The One with Marilyn

I’ve told you about my company’s legendary Halloween parties. My co-workers are as creative as they come. We’ve had conference rooms repurposed as Wild West saloons complete with sawdust and entire departments dressed like Monopoly game pieces. The things these people can do with papier mâché would astound you.

Alas, all of this artistry has yet to rub off on me. Even as a kid, I never had much imagination when it came to costumes. Among my more inventive ideas: clown, ghost, pirate. The entirety of my pirate outfit consisted of an eye patch, which I took as permission to run around shouting, “Aargh!” at my unsuspecting neighbors.

I knew I was scraping the bottom of the barrel when I dressed as a black-eyed pea (not the band) by circling one eye in black make-up and taping a giant letter “P” to my shirt. I know. I know.  But there was one fabled Halloween party when I pulled out all the stops.

I was twenty-four or twenty-five and trying to catch the eye of a certain young man. (You knew this involved a guy, right?) This time the black-eyed pea costume wasn’t going to cut it. I had to look fabulous. I had to look glamorous.

I had to be Marilyn.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe

Are diamonds a girl’s best friend?

“It’s all make-believe, isn’t it?”
~Marilyn Monroe

A friend who was handy with a needle and thread agreed to help me recreate her famous look from the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  For one night, why not be someone as different from me as possible — a vivacious, sassy, blond sex symbol who could keep company with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio. So I donned the strapless pink gown with obscenely large bow, the shoulder-length gloves, the blond wig. Oh, and the hundreds of carats of fake diamonds.  (Though the ones Marilyn wore in the movie were real!)

The night of the party, I sashayed and shimmied around vampires and Supermen, pursing my lacquered lips and hoping the guy would notice me. It was hard work, this being someone I wasn’t. In fact, it was exhausting. I kept trying to think of what I should say and how I should stand to be more like Marilyn.

A couple of hours into the evening: “Hey,” he said. “Who are you supposed to be?” He was dressed as a referee or an inmate. I wasn’t sure which.

“Marilyn? Marilyn Monroe?”

He nodded. “Cool.”

Deflated more than the giant bow attached to my backside, I sat on the front steps and took a deep breath. My wig was itching and I’d lost one of my fake eyelashes somewhere in the “witches’ brew” punch. I’d spent a good part of the evening tugging at the top of the gown, which suffice it to say, did not fit as snugly as Marilyn’s did. I realized I didn’t know the first thing about being glamorous (or being a pirate apparently). You can take the girl out of the plaid, but you can’t take the plaid out of the girl.

Isn’t that what we’re doing when we play dress up — trying on different personas? It was fun, pretending to be Marilyn Monroe for a few hours, but it was draining. (It could be argued that even Marilyn wasn’t really “Marilyn.”) In the end it was good that I hadn’t gotten that guy’s attention, because then what? Thoreau said, “Be yourself– not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be.” After the party, the gown and the wig went into a box at the back of my closet because I never felt the need to be Marilyn again.

Have you ever dressed up for Halloween? What was your most memorable costume? 

Have a great weekend, everyone! 



  1. I’m not good at coming up with costumes either. And I’ve been a pirate before. My friend helped me dress that year and she put coffee grounds with some oil on my chin and chest to make it look like I had a beard and chest hair. It looked so real that people kept trying to look down my shirt to see how far the chest hair went. It was a really, really long night.


    1. Coffee grounds for chest hair? Brilliant!
      That reminds me of those magnetic face games. Wooly Willy or something — where you draw the magnetic bits across the character’s face to make “hair.” Do you remember that game?


  2. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the black-eyed pea costume! That’s about my speed. I dressed up like the Y2K bug in 1999. Don’t think I’ve donned a costume since then. Sad. Your parties sound fabulous! Hope you have a wonderful weekend, as well. Lucy here beside me says hi to Reggie. She wants to know if he’ll get a costume this year.

