As a child, I was terrified. It would be easier to list the things I was not terrified of than vice versa, but I was particularly terrified of monsters. Television trailers for monster movies would have me cowering behind the sofa for hours, a cardboard cut-out of Boris Karloff would send me climbing up the wall. I would often fall asleep with the radio on, and heaven forbid the Monster Mash ever played during the night: my eyes would snap open at the familiar bubbling intro and leave me too petrified to move until my mother came to change the station.
One of the first books I checked out of the school library was an old picture book filled with still scenes from Tod Browning’s Dracula along with a brief recap of the story. I read it so carefully, so thoroughly that I needed to renew it twice to fully soak it in. I was convinced that if I so much as brushed the cover the wrong way, the monster within would find me in the night and whisk me away from the life I knew. My six-year-old brain turned the story over and over again, obsessively cataloging and memorizing each detail in case I ever needed to call upon the characters’ triumphs and tribulations for my own monstrous encounters–and the more I read, the more I couldn’t help sort of wanting one.
I found books on werewolves, ghosts, creatures of folklore, faeries, zombies, and aliens, some meant for children and some clearly intended for adult audiences, each one providing valuable information. I kept notebooks with important points, sketched diagrams, even photocopied particularly vital pages for my records. While I was still terrified of the things within those pages, I was arming myself with the most dangerous weapon of all: knowledge. There was something thrilling about diving headfirst into the darkness that had stopped me cold for most of my brief life. It was as if I was uncovering forbidden wisdom from an ancient world–perhaps because my teachers encouraged me to read more “age appropriate” material, perhaps because my parents wanted to make sure I wasn’t giving myself nightmares. The monsters became less of the hideous beasts they had once seemed and more alluring denizens of the nighttime world.
But the first monster I truly fell in love with was completely and entirely human.
In the summer before the fourth grade, I found a copy of Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera. It took me all of two months to finish the story, pouring over every word and phrase as if trying to commit them to memory. The prologue professed it to be a true story and I hoped with every fiber of my being that it was indeed the case–I had fallen madly in love with the masked madman in Box 5. My first crush was on a monster. I went on to not only do my Summer Reading book report on the Phantom, but also re-read the book twice before the year was out. For my birthday that year, I convinced my parents to take me to New York’s Majestic Theatre to see the Broadway show. I watched the Rupert Julian film, riveted to the screen as I watched my favourite characters come to life: but Lon Chaney’s Erik lacked the tragic romance that had attracted me to the book and other adaptations. He was certainly monstrous, but not the mad, brooding genius that I had come to love. And just as I loved the beast, I came to hate the beauty: I simply could not fathom why Christine Daaé, the story’s wide-eyed, innocent heroine, would reject her mysterious admirer. Certainly her love was handsome and wealthy, but he lacked the complexity and power of the so-called Opera Ghost–he admittedly also lacked the homicidal tendencies and obsessive inclinations, but was that not part of the thrill?
As I grew older, I found myself surrounded by a slew of new monsters–modern vampires, shape-shifters, creatures from other worlds–but to this day, I still have a soft spot for mad Erik. He was the first to instill a darker sense of romance in my heart and the first to show me that the monstrous can truly be beautiful.
Reading this post, you may be wondering what this has to do with makeup. Metamorphosis did not begin as a cosmetics blog, but rather developed into one: it began as an exploration of my personal and aesthetic preferences. My love of monster movies and novels my have nothing to do with eyeshadow or lipstick, but it does have a good bearing on how I turned out as a human being and how my personal aesthetic developed. When Annie Walls announced her May Monster Madness blog hop, I thought it might be a perfect way to incorporate something a little different. I highly encourage you to do some hopping, check out some of the other posts written by participating bloggers, maybe even get a little inspired and do some monstrous writing of your own.