be a real actress and I don’t want to be causing anyone any pain or heartache while I am at it. Who would want to take a chance and marry me? Someone, someday, I hope. But he seems so far away now.
—BY MARILYN MONROE
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 1951