Marilyn Monroe: That’s (Not) What She Said

Thanks, Abe.

Who doesn’t love a good quote? Sometimes it takes the words of others, famous or not, to sum up our thoughts and feelings when our words escape us. Or, maybe you read something that immediately clicks with you and it becomes sort of a “mission statement” for your life. (After six years in higher education, the thought of a personal mission statement makes me gag a little bit. We love the heck out of our mission statements, apparently.) But, the Internet is a tricky place, and without citations, words are often attributed to certain celebrities or notable figures. The misquote can come from an honest mistake, and after seeing a quote attributed to someone a multitude of times, I can understand that. However, when it comes to things that Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, or Jackie Kennedy allegedly said, I become more than a little skeptical, and maybe just a touch cynical.

Thus Sprach Marilyn.

Thus Sprach Marilyn. (You’re welcome, Internet.)

In my research for this post, I came across several Tumblrs and hundreds of pictures on Google Image Search with images of these women, Monroe in particular, with fiesty-sounding quotes superimposed over them in handwriting-style fonts. (Go ahead, look for yourself.) Most of them are about how men ought to love women, flaws and all, or how society is ugly for making a woman feel anything less than pretty. I’m on board with those ideas, but I highly doubt to absolutely don’t believe that the late icon uttered those quotes. I’m not saying that Marilyn Monroe was not bright enough to come up with such, um… philosophical thoughts; I’m saying that others who have done much more research on her, things she’s actually said/written, and speech patterns of her time don’t think she came up with them. The most comprehensive website I’ve come across debunking these attributions is Immortal Marilyn, which, while it looks like a Xanga page from 2000, is quite informative. “Janie’s Take on Marilyn Monroe” discusses five of the more questionable quotes the Internet alleges came from Monroe. Here are a couple of my favorite excerpts:

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control, and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” — This one seems to be everybody’s favorite Marilyn quote… except no one can find where she actually ever said it. Does it sound like her? Somewhat, although I can not find other examples of Marilyn referring to herself as selfish, insecure, out of control, or anything similar. While she did acknowledge issues such as her lateness, failure to show up on set, or rumored difficult to work with, rather than being defiant she offered both plaintive and valid reasons for her flaws, in the hopes of garnering understanding. Until an interview transcript of Marilyn saying these words can be located, it should be kept in the ‘questionable’ category.”

“Imperfection is beauty. Madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” — Another very popular quote, once it’s parsed it does not sound like Marilyn at all. “Imperfection is beauty”? Marilyn was well known as being an absolute perfectionist, asking for take after take on the movie set until she felt she got her scene just right. She refused to give moviegoers anything less than what she felt was her absolute best. She would apply her makeup only to wash it all off and do it over again, taking hours to prepare so that she presented herself to the public as nothing short of absolutely perfect. After a photo shoot she would pore over contact sheets, destroying any images that she didn’t approve of. In a 1960 interview, she did say: “My one desire is to do my best, the best that I can from the moment the camera starts until it stops. That moment I want to be perfect, as perfect as I can make it.” Hardly seems that someone so hard wired to perfectionism would say “Imperfection is beauty.” As to the second part, “Madness is genius,” this seems even more unlikely. Marilyn’s mother suffered from severe mental illness that traumatized the actress when she was a child. As an adult, Marilyn’s biggest fear was inherited madness like her mother’s. Considering her first hand account with what madness truly was, and her deep rooted fear of it, how likely is it that she would declare it ‘genius?’ Not very.

I tend to agree with those observations. To be frank, they sound more like snarky quips from a teenage girl, using Monroe as an excuse for her behavior. The whole idea of falsely attaching a name to a quote can be summed up in Poe’s Law, which basically states that ” a parody of something extreme can be mistaken for the real thing, and if a real thing sounds extreme enough, it can be mistaken for a parody.” A great example that most people would probably be familiar with is Stephen Colbert’s character on The Colbert Report, which some Political Science students at Ohio State decided would be an interesting subject to analyze. (Unfortunately, the full article is only available for purchase or if you’re logged on through a subscribing university or college’s journal access system, but the abstract will give you the general idea.) We can also learn from the case of the Notre Dame football player and the death of his online girlfriend, who may or may not have actually been a real person: never believe anything online. If those quotes resonate with you, that’s great, but its important to question the source; otherwise, it might as well have come from a snarky teenage girl.

