I'll Take a Size Marilyn Monroe

By Alyce Wilson
Aug. 7, 1998)

A few weeks ago a friend e-mailed me a list that was apparently programmed to self-destruct after reading. Actually, I just found technical information here that says it was programmed to automatically encrypt itself the minute I decided to do a column based on it.

Unfortunately for those weasly programmers, I have a photographic memory. On the other hand, I only had one shot left at the time, so all I remember is this:

Marilyn Monroe was a size 14.

You see, the list was designed to help women feel better about their bodies. It included facts about the typical sizes of models and Barbie's real-life proportions (before her recent make-over).

As I remember, the list said all models on the Earth together could fit into a size 14. In fact, I believe it further claimed that each model could fit her entire body in one finger of a pair of Isotoners.

Furthermore, it went on to state that the typical woman is about 18 gazillion times larger than the typical model. Which makes us feel fat (an evil rivalled only by sweaty armpits).

Perhaps it's appropriate to reiterate an important fact: Marilyn Monroe was a size 14.

For the men in the audience, let me explain women's clothing sizes. While men take their waist measurement and inseam length and shop for a pair of jeans labelled, say, 32 X 34, women's sizes are a random selection of meaningless numbers based on a secret lottery system.

It is entirely possible to own a size 12 dress, size 14 jeans, and size 18 mini-skirt, which all fit perfectly.

But to the fashion industry, anyone above a size 12 is a "plus" size and must shop in a different department. Usually, the department has the words "Plus" or "Misses" or even "14 and up" emblazoned on a huge sign, visible from the opposite end of the mall.

I think they're working on making them visible from space.

The idea, I believe, is that when you buy a great new outfit, you think, "Too bad it came from the Plus department." Then you buy more colognes, body sprays, make-up and diet pills on your way out.

They might as well change all sizes above 12 to read "hippo," "extra hippo" and "vertically challenged hippo."

It would be more constructive to label these sections the "Marilyn Monroe Department" or the "Mae West Department." Other women could shop in the "Twiggy Department" or the "Celine Dion Department." Then we'd all feel better about ourselves.

It is our duty as consumers to expose the growing hypocrisy of women's clothing. Wouldn't it be great if the next time a woman buys an item from the Plus department she tells the cashier, "You know, Marilyn Monroe was a size 14"?

I have been revelling in this knowledge for more than a week. Last Thursday alone I told the entire newsroom, the advertising department, and a dog I met in the street.

But small things like this make a difference in a society where the oxymoron "heroin chic" is generally regarded as a GOOD THING.

The other day I caught a repeat of "Montel Williams," featuring bathing suit make-overs. One of the models, who was a size extra-Mae West, came out in a black wrap-around suit that made her look like a beach queen. "You go, girl!" Montel shouted in approval. I wanted to slap him a high five through the screen.

Compare this to Rikki Lake, who terms herself a "former fatty." This is like showing up at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and declaring, "My name is Bill, and I'm an ex-druggie."

Many of her recent shows involve earth goddess-sized women wearing sexy outfits, while the audience hoots and hollers. Personally, I think Rikki's a little miffed about shopping in the Plus department and wants to make sure she looks petite next to her guests.

Maybe if her label read, "Size: Mae West" she'd feel differently.

Kirstie Alley has been rumored to change all her clothing labels to read "Size 8" to avoid speculation on her size. You go, girl! May I suggest designer labels reading "Marilyn Monroe" instead?

The most important thing to remember is that sex appeal is about attitude, not "fat"-itude. And that bad puns are an easy way to end a column.

Copyright 1998 by Alyce Wilson

Another essay by Alyce on Marilyn Monroe: The Tyranny of Photographs

This essay appears in the book "The Art of Life," a collection of essays, humor and columns touching on pop culture, everyday life and pets.

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