Can You Keep a Secret?

Confession: I'm not as dumb as everyone thinks I am. In fact, I earned straight A's in high school. And, in case you haven't noticed, I actually can speak in the first person. I just choose not to.

See, it's all part of this "image" that I've built up for myself. I wasn't always this glamorous, you know. I had a hard, miserable life. To escape, I created this persona to myself.

I was born Mary Susan Thomas on December 3, 1938 in the small town of Chittenango, New York. Until the age of nine, I lived and worked on my grandfather's farm while my parents toured the nation with their acting troupe. When they returned, I moved with them to New York City. Suddenly, my once relatively happy and simple life turned into a chaotic mess.

Daddy was gone all the time. He came home roughly once a week to bring Momma some jewelry and kiss me on the head before running off with his latest starlet girlfriend. Momma couldn't take it. She started to drink. She transformed into a completely different person. No longer was she my mother – she was a totally braindead waste who cared more about a bottle of liquor than she did for her own offspring. I was an orphan.

I decided to devote my life to school. School was the one place where I felt safe, where I could get away from my nightmare of a family life. Schoolwork was just about the only thing that I was good at, so I put everything I had into making sure that I did it well. I ended up graduating fourth in my class.

However, my social life was less than adequate. I was the girl with the mousy brown hair and the cat glasses who sat in the corner of my room writing poetry while everyone else went to sock hops and the drive-in. I was lonely. I was miserable. I needed a fresh start.

I wasn't sure where to go, but as soon as I graduated, I packed my bags, took the inheritance money that my grandfather had left me upon his death, and headed out into the world without direction. I decided to rent a small hotel room in New York City until I could get my head together. I had so many options in front of me, so many directions to choose from. I wasn't sure which path to choose.

Then, one day, while walking past a photography store, I noticed a picture of a beautiful, blonde model. I realized that she was everything that I wasn't, and everything that I wanted to be. I wanted to be the one who men gawked at. I wanted to wear designer gowns, diamonds, and false eyelashes. I wanted to be the life of the party.

On a whim, I bought a plane ticket and moved to California. I decided to settle in Burbank, figuring that I might have a chance to break into the modeling world. But before I could be famous, I needed to change – dramatically. I needed to create practically a whole new person, a character who I could play.

First, I went down to the beauty salon and dyed my hair blonde. At the time, I felt as if the dye washed away my past and all the bad memories that came along with it. I was now ready to conquer the world. I bought some fancy dresses and an abundance of cosmetics and went back to my new apartment.

Looking in the mirror, I could barely recognize myself. I, Mary, the timid New York farmgirl, had transformed into a vixen. I was finally taking control of my life, and it felt great to feel pretty. I stared into the mirror, contemplating a name that coincided with my new-found appearance. After a while, the answer came to me. I would call myself Rhonda Lee – Rhonda from my grandmother's middle name, and Lee from my grandfather's first name. By choosing these names, I could be sure never to lose sight of my grandparents, the only people who ever truly loved me.

I went out the next day and got a job as a salesclerk in a local clothing boutique. The money I earned from this job, combined with the large sum of inheritance money that remained, was enough to pay for some plastic surgery that I desperately needed if I was ever going to succeed in the modeling world. A nose job, some lip injections, and a breast enlargement later, I was completed. I was now Rhonda Lee, actress, model, and glamour girl extraordinaire, and somehow, someway, I was going to pull it off.

Rhonda began to model for Vogue Magazine during the summer of 1959. Through this, Rhonda was able to obtain some acting jobs, but nothing ever panned out from these, besides a fling with a producer of two. Well, at least she was making connections.

I don't know how it happened, but soon, Rhonda was Burbank's new "it"girl. She was the life of the party, just like I had always wanted to be. But I felt an undeniable emptiness inside of me that couldn't be solved, no matter how many parties Rhonda attended. Her life was glamorous, but it was consistently empty. It was beginning to wear a hole inside of me.

However, I was stuck here. I had made a choice based a silly, childish whim, and now I was obligated to play a silly, childish person every moment of my life. Rhonda was not who I wanted to be, but she was who I had become, and I was forced to deal with it.

I still long to return to the person I used to be. I feel as if I'm trapped inside of Rhonda and can't break free. Rhonda, a completely superficial, arrogant airhead, has overcome my soul and made my life a mess. My life was never happy, but at least I was true to myself. Now every moment of my life is a lie.

If anyone ever spread this around, I'd be the laughing stock of Burbank. I can't let anyone know about this, Squiggy, so please don't tell anyone. You can keep a secret, can't you?