If this keeps up, this is what I imagine we’ll have fifty years from now:

I can't. I just can't...

I can’t. I just can’t…
(Again, you’re welcome, Internet.)

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Making 2013 Different: Letting Go of Fear

Happy 2013, world! Yes, I know I’m a little behind the times, but at least it’s still January 🙂

Goodness, it’s been such a long time from writing, so let’s just jump right in! Although I apologize for my long absence, I can make no promises that I will update extremely frequently. Let’s face it, I’ve said it before and look how far we’ve come…or haven’t. How often do we make “promises” to ourselves or to others that we will definitely do something, but then don’t? We see someone from our past and put on a show that we’ll “call soon,”  or that “we’ll make plans” but then forget all about our encounter by the end of the day. Or we say we’re going to try something new, try to change, try to do something different,  but then something distracts us or we get discouraged and we just stop. I think we all have a tendency to do these sorts of things, don’t you?

So then the question becomes, why?

If you ask me (or Meredith Grey), I’d say a lot of it has to do with fear.

I know this is going to come as a surprise to many of you (sarcasm!), but I’m a shy person (mostly). Although I can be extremely outgoing, it takes me awhile to get to that point. Granted, I love people. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be in clinical psychology. But, I’m shy (or inhibited if you want to get clinically technical 😉 Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m painstakingly shy. It would be way too hard to do some of the things I have to do if that were the case. But, nonetheless, this is what it is. In my past, I think there may have been times when I let my shyness get the best of me. I would pass up opportunities (concerning guys/opportunities at school/etc.) because I was afraid of…something. Now, I don’t think this is completely related to my being shy. Lots of people have fears of “something” who are extremely outgoing and far from being shy. But, what is this elusive “something” that I feared (and that I’m guessing many of you fear)? Fear of looking foolish or realizing that your expectations were much different than what actually was? Fear of the possibilities, being embarrassed, or being rejected?

I don’t know that there’s a hard and fast answer to this question…unfortunately. Maybe it differs from person to person, or from situation to situation. Maybe it’s something that we won’t ever be able to fully identify.

So, here’s the thing. At the beginning of this year, my friends from high school and I discussed what our new years resolutions were. Now, that’s a painstaking process. Because it’s easy to forget to follow New Years Resolutions, there were years when I figured, why bother? Why bother saying “This year will be different. This year, I will do x, y, and z,” when it was more often the case that my resolutions often didn’t last past January?

Well, this year I became inspired. This year, I decided things will be different. As I got the text from my friends about my resolutions, I  had to think about it for awhile. In May, I graduate with my master’s degree. In August, I hope to be starting a PhD program. A lot of things will be changing. I’ll be 24 this year and if I don’t get into a PhD program, I’ll be starting my real grown-up life (scary!) after graduation. I know 23 and 24 are young. People tell me that all the time. But, I feel like I’m at a point where I need to start thinking about my future and my career and being with someone I want to spend the rest of my life with and starting a family and all the craziness that goes along with that.

So you’re thinking, okay Jeannette get to the point. What does this have to do with your resolutions? Well, my faithful readers, I’ll tell you. It has everything to do with them.  After some thought, I responded to my friends the following: “Let go of my inhibition and don’t let it get in the way of accomplishing greatness!” Okay…so the last bit about greatness may have been a little bit dramatic, but you should get the point.

So often, we let this something, this fear, get in the way.

It doesn’t matter what it gets in the way of; it’s enough that our fears prevent us from taking action.

From speaking up about your ideas and values.

From telling someone how we feel about them and asking them out for coffee.

