The Perils of Modern Life
I believe in censorship! If a picture of mine didn’t get an X-rating, I’d be insulted.
Don’t forget dear, I invented censorship.
Mae West – actress, Hollywood legend and author of Sex (1926).
We live in strange times. 2022 has been marred by extreme climate catastrophes, the ongoing global pandemic and brutal ugly wars being inflicted on peaceful countries. And it’s still only March.
Small wonder many folk are seeking distraction by overindulging in mind altering drugs, alcohol, excessive carbohydrate fixes, virtual reality games, streamed television series and the distraction of social media.
Those who never leave their sofa or their homes are no longer socially stigmatized. Hell, we all have those days.
However, other citizens leapt at the chance to overhaul their lives during pandemic shutdowns. Many dedicated themselves to prolonged walking, vigorous exercise and extreme sports providing both euphoria and distraction.
Barely a day passes without someone bragging on social media about how the pandemic forced them to better themselves. They mention increased focus on their mental health, improving their marriages, dealing with their body mass index, career changes and a sudden inexplicable urge to do some good in the world.
Shutdowns and pandemic stress seems to have intensified problems with nesting couples. The Australian Federal Circuit Court statistics indicate the divorce rate has increased. But nobody knows how many de facto relationships have also ended, as statistics are not available.
Sometimes when I read the gloomy daily news I feel ashamed to be a human being. And during Melbourne’s prolonged shutdowns I experienced dog envy. I started to wish I was one of the canines I’d met while standing in line for takeout cafe coffee.
Most of the neighbour’s dogs have kind, caring and responsible owners. I’d watch their dogs cavorting on the beach and observing them being so damned cheerful inevitably lifted my mood.
Nothing seemed to dampen their doggy joy as they went about the serious business of simply being a dog. Sniffing, digging holes, leaping into the sea or retrieving anything tossed in their direction. Most – but not all – are living their best lives.
My favourite dog is a petite fluffy mongrel who attempts to retrieve objects bigger than his head. He never gives up and is peachy keen on any planks of wood washed up on the beach.
Lately I’ve been wondering how our predecessors coped with the stresses of living and a need for distraction. It seems that some things never change. The Victorians and Edwardians have acquired a reputation for being uptight and conservative. But titivation and erotica were just as popular then as now.
In 1903 Mrs Elinor Glyn published, Three Weeks. These days the novella is considered a bizarre but tame read, but back then it was the Edwardian version of Fifty Shades of Grey and sold about 2 million copies.
Glyn frequently had severe financial problems. And Cecil Beaton maintained she’d often been faced with the prospect of choosing between becoming a prostitute or making a living writing. She chose the pen and wrote forty books and several successful screen plays.
Mrs Glyn was eccentric, ladylike in appearance and devoted to plastic surgery. She scrubbed her face with cold water and a wire brush. Glyn also had her jaw surgically lifted forward and her teeth fixed in a forward position.
Elinor Glyn cultivated a sultry appearance – whitened skin, flaming red hair, kohl rimmed eyes and fur trimmed gowns. Despite the erotic tone of her writing, she swore love interested her much more than sex.
Three Weeks is about a passionate three week affair between a wickedly sophisticated woman with a dark past and an inexperienced younger man named Paul. Purple cushions and sumptuous Tiger rugs feature frequently. Usually with the heroine squirming around, playing guitar or posing languidly – thereby inciting her lover to fits of passion and despair.
When the lady tosses a scarlet rose to Paul he wants to strangle her with love – but instead he bites the rose. Hard. There’s many torrid passages in the novella. It comes as no surprise that Three Weeks inspired both satire and raunchy humour.
Glyn’s prose is gloriously over the top and unintentionally humorous. ‘She purred like a tiger while she undulated like a snake.’
Photo: Ajax and Cassandra by Solomon J. Solomon (1886). Art Gallery of Ballarat Australia.