    Hugs from Ecuador,


    1. Since Reggie lives in a perma-tuxedo made of fur, he always goes as James Bond for Halloween. 🙂 How about Lucy?
      But his favorite part of the holiday is all the candy corn that the kids drop on the sidewalk.


  3. When you first mentioned being a black eyed pea I did wonder what you’d do to be Fergie, show up drunk then dance around like you were out of your mind?But I’m with Kathy, I think your literal costume was very original. That guy you wanted to impress did not sound like the brightest bulb in the marquee if he was so stumped by you dressing as Marilyn in one of her most iconic roles. I have not dressed for Halloween since high school but if I wanted to wear a costume that would blow the minds of everyone I know I would don drag – a dress and heels.


  4. My theory: he must have been dressed as an inmate. A referee would have recognized Mrs. DiMaggio.

    I, too, was thinking that even Marilyn got tired of being Marilyn.

    (Also, you’ve been dropped from my reader again. I swear, we’re starcrossed!)


    1. I couldn’t be Marilyn for a night; I can’t imagine how she lasted 36 years.

      WP keeps us on our toes, doesn’t it? I did get your most recent post in my feed / email so there’s some small hope.


  5. I once pulled dressed as Horatio from CSI: Miami 😉 I had the theme tune on my phone for my grand entrance. I couldn’t find a ginger wig and my attempt to dye a blond one was disastrous so I spent two days highlighting the thing with an orange marker. It worked! I even cut off a few bits to stick to my chest. They gave me a rash. Still, I pulled 😉


  6. No photos of you in your costume? Bummer!
    When I lived in Europe, my boyfriend and I painted our faces to look like monsters. We must have been pretty successful, because we scared the H out of everyone. It didn’t help that most of the partygoers were either drunk or stoned.


  7. I’m with pearlsandprose, where’s the photo? Halloween is arguably my least favorite holiday… that said, it’s not the costumes I myself have worn but the ones I’ve made for my children that have been my favorites because — here’s the thing — turns out I LOVE making but not wearing Halloween costumes. Everything from a bald eagle to a kitten, from a princess to a ninja (twice!), witches and good witches, presidents and vampires, all such a blast to make!


  8. “It could be argued that even Marilyn wasn’t really “Marilyn.”
    I love that perceptive aside, Jackie. My big sister (10 years older than me) dated Joe’s nephew back in the day. We were, of course, completely fascinated with anything he could tell us about meeting Marilyn when he was a little boy. His best memory of her was a girl in blue jeans and a big shirt coming down to the kitchen with a book in her hand. She had no makeup on and was barefoot.
    I like to imagine her that way. 🙂


    1. A lovely memory, Cynthia. I do, too!

      That reminds me of an article that reported when Marilyn died, they found more than 400 books in her Los Angeles home. That’s not something I would have anticipated about her and a great lesson for us writers, isn’t it?


  9. I kind of enjoy seeing what everyone else comes-up with for Halloween, but… I’ve just never been into putting together much of a costume myself. It just seems like one of those things that I know I’m not going to pull-off. Which I’m actually good with (because it kinda plays to my general lazy nature).


  10. This was so great, Jackie! And by the way– this line resonated with me: “Isn’t that what we’re doing when we play dress up — trying on different personas?” It was the topic of my Brain, Child article this week! We’re totally on the same page.


    1. I LOVED your article on Brain, Child. Actually I love all of your articles on Brain, Child. Even though I don’t have children, I always find something to connect with in your work.
      I had to laugh when I read the most recent one! We were definitely tracking this week.


  11. I suppose a costume to really resonate with others, would need to show up some aspect of our personality (attitude?) which we usually prefer not to reveal.

    As you think back to that Marilyn Monroe get-up of yours, do you see such a connection?



    1. That’s a great question! I would love to be more vivacious and confident, the way Marilyn’s persona often was. Thank you for stopping by, Shakti. Have you ever dressed up for Halloween (or any other holiday)?


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