The point is, our fears (this “something”) can prevent us from, well…accomplishing greatness. Think about it for one second; if you let your fears rule your life, maybe you could be missing out on potentially finding your ideal job (because you’re too afraid to apply for the job), or from starting a relationship with someone who could become your potential spouse (because you’re too afraid of the rejection you may face by asking them out).

I guess the whole point of this is to not let your fears (whatever they may be) control your life. Don’t let them prevent you from taking action (whatever that may mean).

I can’t say for certain how the rest of the year will go, but for now, I’ve already started to make this year different. 

Paying It Forward: The World Needs a Little More Kindness

Note: This is part one of a double post (the posts, though, are unrelated and do not have to be read in order).

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I wasn’t planning on writing two posts tonight. I was simply going to come home, write up my review of the lemon cake mix cookies and go find something else to do. But my plans changed after something I saw tonight, something I decided that I had to share with you.

I went to dinner tonight with my Mom at O’Charley’s. (If you don’t know what O’Charley’s is, its a chain restaurant like Applebee’s.) Anyway, we were sitting at a table in the bar area, so space was tight and it was very hard not to be aware of what was going on at tables near you.

As we were eating dinner, I noticed that the couple at the table next to me were paying their bill, but the strange part was that their food hadn’t even come yet and the amount the lady gave the waitress ($20) was probably not enough to cover both her and her companion’s meals. This mystery was soon resolved though. Next to the couple, there was an elderly gentleman sitting by himself eating. When the waitress (the same one we and the couple next to us had) came over to remove his plate, she told him that he didn’t have a bill tonight. The man was obviously confused (I would have been too!), but after a few minutes, he accepted what the waitress was telling him, left his tip, and departed.

It soon became clear that the couple next to us had payed for his meal, just because. Just to be nice. The waitress came over and gushed how sweet it was that they had done so and that it had made her day. I was smiling inside too, but didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that I knew what the couple had done.

When my Mom and I were getting ready to leave, the waitress came over to the couple’s table and asked if they were ready for their check. When the woman said they were, the waitress told them that there was no check for them tonight. When the waitress told the manager about what they had done, he bought their dinner.

These acts of kindness made an impression on me. So, I’m paying it forward tonight. Through the charity website DonorsChoose.org, I donated $25 to a Tuscon, Arizona 8th grade class who are looking to buy books to increase literacy rates and students’ interest in reading. Luckily, Chase Financial and Clear Channel communications are running a donation-matching promotion, so my $25 donation became $50.

So, I’ve paid it forward.

How will you make magic in someone else’s life?

Tackling the Cookie Table: Why Pinterest Has Made A Wedding Tradition Easier

It’s hard to believe that it’s the end of February. It seems like 2012 just started and now we’re already 2 months in. Crazy. I have a lot of things to accomplish in the next 2 months including: decide what the heck I’m doing with my life, finish my thesis, take comprehensive exams, and find something awesome to wear to 2 different weddings (one for the sister of a fellow Dame and one for my cousin).

But a smashing outfit is not the only thing I have to worry about when it comes to weddings, my cousin’s in particular. No, I have time to worry about a dress and shoes. Right now, my main concern is cookies.

Yes, cookies. Lots and lots of cookies.

You see, here in Northeast Ohio (Western Pennsylvania too), we have this tradition at weddings called the cookie table. And it is epic.

This is one example of a wedding cookie table. Cookie tables range in size and arrangement, but a traditional cookie table is laden with dozens of cookie varieties.

While the wedding cake is still a mainstay of the wedding reception, the cookie table is equally, if not more, important. A traditional part of the wedding reception in the Northeast Ohio/Western Pennsylvania region of the United States, the cookie table is truly a force to be reckoned with. No one is really sure of how it got started or where it actually began, but it’s easy to make an educated guess.

Most likely, the cookie table tradition became prevalent from a combination of the high influx of immigrants that came into this region in early twentieth century and their baking traditions, the expense of an elaborate wedding cake, and the hardships caused by the Great Depression. For a more nuanced explanation, one of my history professors (a Youngstown native) explained that the cookie table was (and still is to a certain extent) all about social power and social debt.

