Farewell August Rose

diana youngToday, one day following the anniversary of Diana’s death, I wonder how we cannot feel compassion for her, as she tried to do what was called upon her to do as a member of the Royal Family, whose burdens are so formidable! In The Diana Chronicles, her meticulously researched 2007 biography, Tina Brown writes that for us to even imagine what it might be like to be in the Royal Family we should think of the worst aspects of our own jobs and then just do just the parts that bore us the most…

Year after year…

With no possibility of retirement.

Girl of 20 that she was, she could not have known what she was in for until after she marched down that aisle, Brown writes; could never have imagined ahead of time what Brown calls “the oldness, the coldness, the deadness of Royal life, its muffled misogyny, its whispering silence, its stifling social round confronting sycophantic strangers.”  She must have felt plain marooned in those vast palaces, especially after her divorce, often dining alone in her room, her much-loved children off with their father.

Anyway I think about her at this time every year, in the days surrounding the anniversary of her passing, and about Mother Theresa too, who left this life just five days later:

Diana with her heart’s delicate roots ripped from its seated place in that Paris tunnel.

Mother Theresa, with the new revelation that at some point decades earlier her sure shining faith became infused with an all-too-human doubt.

I think also of Elvis alone in the bathroom at the time of his death.

And of course I think of our candle-in-the-wind Norma Jean Baker, simply Marilyn to the world, who, like Diana, was also just 36 when she died.

marilyn young

Her morgue photo shows her with her clean young hair still wet from the shower.

Maybe it’s odd that we probably all know that picture but anyone who has Internet connection can see it. Maybe it’s odd that so very many of us know and remember the details of these deaths. They are two of our deepest urges I think: to hold in memory, and to speak of what we remember. As billowing August rounds each year into its quieter sister month I light a candle to both.

And now, for yourself today these two lovely montages: First regarding Diana, with Elton John’s time-of-her-death adaptation of the song he initially wrote for Marilyn – that one is here – and the second of Marilyn herself, in all her sad beauty and vulnerability.



Bring on the Workweek

Marilyn takes stock

Took the weekend off. Did no work at all. Acted like a 12-year-old in that I pretty much just listened to my i-Pod, wrote in my diary and gave my feet the critical eye.

I also broke precedent and looked in the mirror for a full seven minutes, which made me stand appalled by what has become of me. I have wrinkles galore, a furrow deep enough to plant carrots in and this new weird thing where my spine snakes over to the left, then doubles back on itself and snakes over to the right. Most people don’t notice it until I mention it but then they see it all right. When I pointed it out to my friend Ahmad he said in his mild way, “Oh yeah! Your pants are here and your shirt is over here!”

Also I’m getting these dark things on my face, like Morgan Freeman has. They’re like pigmented freckles only I’ve never had freckles.

Plus my eyes, which were always too close together, seem now to be heading for opposite corners of the room.

My teeth look like kernels on the corncob you split open and then toss back in the bin. (WHY WASN’T I MADE TO WEAR BRACES EVER?) 

Also my bangs are too short – they make me look like Imogene Coca if anyone remembers her.

And my eyebrows are disappearing.

I was examining the Nike Swoosh of my spine when my man sauntered into the bathroom. I had this flannel shirt on that I found in our son’s high school bedroom.

“It’s a men’s small but it’s not quite makin’ it in the buttoning shut department.

“Get a breast reduction,” he quipped.

He was kidding of course. The real problem was about a foot further down, but maybe I should anyway. I mean, it’s too late for braces, right?

Maybe I can enter these years like a sort of sprightly un-busty Mary Lou Retton. Hey, it would take my mind off the rest of me. What does a thing like that cost anyway? And why go around looking like this sadsack..

the mirror doesn't lie

… When I could go around looking like this:

mary lou retton

Well. Such are the thoughts of a person with WAY too much time on her hands. Bring on the workweek!


Marilyn and Caroline

For weeks now I’ve been thinking about our Marilyn, practically the founder of that group of people for whom no last name is necessary.  Today she will have been dead for 50 years. As everyone seems to know by now, she was just 36 when they found her sprawled across her bed, the phone under her hand..

For weeks I have also been thinking about writer Caroline Knapp, who as of this summer has been dead for ten years. She was just 42 when she succumbed to a very aggressive form of lung cancer: diagnosed in April, gone in June.

But I remember so vividly the day they found Marilyn’s body. I remember so clearly looking down at my own changing body and thinking, “How did all THIS get here?” It was a bewildering new world all right; having guys fake-sighing and then laughing when I passed in the corridors. I suddenly had a boyfriend too, young as I was. He was blond with perfect ears and just 5 foot 2, my same height at the time. I liked that we were small like that. It made the whole boyfriend girlfriend thing so much less scary. It made us seem to me like children still, which of course we were.



This boy and I were together the day the news broke about Marilyn’s death and it chilled me to my core, I think because even at that young age I saw in her something familiar, naïve way of pleasing others that I sensed was becoming my way. It’s how young women were taught to be back then, ever pliant and agreeable.

I was heading down that path, all right; and were it not for an ability to shine in school I can’t think how I might have ended. Giving people my shirt as well as my cloak, to use the metaphor. Memorizing the birthdays of people I had only just met so I could send them a card in four or six or eleven months and to prove what? To purchase what?

I gave away far too much time and attention to others, and kept far too little for myself.

Marilyn did that too, and used alcohol to keep herself blind to the fact.

In her brave book, Caroline Knapp writes with great insight about addiction’s riptide pull. In it we learn what she finally learned about self-worth, and about alcohol’s insidious way of acting like your closest friend – right up until it reveals itself as your deadliest foe. She talks about her father, high-achieving and remote, every night drinking his martinis-with-an-olive.

And because, as she puts it, “alcohol travels through families like water over a landscape,” she drank as well, starting at age 14.

Just by her description of a glass of chilled white wine filled to the brim and beading with moisture you can see how she loved it, in much the same way Marilyn loved her champagne, alternating its use with the pills she took at night to help her sleep and the ones she took in the morning to help her function again.

Well I don’t know just where I’m going here except to note that while Marilyn lost her battle, Caroline won hers, thanks to the 12 Steps. She got sober and she wrote a wonderful book which I would recommend to anyone. It certainly helped me with my decades old habit of over functioning.

Drinking: A Love Story, it is called.

Now let’s watch this video of Marilyn and salute the oh-so-natural and the oh-so-perishable beauty that was hers.

Goodbye Again to Marilyn

Today is the anniversary of Marilyn’s death who was so pretty with that wavy dark hair before the studios made it into yellow cotton candy. She was darling as a child, darling as a young wife, inexpressibly lovely in her years as a star, especially in those unguarded moments like this one when some  photographer captured her in repose, maybe just relieved about being up and functioning, the uppers having finally kicked in to bring her out of the deep sleep brought on by the downers that might as well have been roofies for how thoroughly they smothered her.

I looked on YouTube just now on the off-chance I could see more of her, doubting I’d find anything, but what miraculous times we live in for here she is again. Not dead Marilyn with the blood pooling in her face when, for hours she lay where she died, but this luminous girl about the same age as Angelina Jolie, our current icon of female beauty.

Here’s to you Marilyn; and here’s to you too Sarah McLachlan, for writing that haunting ‘pulled from the wreckage’ line in the song that accompanies it.