What are Breathy Baby-talk Voices For?

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe by E. Wagele

I wrote  A Career Fit for a Romantic. Elizabeth Taylor’s. http://bit.ly/psychtdy in my Psychology Today  blog of April 5, 2011. A reader called Crimson responded with this:

“My mother was obsessed about Elizabeth Taylor. When I was a child during the 60s I would watch Elizabeth Taylor movies with my mother. While watching Liz I saw an overly dramatic, over-made-up woman with almost no acting talent. My mother saw the most beautiful woman in the world. I always wondered why Elizabeth Taylor was so enticing to this particular generation of women. I came to a few conclusions. Elizabeth Taylor was able to maintain the persona of an innocent ingénue while getting exactly what she wanted out of life: money, men and fame. The women of my mother’s generation were under intense pressure to appear subservient and submissive to their husbands, be nice, kind and almost childish at all times. Taylor played this role to the hilt. Behind the scenes Liz was busy drinking, drugging and changing up her men like she changed clothes, but that was never what the public saw. All they saw was a woman draped in expensive diamonds and being adored by her man du jour, while she spoke in her little breathy baby-talk voice. She couldn’t act in a movie because she was so busy acting in real life. I never told my mother the way I felt about Liz. My mother is currently in a month-long state of mourning over Ms. Taylor’s demise. Maybe one day she’ll snap out of it.” Thank you, Crimson!

Marilyn 2

Mariyn Monroe 2

Elizabeth Taylor died March 23, 2011 at age 79.

Liz Taylor

Liz Taylor by E. Wagele

Marilyn Monroe died August 5, 1962 at age 36, a probable suicide.

In the early ‘60s I used to visit my sister in the suburbs of Sacramento. I met young neighbors of hers—little boy of two or three, a husband, and a blond wife interested in making herself beautiful. Her idol was Marilyn Monroe. Within a week after Marilyn Monroe apparently killed herself, this young woman also killed herself. That someone so young, in her twenties, could do such a thing leaving a child behind, shattered me. I was a little younger than she was, expecting my first child in a month.

When I was in high school, Marilyn was the fantasy of many of the girls. Oh to be Marilyn and to have that body, those clothes, that fame, that money! The 1950s were a time where women were not equal to men. It was not a good time for women.

I’m still trying to figure out that little girl voice that both Liz and Marilyn adopted. I would think men would prefer a sultry, low voice as sexy, but what do I know? Obviously, men do like something about little girls for their love life. Elizabeth/Betty/Betts on the TV series MadMen, which is set in the 60s, has a little girl voice too. My mother would talk to me with a breathy baby-talk voice when I was very small, too, earlier than that. There was something incestuous-feeling about it. I didn’t like it, though inappropriate behavior never went beyond her voice.

Through my life every now and then I notice myself acting like a little girl—too late to stop myself. It doesn’t feel good. It feels a little like a last resort reflex of some kind. If you’re young enough you can’t be blamed? If you’re young enough you can be excused for showing off? If you’re young enough maybe you can pretend you’re innocent of any wrong-doing and you can’t be ashamed of anything.