Mothers, aunts, grandmothers, friends, cousins, etc. spend months before a wedding baking and freezing cookies for the big day. Requests go out – “Can you make cookies for s0 and so’s wedding?” The number of cookies you display and the number of people you can get to bake them for the occasion says something about your social power, but it also puts you in debt to the person baking the cookies. They call in that debt later when they need cookies for a wedding.

As for where the cookie table exactly originated, both residents of Youngstown, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania both claim their city to be the birthplace of the cookie table. We’ll probably never really know, but I’m betting on Youngstown.

Today, cookie tables are different at every wedding. It depends on the bride and groom’s preference, the number of cookies people have time to make in this busy world, the size of the wedding, ethnic and religious traditions, and your family’s past usage/experience with the cookie table. My family definitely adheres to the cookie table tradition, but we don’t have anywhere near as elaborate a cookie table as some others do.

That doesn’t mean the cookies are in short supply though. Recipes won’t just be doubled or tripled. Some will be octupled. (Yeah, I know this might not really be a word. But for my cousin’s wedding 5 years ago, my Mum made 8 times the normal recipe for one cookie alone.) Needless to say, I didn’t eat any of those cookies at the wedding, nor do I have an easy time even looking at them now, 5 years later.

IMG_1332 - Copy

 

IMG_1331 - Copy

So, it’s full speed ahead with the cookie baking. And, all I have to say is: Thank God for Pinterest!

Over the next few months, I’m going to be using Pinterest to seek out some new (to me at least) cookie recipes to make for my cousin’s wedding in June.

I’m going to catalog my cookie baking progress on here where I’ll share the recipes and my take on the cookies I try.

First up is Lemon Burst Cake Mix Cookies.

Here’s a picture of what they’re supposed to look like:

I hope to make them this weekend, so check back soon to see whether they are cookie table appropriate.

🙂

“Who Do You Think You Are?” — No, Really.

Life just gets more and more hectic, doesn’t it? Between classes, thesis, worrying about PhD applications (I’m a finalist at one school – invited for an all expenses paid on-campus visit in 2 weeks!), trying to be a good Dame, and everything else I have to do, it seems there’s no time in the day. Certainly not enough time to take for yourself.

The idea of taking time for yourself, of understanding yourself, is partly where the idea for this post came from…

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Who do you think you are?

I’m not asking this sarcastically, I’m asking this in earnest. Who are you? And why are you who you are? How did you become this person?

Now, the answers to these questions are complicated. In fact, there’s more than one answer. There are many. But, seriously, think about it. Who are you? Is who you actually are different than who you think you are?

I think so. No, scratch that.

I know so.

It’s no secret on here that I’m studying to be a historian, and that I, well, love history. So it should come as no surprise to you when I tell you that your history — your family’s history — is a big part of you and why you are the way you are.

When I was in seventh grade, I had to research my family tree for Social Studies class. At age 13, I knew nothing about my family tree. Talking to my parents and my grandparents yielded some information — enough to present on my poster for class — but not enough to satisfy my interest in my family tree.

This project started a 10+ year odyssey of family tree research that will probably never end.

My interest and, at times, obsession with genealogy (the proper name for researching one’s family history) has largely been a personal venture and not one that I publicized to my friends. I mean, I admit to being a nerd in high school, but I sort of figured that admitting that I had a subscription to Ancestry.com wouldn’t help my popularity any.

I wasn’t always dedicated to genealogy either, in spite of how much it interests me. Researching your family tree isn’t easy. It takes time, patience, hard work, perseverance, luck, and a little faith. Because of this, genealogy isn’t a constant for me. I pick it up, I put it down. I’ll work feverishly for months and then not look at it again for months or a year.

So, imagine my surprise and my envy when genealogy took America by storm.

Two years ago (in the Spring of 2010), Lisa Kudrow, the actress who played Phoebe on Friends, decided to help launch a new show on NBC called Who Do You Think You Are? — a program, already several years old and very popular in the UK, that followed celebrities as professional genealogists helped them trace their family trees.

