SPOILER ALERT – the following post deals with body odor. If that grosses you out, maybe you should skip my blog today, but the topic follows a logical progression. Since I began blogging last May, I’ve disclosed quite a bit about myself and my personal history – in particular my bipolar diagnosis and how it’s influenced my mystery novels, especially MOOD SWING: THE BIPOLAR MURDERS. In their comments, people have lauded me for my courage and honesty in letting it all hang out. The more praise I get, the more personal my disclosures become. It’s a simple matter of positive reinforcement; I learned all about it decades ago when I took B.F. Skinner’s Human Behavior course at Harvard. (By the way, he had a daughter named Julie – he raised her in the infamous “Skinner Box.”)
I’ve received lots of positive feedback for my posts about the 1969 Woodstock Festival, where I won a prize for my paintings. The growing sense of community I’m experiencing as I widen my circle of friends on the Internet reminds me in many ways of the spirit of the 60’s. At the height of Flower Power, I was a newly divorced (well, at least amicably separated) woman in my twenties and a pioneer settler in the cast iron district in Lower Manhattan that was becoming known as SoHo. When I renovated my first loft on Broome Street, I put in a minimal bathroom with the cheapest tin shower stall I could find. Incidentally, that loft was diagonally across the street from the one where Heath Ledger died. The articles on his death all described the neighborhood as luxurious and upscale, but it was anything but back then.
As I recall, bodily hygiene wasn’t a high priority in the 60’s, for myself and for many others. I won’t go into the gory details, but suffice it to say we got pretty funky. And at the Woodstock Festival, I didn’t get near running water for three days straight. I’m no Marcel Proust, and I don’t have a vivid olfactory memory. People must have smelled pretty ripe, I suppose, but the odor was masked by all the fragrant smoke.
Today, sitting at our computers and communicating on the World Wide Web, we can get equally odiferous if we choose. As I write, it’s 3:55 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, and I’m still in the luxurious powder-blue polyester garment I bought at Wal-Mart for $18. It’s a cross between velour and chenille, it zips up the front, and I don’t know whether to call it a robe or a nightgown, but I’ve been wearing it practically around the clock. I love it so much that if it survives the first wash in good shape, I’ll go back and get another one in pink. It’s comfy and cozy, but the day’s getting warmer, and – well, you get the idea
Thank heavens no one can smell us when we’re being scintillating online. They can’t see us either, unless we want them to. For the Poisoned Pen Web Con back in October, billed as the first virtual international mystery writers’ conference, authors had the option of doing live video feeds, but luckily I wasn’t up to speed on that particular technology. Some authors who did manage to give a presentation that way may wish they hadn’t – the fish-eye lenses built into their computers were anything but flattering.
I wonder if writers in Nebraska or Maine become even more slovenly than I do. I’m fortunate to live in the Capital Region of upstate New York, and there’s lots of live in-person literary and artsy action. I clean up fairly nicely for my age, and I enjoy dressing for success as much as the next woman. I spend much less money on clothes than I used to, though – one of the many advantages of doing most of my socializing online.
In a couple of hours, I’ll be leaving for the Albany’s monthly First Night to make the rounds of the galleries. Knowing my husband, he’ll tactfully say, “You’re going to take a bath, aren’t you?” I don’t know why he feels the need for these reminders after 36 years, because I do have a modicum of judgment on hygiene issues.
As I sit here at the computer in my upstairs office, looking out at the lake while my two cats stare in tense fascination at the red squirrel using the nearest bare tree as a jungle gym, I realize how lucky I am. I love reminiscing about the 60’s, but given the option, would I want to time-travel back? Not on your life.
This post originally appeared in slightly different form on Marvin Wilson’s blog on November 20, 2009. For more about my experiences in the 1960’s, click on the Woodstock category in my blogroll at the right.
© Julie Lomoe 2010