Hello darling, musing up here, thinking what to write - every evening such a challenge, perhaps not unlike going on stage for a performance - it is like that - only I don't know my lines. I went to the movies today, a matinee of My Week with Marilyn, in which Michelle Williams incandescently reprises Marilyn Monroe - without an ounce of camp or schtick, it's a lovely, moving, modest yet fully formed reincarnation. Also, I've been thinking about the holidays, about weddings, about dancing at weddings - I picture you in your gray morning suit, dancing...
There's a scene in the movie where Marilyn is captivated by an enormous, intricate dollhouse - a royal dollhouse, at Windsor Castle. She asks permission to open it, and we see her large eyes, scale akin to a cat peering inside a mousehole, only Marilyn wants in -- not to devour any mouse, but in order to dwell psychically within, in what she imagines to be the happy family that she never had as a child, and that continually eludes her in adulthood, due to her gift, which comes with nurturing it, a necessary severing, a deep ambivalence - a forever keeping herself, in some sense, apart.
I think of the elaborate choreographed ballet of your extended family... you all play the roles so incredibly well, coming together for all sorts of formal occasions as they come up - major Catholic holidays, funerals, weddings - most always formal white ones.
I'm sitting up here thinking what to do with a couple of half-price certificates I have to my favorite restaurant in town. Only they've wised up and no longer allow an alcoholic beverage to count - there goes my discounted glass of wine. Only I can't eat $25 worth of food by myself. So what to do? Our 25th wedding anniversary is coming up. Perhaps we should take ourselves out to dinner. The certificates will cover the entrees. We can buy a bottle of wine.
There was a time I would have looked forward to that. The upcoming anniversary feels hollow.
My writerly friend, kindly, gingerly, suggested a marriage-retreat program that she has familiarity with. The lightbulb must wish to change for that to work, I wrote back to her, thanking her for the link.
I've never been good at pretending. When I was happy for twenty years -- I wasn't pretending. I was happy with him.
And I don't think you all (extended family, individual members) - I don't think you're pretending or faking it, not at all. But it does remind me, in a sense I'm grasping at, of the movie today, in which Kenneth Branagh plays Laurence Olivier, old-school English theatrical actor - whose identity as an actor, his training, cultural background, generation, everything he has in himself to bring to bear in a performance, is about donning a persona - and acting it - showing up on time, knowing the lines, hitting the marks, executing them perfectly.
While Marilyn Monroe, not only because she is American - but I guess it's a big factor, at least in 1956 England, still hidebound before the 1960s - is trained in Method acting, in which she seeks to not just to memorize lines and parrot them drolly, but to understand the character she's playing - even if, as with The Prince & The Showgirl, there isn't much of a deep character to play - and to inhabit her.
And so I relate - more to Marilyn, than to Laurence Olivier. But the Olivier character in the movie, that philosophical split in ways of not only acting but, I imagine, of being - reminds me too of your extended family, perhaps as most embodied (dare I say enforced?) by my aunt, who is very old-school and of her generation and particular, fixed worldview in that regard. Who - and I respect it, and on many levels envy it, the way "Marilyn" looked longingly into the dollhouse - expects formal roles to be played, and cheerfully (as most often, it seems, on your side of the family they are - you all brilliantly self-select one another, it seems to me) - and it genuinely confuses her that someone (such as me) should be overly concerned with such notions as personal happiness and fulfillment.
I mean, I see the split in styles or worldviews right within branches of my extended family. I do long for familial connection, a great sense of belonging. I love festive occasions (mostly). I think of my brothers & my sister, they interact with one another, and with my brother's children (two generations of them now). I'm not part of that, for whatever reason. I was too much for them - too "heavy" - I was named after my mother - and I think, though not for that reason really, that I remind them too much of her. My sister once referred to me - in passing, but directly at me - as "needy." A strange, horrible word. And by so labeling me, she didn't feel a need to deal with me, not really.
They hit their marks in their way. I don't know that I understand it. They have their own family interactions. But it's selective.
"The soul selects her own society, then shuts the door." That's closer, I suppose, to how at least my own psyche has turned out to be.
I'm not part of your extended family, nor part of (technically) mine, with its own ballet going on.
I don't really understand it, not really. Here I am typing. After dark. I just heard cats fighting, outside the windows - I should go down & check (& so I type faster).
And so I write to you... I suppose I am a bit of a Venus, though without Vera Farmiga legs - mine (size 14-16) might be more like Marilyn's --
And there you are, looking at the evening rushes of mine, my dearest Olivier
(perhaps not this particular one, but one, say, of December 8)
And do you know what, darling, what this Method Marilyn wishes very very deeply?
To dance with you, even though I don't know how to dance at all, but I'm sure you know all the beautiful moves, you in a morning gray suit, band playing, sweeping me around an airconditioned dance floor