Being Marilyn

Morning all, and another Friday Fiction for your enjoyment (I hope!). This one, Being Marilyn, was published a while ago in Woman’s Day here in Australia. Hope you like it and have a great weekend!

It’s funny how the name you’re given can colour your life. When my parents christened me Marilyn Mary Jones, they did so with the best of intentions. They simply liked the name, Marilyn, and had no idea that I’d grow up to marry a man called Tom Monroe. Which made me Marilyn Monroe. Which wouldn’t have been so bad if I looked anything like her, but I didn’t. Oh, I was passable, but my hair was brown and straight, my eyes green and I had a figure you’d describe as ‘boyish’ rather than voluptuous.

The hardest part was filling out all those change of name forms, for driver’s licence, passport and bank cards and handing them over to various officials. I quickly got used to the smirks and smothered laughs.

Tom, though, quite liked being married to Marilyn Monroe, and I soon learnt to smile politely, or just ignore, the jokes and comments that came my way. After all, it could have been worse. I went to school with a girl called Sandra Feet – Sandy to her friends – and she married a boy called Graham Bottom, hence becoming Sandy Bottom. I don’t think I could have lived with that.

And then, of course, we could always have some fun with it. If we wanted a table at a restaurant, Tom would get me to phone. And the conversation usually went something like this:

Me: ‘I’d like to book at table for 8pm on Friday, please. For two people.’

Receptionist: ‘Certainly, madam. What name?’

Me: ‘Marilyn Monroe.’

Receptionist: Silence. Then, ‘Sorry, was that Marilyn Monroe?’

Me: Yes, but obviously not the movie star because she died years ago and has no need of a table at 8pm on Friday.’

Receptionist: (smothering laughter) Of course. Table for two, Friday, for Marilyn Monroe and… partner.’

Me: (unable to help myself) Yes, me and Joe DiMaggio. Frank Sinatra can’t make it. See you then.’ And I’d hang up.

I’m sure, when Tom and I arrived, we were a big disappointment.

Still, over the years the quips gradually became less and less, not least because whole new generations were less hung up on the blonde movie star of the 1950s.

Tom and I had two children, Martin and Sarah – although Tom had been keen on Matthew for our boy, until I pointed out we’d have a Marilyn and a Matt Monroe in the family.

Then suddenly, at 45, after 24 years of marriage, I found myself alone. The kids were off doing their own thing, and so, it seemed was Tom. With his secretary. And how much of a cliché is that? She was younger than me and although her name was Jane, she certainly wasn’t plain. In fact, to rub salt in the wound, she was blonde, with blue eyes and a voluptuous figure. Think Marilyn Monroe.

‘Well, look on the bright side,’ said my best friend, Josie, as I sat in my kitchen, studying the divorce papers my solicitor had just had delivered. ‘Now, you can be plain Marilyn Jones again.’

I sighed. I didn’t want to be plain Marilyn Jones. I didn’t want to be plain anyone. I glanced at Josie. She always looked like she’d just stepped out of a glossy magazine, hair, make-up, nails, all perfect. She’d married well. Not only was he wealthy, it meant she’d gone from Josephine Pratt to Josephine Michaels. It was a luxury her father hadn’t had. He’d always be A Pratt. Literally, because his first name was Adam.

The only bone of contention for Josie was her husband’s name – Michael, making him Michael Michaels. No imagination, some parents.

‘So that will be good, won’t it? No more Marilyn Monroe.’

‘I suppose,’ I agreed, to shut her up. Although I had the feeling wiping out the last 24 years wouldn’t be as easy as just changing my name.

‘And I know just how to cheer you up. Dinner at mine tomorrow night. Just a few friends. Smart casual. Must dash.’

As usual, Josie hadn’t given me a chance to say no, but I knew full well how the evening would go. There’d be a dozen or so guests – Josie’s idea of a ‘few friends’ – and a spare man for me. It was a thinly disguised blind date and whilst Josie’s dinner parties were always a gastronomic delight, and it saved me from another microwave dinner in front of the TV, the cost in other ways was getting to be too much. It wasn’t as if I was even looking for another relationship – ever!

Still, I went. What else did I have to do? Start filling in the change of name forms for my driver’s licence, passport, bank cards… the list was endless.

Half an hour into dinner and the forms were looking mighty attractive. The ‘spare’ tonight, was a large, extremely chirpy American – a business associate of Michael’s – who’d just moved to Australia and was after a tour guide. The only good thing was he talked non-stop and didn’t seem to expect any answers.

In between courses, I stifled a yawn and glanced around the table. A tall, blond man sitting next to Josie caught my eye and smiled sympathetically. I smiled back, and, after that, found my eyes straying his way. I wondered if the petite woman on his right was his wife, and struggled to remember what Josie had said when she’d introduced us. It was no good. Josie’s ‘few friends’ seemed to be a different bunch every time. I’d no hope of keeping up.

Dessert finished, Josie announced coffee on the terrace and we all stood. I noticed my mysterious smiler say something to Josie then kiss her cheek and leave. My heart sank, and I chastised myself. It was only a smile, after all, and I wasn’t looking for romance. ‘Would be nice though,’ said a little voice at the back of my head, because that had been seriously lacking in my relationship with Tom.

Josie wandered over, smiling. ‘How’s it going?’ she said, lowering her voice and gesturing towards the American with her eyes. He was already off talking at someone else.

‘I’m not even going to answer that,’ I said.

‘Oh.’ Her face fell, and I took pity. She was only trying to help. ‘But who was that who just left? Tall, blond.’ Handsome, I added, silently.

She looked surprised. ‘Jack? Well, actually, his name’s John, but everyone calls him Jack. He’s not right for you.’

I bristled. ‘Why? Is he married?’

‘Married? No. Divorced, grown up kids like you. But you couldn’t possibly…’ She tailed off. ‘Although, he did ask about you. He’s had to dash off to pick up his daughter and her husband from the airport.’

I felt my heart lift. ‘He asked about me? What did you say?’

She looked puzzled. ‘I just told you. I said you weren’t right for him.’

I stared at her, speechless. This was taking matchmaking too far. ‘You’d better tell me why,’ I said, between gritted teeth.

‘It’s his name, darling,’ she said.

I frowned. ‘Jack?’

‘Yes, yes. Jack. Jack Kennedy.’

We both looked at each other and started to laugh. Marilyn Monroe and Jack Kennedy. Well, it hadn’t worked out the last time, but I was willing to give it a go, if Jack was. And he was, once he’d stopped laughing.

A year later, we were front page news in the local paper when Marilyn Monroe and John Kennedy tied the knot at the local registry office. And this time, filling out all those change of name forms, wasn’t a chore at all.

Copyright: E. Westley

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