The first season followed 8 celebrities: Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Lisa Kudrow, Emmit Smith, Brooke Shields, Spike Lee, and Susan Sarandon. The second season followed: Vanessa L. Williams, Tim McGraw, Rosie O’Donnell, Kim Catrall, Lionel Richie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, and Steve Buscemi.

Each celebrity discovered something about their family, and in turn something about themselves, that they previously did not know. But, the message of the series is that it isn’t important who you’re related to. It’s about how we perceive ourselves in reference to where we and our families came from, and how that knowledge changes us.

It’s about the sense of guilt Sarah Jessica Parker felt before she knew whether her ancestor was an accuser or a victim during the Salem witchcraft trials, the sense of amazement of Brooke Shields when she learned she was a direct descendant of the French royal family, Matthew Broderick’s disbelief when he helps solve the mystery of an unmarked Civil War grave, or the sadness and anger of Kim Catrall when she learns the fate of her wayward grandfather.

The third season of Who Do You Think You Are? is currently being broadcast on Fridays at 8pm on NBC. If you’re not home at this time (don’t worry, I’m not usually either), you can catch the episodes on NBC.com or on Hulu. Here’s Lisa Kudrow’s (the show’s executive producer) preview of Season 3:

Of course, everyone’s family tree will not be filled with such “extraordinary” tales. There are many celebrities whose stories don’t make it on the show because they’re not interesting enough. My family tree certainly isn’t this fascinating. But that doesn’t matter, because your family tree doesn’t have to be full of royalty or heroes or famous people to be important and interesting.

You wouldn’t be here without that family tree.

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So, think about it.

Who do you think you are?

I can tell you who I thought I was.

I was Joni. White girl with curly brown hair and freckles from working-class Ohio with college educated parents and working class grandparents who were all born in this country. I was Slovak and Lebanese and Croatian and something called (as my Mum puts it) “Heinz 57”. When my Gram would talk about how one of her ancestor’s married a Native American woman, my cousins and I thought you could quantify that — like we’re 2% Native American somewhere in that Heinz 57 mixture. Now I know that it doesn’t work like that.

Because your ancestry isn’t so simple.

With a lot more digging, a lot more questioning, several hundred dollars worth of subscription fees to Ancestry.com, and a whole lot of luck, I know a whole lot more.

Because who I am is about  a lot more than simply ethnicity percentages. It’s also about more than those ancestors that are long dead. It’s about those still alive.

I am 25% Slovak. I am 25% Lebanese (perhaps originally Syrian). I am 25% Croatian. But I’m not Heinz 57.

I’m English, Welsh, and Irish. My Gram’s ancestors were original Americans. From Jamestown, Virginia circa 1620.

You learn through the genealogy experience that it’s not all about the ethnicity, not all about where you’re from. It’s about how your family got to where you are.

It’s about the journey.

And you learn the strengths and hopes and dreams and character traits and struggles of these people who you wouldn’t be here without.

I learned that it took a lot of bravery for my Grandfather to survive a German POW camp, that it took a lot of bravery for his mother to cross the Atlantic Ocean by herself at 14. I learned that my Gram’s family were some of America’s first settlers, starting in Virginia and New York, moving to Maryland, then to West Virginia and Pennsylvania. I learned there are historical markers at some of the places they lived.

Your ancestors are not simply names and dates on a page. They were live people living in a present that only happens to now be the past. They passed on ideas, traditions, traits, and wisdom that, whether you realize it or not, is somewhere in you and in your family.

So.

Who do you think you are?

Who are you, really?

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If you’re interested in researching your family tree, the internet is your best friend and Ancestry.com is the best website to get started. Although I said that I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on their services, you can use the website for free to access basic information. My suggestion is to use the free services and search some of your grandparents or great-grandparents. If you find a lot of information and want to know more, I suggest trying out a subscription for a month or two. (There’s a 2-week free trial too!)

Happy Hunting! (And don’t forget to watch Who Do You Think You Are? on Fridays at 8pm on NBC! You won’t regret it!)