Wisdom From Marilyn

 I challenge you to find a picture of this woman with her mouth all the way closed.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that poignant quotes even existed before there were social media websites where we could share them – preferably as image macros with the words overlaid on some feelgood picture of a mountain or space or something like that.

When I scroll through my Facebook news feed these days I get a facefull of wisdom whether I want it or not. There’s Eastern philosophy from some of my hippier friends, professionally made Obama picture/quote mashups from the hardcore Democrats, historic and well-worded Supreme Court verdicts from my law school nerds, and rap lyrics for days.

But more than anything else, there’s that Marilyn Monroe quote.

That fucking Marilyn Monroe quote. 

I have seen at least two dozen – probably more – people post this quote on Facebook or elsewhere over the past couple of years, and every time I see it my blood pressure inches up just a little bit more, because to me the quote reads like this:

Marilyn Monroe was a great performer and an intelligent, beautiful woman who said a number of things that I find quite charming and witty. She was also a pill-popping triple divorcee who suffered from chronic flatulence, rarely bathed, and slept naked in a festering bed strewn with plates of old half-eaten meals.

Does that sound like the sort of thing you’d like to deal with on a regular basis? No? Well fuck you, because if you don’t like the thought of putting up with an unwashed, farting food-hoarder you’re the one with a problem, not her!

What pisses me off about this quote is that when people post it they seem to be taking it as carte blanche to do the sorts of things that any halfway decent upbringing would discourage a person from doing. Scream at you in the middle of a crowded restaurant? I told you I was out of control! Throw a cinderblock through your window after a fight? I’m hard to handle – that’s just who I am! Went to Afghanistan and taught Taliban recruits how to make suicide bombs? Hey, you knew what you were getting into, buddy!

Let me make something abundantly clear: Being an unreasonable, selfish reactionary isn’t a quirky personality trait; it’s a personality disorder, and while you shouldn’t be stigmatized for it you also shouldn’t be fucking proud of it.

Take a closer look at that quote: She freely admits to being out of control. When has being out of control ever been a positive thing? Have you ever used the phrase ‘out of control’ as a compliment? Oh my God, Trish, you won the Nobel Prize for Economics! You’re out of control. I just Googled the phrase ‘out of control’ and I wound up watching a local news report about a racecar that spun out of control and killed two people.

“But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

How arrogant do you have to be to assume that after putting up with your gleefully selfish, impatient, out of control, and hard to handle behavior anyone is going to want to see you at your best? Protip: If you don’t have the common decency to moderate your undesirable characteristics for the people around you, don’t expect them to want to hang out when you decide you want to act like an adult for a little while.

I’m not faulting Marilyn Monroe – or anyone, for that matter – for having problems. Everybody has baggage. Everybody is a hot mess from time to time. What’s unacceptable is relishing all the worst parts of yourself and not even making an effort to change.

Let’s talk about me. I was picked on and taken advantage of a lot in middle and high school, and eventually I started dealing with a lot of my pent up aggression and resentment by occasionally lashing out at people in angry outbursts. I alienated some friends and burned some bridges with that behavior and it serves me right, because that’s an immature and unacceptable way to act. I’ve done a lot in the past couple of years to get that shit under control, but it’s an ongoing process. I’m embarrassed by it, but I’m also proud of myself for making progress and not just expecting the world to put up with my shit because I’m witty and fun occasionally. 

While we’re at it, I, like Marilyn Monroe, also fart a lot, but I think I balance that one out pretty well by bathing regularly and not eating in bed.

Having undesirable qualities is part of being human; taking steps to deal with them is part of being an adult. Using an old quote from a long-dead actress with a mental illness as an excuse to act like a child is just undercutting your own growth as a person – and more importantly, it’s annoying as shit for everybody around you who’s just trying to be in society.

There’s a quote by Marcel Proust that I wish people were posting instead:

“When you’re at your worst, you’re actually… I mean, when things are going badly for you, you’re learning more about… No, wait. That which does not kill you- No, that isn’t it either. Fuck it.”
-Marcel Proust (feat. Truman Capps)

Okay, I’ve never read anything by Marcel Proust and I never intend to, but here’s the quote from Little Miss Sunshine that helped me learn the basic gist of what Marcel Proust was all about:

Frank: “You know Marcel Proust?” Dwayne: “He’s the guy you teach.”
Frank: “Yeah. French writer. Total loser. Never had a real job. Unrequited love affairs. Gay. Spent 20 years writing a book almost no one reads. But he’s also probably the greatest writer since Shakespeare. Anyway, he uh… He gets down to the end of his life, and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, those were the best years of his life, because they made him who he was.”
-Little Miss Sunshine

If you’re selfish, impatient, insecure, prone to mistakes, out of control, and hard to handle, you’ve got your work cut out for you. And as you start dealing with those things – an ongoing process that will only end when you die – I think that your “best” will keep getting better.

Or if you don’t want to do all that work, at least think up your own justification for being an insufferable human trainwreck instead of just stealing Marilyn’s. If you’re not going to stop sucking, the least you could do is suck originally.

Truman Capps' entire argument falters when you realize how much he loves quotes from Hunter S. Thompson.