When I was younger, I was a little obsessed with the words hippie, beatnik and bohemian. I’m not sure if obsessed is necessarily the right word, but I found myself always a little left of center, never wanting to fit in and completely unable to fit in even if I tried. As the years went by and some of these adjectives for living became mainstream or acceptable to many, I found myself once again turned off by them, not ever feeling like I fit into some group where others easily found themselves. That was just it; I never fit in.
I’ve long since stopped trying to figure this out and believe that my not fitting in originates somewhere between my being an alcoholic and addict, probably by predisposition at birth, being gay, definitely from birth, and probably a mixture of social anxiety psychobabble labels that I don’t need but would explain something about myself. I don’t know, I just don’t feel like other people think like me and even when I’m talking to someone who I feel like I do relate to, they look at me and kind of nod like they get me when they don’t.
None of this is making any sense and the reality is that this post was actually going to be about how I always wanted to live this “bohemian” lifestyle when one day I woke up and realized I did live a “bohemian” lifestyle. I found myself attracted to colorful clothing and jewelry, listening to amazing music, obsessed with wonderful food, art and literature and hell, I was a writer!
But what I realize now is that none of that matters. I mean, I love the word bohemian because I think that it somehow encompasses a way of thinking that I most relate to, but it’s just a word. I looked up the definition and it says: a person who has informal and unconventional social habits, especially an artist or writer. (free spirit, noncomformist, dropout, unconventional, unorthodox, avant-garde, irregular, offbeat, alternative, artistic…beatnik, hippie!)
Look at that, would ya! All of those things that I was dying to be were the complete definition of bohemian. But some of those words sound negative like unorthodox, irregular, offbeat, dropout and nonconformist. It made me start thinking about how my husband Alex has always chided me for giving words too much power. “Words only have as much power as you give them,” he has always said. And he is right, but he’s never been one too consumed with fitting in. In fact, he could care less. And so could I but I guess I’d like to belong somewhere.
So why were these words so important to me over the years? I think in some ways I wanted to fit into some group, but not necessarily a group of sellouts and phonies. I think that’s why I was always attracted to those Bohemian artists like Janis Joplin and JD Salinger, because their words resonated with mine. But today, tons and tons of people listen to Janis and every college freshman has read The Catcher in the Rye. Maybe people just as afraid as they used to be or maybe more people just want to fit in.
I’m still searching for that word that describes me. I’m still trying to fit in somewhere. Is there a word for a guy who loves to love, make up stories and drive around in his car late at night, chasing full moons while drinking gas station coffee? If so…I’m that guy.
Peter the bohemian