- My gifted friend Barbara McPherson wrote this hilarious look at hippie culture. In the Kootenays, the Nelson area and Slocan valley in particular, the sixties never quite ended.
Published here with permission of the author.
How to Be Socially Acceptable in the Kootenays.
In the past, if you'd read Emily Post, you knew the proper etiquette for most events and situations. But nowadays, it can be tricky to be socially acceptable. Every area has its own peculiarities, the Kootenays being a sterling example. There are certain rules that should be known if you wish to fit into the most predominant type of society up and down the valley.
Proper identifying clothing is absolutely essential. Never wear anything that is pink, light blue, lemon yellow, or of a synthetic fabric. It must not be fluffy, ruffled, or tight-fitting. It's also best if nothing matches. The bywords to remember are: earth colours, layering, wool, cotton, and used.
People in the Kootenays wear lots of jewellry but it must be of the right type:
Wrong: The pretty locket Aunt Mildred gave to you. Right: Necklaces made of mysterious concoctions of leather, feather, and crystals. But, a word of caution: you will be found out if you wear a necklace with, say, a rune, and you don't know what the symbolism is. Murmuring something like "The Great Mother" doesn't cut it if the other person is up on their Nordic runes.
Rings are not only acceptable but mandatory. In fact, you can't have too many rings. If you run out of fingers, you can use your toes, or even your nose. But they must be the right sort of rings:
Wrong: gold rings with a lot of diamonds or any other blatantly expensive kind of stone. Right: anything made of silver, preferably with symbols such as Egyptians ankhs, Celtic spirals or the Great Mother's vulva.
Once you're dressed the right way, the next area of greatest importance is the kind of vehicle you drive. Never, ever, own a new white Cadillac, even if someone gives it you. Be warned that if you arrive at a new-age health food store or a Reiki workshop in this sort of car, they won't let you in the door. If you must have one, park it at least a block away and say you hitched a ride in with your neighbour.
The right kind of vehicle, however, is tricky. Even if it's a pickup truck or a Jeep, it can't be too new or too big. Small cars with a liberal amount of rust and faded stickers that say "Free Tibet" or "Blessed Be" are the best bet if you're to be taken seriously. Never, under any circumstances, own, drive, or ride as a passenger in a cherry-red diesel pickup with a bumper sticker that says "Hug a logger, not a tree". This is not only worse than a new white Caddy, but fatal to your reputation.
If you've been legally married to the same person for over twenty-five years, it's best to be discreet about it. Rather than referring to your spouse as "husband" or "wife", it's best to murmur "my long-time life partner", with a slight inflection in your voice hinting that this could change at any time.
If you have a job, the best sort to have is part-time, low-paying, and to do with healing, the environment, or making things with hemp and garlic.
If you do happen to have a high-paying, full-time job in a logging company office, keep quiet about it. Stash your money in a Swiss bank and keep driving your old car.
There's much more that could be said, but this has to be cut short. I have to slip on my Pakistani cotton dress, jump into my 1979 Dodge Omni, and get to work at the health food store. The cosmic clock never ceases to tick.
Barbara McPherson, Nakusp