BY Advocate Contributors

September 21 2009 3:00 PM ET

MARILYN MONROE X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM

However, their efforts were almost always in vain. Marilyn was
convinced that she knew better. In a heartbreaking catch-22, those
dearest to her would throw up their hands and surrender to her need to
be right—even if what she was correct about was her own misery. Without
anyone left in her world able to lift her from her darkest periods, she
would spend the majority of her time alone . . . thinking—which was, of
course, exactly what kept her in such despair. Therefore, it would
often be in small moments like this one—time spent with a starstruck
stranger rendered speechless in her presence—that she would be reminded
of who she was, and of what was expected of her.

She pushes away from the wall she’s been leaning against and approaches
the young man. Once standing before him, she bends forward, holds his
ears between her palms, and kisses the top of his head. “Thank you,”
she says in a soft voice. “Now I need to get ready.”

As
he slips out of the room, he notices her moving to a large mirror,
sighing loudly. She begins laughing as he pulls the knob—and then, when
the door clicks shut: silence, again. This strange behavior leaves him
thinking what everyone else backstage that night has been: What is
going on in there? Not just in that dressing room, butinside that
beautiful head of hers.

“Marilyn had practiced so hard for that
performance,” explained her friend Susan Strasberg, “far too much if
you ask me. It was too important to her. All she had to do was sing
‘Happy Birthday.’ Most performers could have done that with their eyes
closed.”

 Marilyn, of course, was not “most performers.” In fact, she wasn’t
even most “people.” Rather, she was a woman waging a specifi c battle
fought by many in the world on a daily basis: mental illness. Her mood
swings and unpredictable behavior were usually viewed by her public as
mere eccentricities incidental to who Marilyn Monroe was as a woman.
Yet the difficult emotional tug-of-war she endured for much of her life,
ignored by almost everyone, may have been her most defining
characteristic.

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