Have you ever been in a department store and caught a familiar face across the sea of ready-to-wear? "Who is that gorgeous creature?" you thought, and suddenly you realized it was you, looking into a mirror.
This is what I call a Killing Me Softly moment -- when you see yourself unexpectedly. You thought no one else was just like you. But then you discover Ally McBeal having your visions. Or Alanis Morrisette sounding like she dated the same guys you did.
Or the TV anchor describing the suspect as "a moody loner who lived with the fear his homoerotic photo collection would be discovered," and someone says, "Hey, that sounds just like you, Bruce." It's the thrilling terror of being exposed.
I had another Killing Me Softly moment recently, seeing Monica Lewinsky on Saturday Night Live. I have one every time I see "that woman."
It's not just that we're linked by the black hair or the hips you could run your little indie film fest on. Plenty of women had Killing Me Softly moments when Monica was interviewed on 20/20 a while back. Most of us had at least one "I've done that" response to Monica's textbook recipe for a broken heart. The extreme flirtation? Done that. Crying uncontrollably to your friends on the phone? Hello. The disgusted dismissal of that one dress that must have shrunk in the dryer again? Here. She is us. Lots of us.
I used to think there were only two types of women, your Janeane Garofalos and your Meg Ryans. And that, when it came to love, most women of Gens X and Y were either warm but cool, like Janeane, or hot but cold, like her royal kewpiness, the platinum bookmark. Janeanes long for love but have a spring-loaded defense mechanism that makes them react to it as if it were a rattlesnake hurled at them. Megs treat love with a smug indifference, the way rich people treat objects; there's more where that came from, so who cares?
I had always figured myself for a Janeane. The keen-eyed cynicism and droopy new-wave look worked, but I couldn't pull off the role's hard edges, which were just too harsh. The world sucks, I know, but somebody always invites you to a party, right? And then it's Happy Time. You get the idea that Janeanes always avoid Happy Time or endure it with disdain.
Then I saw Monica. It was like when Narcissus gazed at his own reflection for the first time. That was me. So I'm coming out right now: I am a Monica.
And a Monica, as I see it, has three defining features:
Monicas are romantics but they always fall for the wrong guy. If you take a Monica to the Eligible Bachelors International Convention, she will immediately fall for the gay waiter. Like Eve, a Monica can have anything she wants and wants only what she isn't supposed to have. That way when it doesn't work out, it really wasn't her fault -- he was gay, he was screwed up, he was the president. Mary Magdelene was a Monica.
Monicas are also self-consciously, aggressively female. Other girls take their femininity for granted or tailor it to fit this man's world. Monicas can't. Their femininity just pops out. They giggle. They touch. They try to be sleek, but their cow eyes betray them. Marilyn Monroe was a Monica.
Finally, whether it's the violet eyes of Elizabeth Taylor or the breast implants of Pamela Anderson (both Monicas), a Monica tends toward an exaggerated appearance, and the exaggeration is usually in their hips. Big, powerful men kill themselves rather than undergo the sort of inquisition this girly girl endured over her vixenization of the most powerful man on earth. But how is she pigeonholed? As "the fat chick." In February Monica looked to be about a size 12. The average size of women in America is 14. So if most women in the country are bigger than Monica and are forever hearing her run down, most women are hearing themselves run down -- and mostly by mean, nasty little bastards no woman in their right mind would want, anyway.
Being a Monica has its rough points. We piss time away wondering how many calories there are in ketchup. It may be true that if we decided to clean up our act and go to church, we'd pine for the priest. But the good part is that the giggle never goes away completely, we do have a good time and we're smart enough to know that men are like buses ... another one will come along in a minute.
It's so nice, in a world of insecurities, to be able to see yourself suddenly and think, "Not bad." I hope all the other Monicas catch their own reflection and feel the same.
And later we can all get rowdy together and beat up a Meg. Whaddaya say?