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  1. “My Week with Marilyn”─A Surreal Journey into the Past

    This last week, I saw the movie, My Week With Marilyn. Now I understand the word “surreal” at a visual level. The first close up took my breath away as the camera focused on Colin Clark, (played by Eddie Redmayne) The shape of his face, his expressive eyes and especially the freckles sprinkled across his nose made me feel as though time had been suspended and once again I was looking into the face of my young husband, Joey DiMaggio Jr. My first love. The resemblance between the two young men was stunning. Colin Clark was 23 when he met Marilyn. My Joey was 21 when we meet. Both were sweet, articulate, and protective in the way men are when saving damsels in distress.

    I have recently written four blog posts pondering the felt sense that Joey had toward me. I have often wondered about the Norma Jeane quality that compelled my young husband Joey, Marilyn Monroe’s step-son, to chose me, marry me and then fervently try to re-make me into his Marilyn Monroe idealized image by changing the way I dressed and behaved. I feel certain that his felt sense about me reminded him of his beloved step-mother. She was the “mother” who remained intensely interested in his life─ even speaking with him by phone the night of her death.

    This movie deepened my understanding of their relationship─and my relationship with Joey─ in several poignant areas. Just like the fresh-faced twenty- three-year-old Colin Clark, my Joey was properly bred in the finest boarding schools. It’s easy for me to understand Marilyn’s attraction to him. Such sophistication was pretty heady stuff for girls like us who did poorly in school─labeled as dumb by teachers and other kids. Marilyn once said, “I know how clumsy, empty, uncultured I was; a sullen orphan with a goose egg for a head”.

    Joey used to tell me that I was like Marilyn, “Kind of smart and kind of dumb.” Words that could feel like a compliment and at the same time disdainful, a put-down. At seventeen, I was too afraid to ask what he meant. Besides, I’d learned early in our relationship that we could only talk about Marilyn when he wanted to, not if I did. This was fine with me because I didn’t want to see the anguish on his face that her memories triggered. We married within six months of her death and I could still feel his grief.

    In the movie, when Colin off handedly, tells Marilyn he was sent to boarding school, she asks, “Why, didn’t your parents want you?” That was her interpretation based upon her own experience of growing up in foster homes. Both Marilyn and Joey felt abandoned by their parents even though the circumstances where entirely different. I believe it was this mutual felt sense of abandonment that added to the enduring bond of their eleven year friendship.

    For me, it was the awestruck look of adoration on the young man’s face that caused my throat to clench up and tears to slip down my cheeks while watching the movie. The young man who played Colin Clark exquisitely captured the way Joey looked when thinking about or talking about Marilyn. Both Colin and my new husband, Joey, looked at Marilyn the same way I viewed my young husband Joey–utterly captivated.

    Close to the end of the movie, the character marvelously played by Judi Dench, seeing the look of memorization on Colin’s face as he watched Marilyn perform, whispered, “First love is such sweet despair.” As the movie ended and the lights came on, I sat riveted to my seat, hoping that no one would notice my silent sobs.. Ah yes, the despair of first love still wrenches the heart after over forty years. Perhaps it’s true for many of us, that imprinting that first love makes on us, an idealized love that can never be quite real. Yet, no matter how old we are, we still yearn for it in some place in our hearts like a lingering melody of an old song.

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