Melisanda isn’t actually my name. My real name is Carmel – a name I don’t mind, but there’s no music in ‘Carmel’, and no romance. No frivolity either.
Who, then, is Melisanda?
The easy answer is that she’s my alter ego … but that’s not strictly accurate. She’s been around for a long time, though I haven’t listened to her till fairly recently.
She made her first public appearance when my current ISP could not give me any acceptable combination of my real names as an email address, so I used ‘Melisanda’. My email friends liked it and one said she might call me Melisanda. Little by little, Melisanda started to find her voice. Sometimes she signs my letters Several people have said that it is not always clear whether Carmel or Melisanda is speaking. Which is as it should be … the sign of a well-integrated personality (or something).
How to describe Melisanda? My ‘essence’ … maybe, or part of it, to be more accurate.
Melisanda is brave and beautiful and honest and imaginative and creative and visionary and kind and compassionate (usually) and … well, everything I can be when I allow myself to be – and when I throw off the inhibitions which have accumulated over a lifetime. She’s also very mischievous and there’s a ‘toughness’ about her … she tolerates no nonsense from anybody. She has been known to tell strong men to bugger off the instant they give her trouble – something the ladylike Carmel would never do.
I first met Melisanda in a Somerset Maugham play … read when I was in my early twenties. I liked her attitude — “I’m Melisanda Whatever-her-surname-was, take it or leave it.” I’ve been trying to adopt that attitude ever since, with only a modicum of success.
Melisanda ‘materialised’ in Rome over 35 years ago when I saw, in a shop, a charming ceramic angel made in Florence. My friend Dorothy said “she makes you smile.” And so she does. I knew at once she was Melisanda, and she’s been with me ever since.
I suppose you could say ‘my’ Melisanda is an angel with attitude.
I wrote a poem about her once:
She needs a wash, my angel on the shelf
With the broken wing and the heavenly smile
The rosy cheeks and the tendril curls.
Florentine angel. My Melisanda.
For thirty-seven* years now she has made me smile.
(* needs continual adjusting)
One of Melisanda’s roles is to shake my ‘good girl’ image. Having been brought up in a pretty conservative Catholic family, and attended a convent school, I have been seriously hampered by the ‘good girl’ burden. It is possibly the biggest handicap I’ve had to overcome.
I suppose you could say the emergence of Melisanda is a recognition of the untrammelled person I have hidden for a long time behind a facade. Her unveiling has been a gradual process … and speeded up when I ‘used’ her in Internet forums. The success of the transformation is evident when people tell me that Carmel and Melisanda often swap roles.
A number of men have fallen in love with her, and some believe she is the real person, and Carmel the ‘alter ego’ … even though I’ve always made it clear that the reverse is true.
In the years since she made her public debut, I’ve come to realise that Melisanda is really my inner child, my creative spirit. ‘Carmel’ was the ‘good girl’ I’d learned to be throughout my formative years. Nowadays there’s a person-in-progress who will develop (I hope) into a truly mature adult, while retaining the joyous creativity of the child. We’ll have to wait and see.
The first attached photo is of ‘Melisanda’. The second is of me after I allowed her to come ‘out’ (2-3 yrs ago).
Shortly after my cancer diagnosis last year, Melisanda fell from a high shelf. A freak gust of wind blew a screen room divider against the shelving unit and Melisanda plunged to the floor. Her ‘good’ wing was broken, and her head came off. This was too much for me, and I cried for the first time since the diagnosis.
My son Jeremy rushed to the rescue. “The breaks are clean,” he declared, “I should be able to fix her.”
And so he did. He fixed her so well that it was difficult to see the breaks. I’ve taken this as a good omen.