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January 23, 2010

Mary Kennedy Guest Blogs

The Woman Who Hated Mayonnaise and Other Oddities

by Mary Kennedy, a clinical psychologist and author of nearly 40 books, including DEAD AIR, the first novel in a mystery series featuring talk radio psychologist Maggie Walsh.

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    Book signings, like full moons, Spanx underwear and SuperBowl week-ends, seem to bring out the worst in people. At a recent signing, a middle-aged woman approached me, brandishing a copy of DEAD AIR. “There’s no mayonnaise in here, is there?”

 

  I was flummoxed. Could she possibly have mistaken my paperback mystery for a cookbook? “Mayonnaise? I don’t think so.”

 

  “Are you sure?” She leaned in close, blinking rapidly. She was thin, jittery, maybe one Xanax away from a nervous breakdown. “I have a phobia, you see. I can’t stand to read about mayonnaise. I can’t stand to see the word in print.” She gave me a searching look. “But you’re a psychiatrist, so you probably know about these things.”

 

  “Well, actually I’m a psychologist–“

 

  ”What’s the difference?”

 

  Seventy dollars an hour? No, wrong answer.  “Psychiatrists prescribe medications and we focus on behavioral modification techniques.” A few people had lined up behind her and I gently took the book out of her hands. “Now how would you like me to sign this?”

 

  “Blue,” she shot back.

 

  “Your name is Blue?” I paused, pen in mid-air.

 

  “No, I have another phobia. It’s  about the color blue.” She tapped the cover with a blood-red fingernail. “If there’s anything blue in the book–“

 

  I gulped. “You would be extremely upset.”

 

  ”Exactly.”

 

  Grumblings from the people behind her in line. Inspiration struck. I handed her a post-it. “Just write down your name and address.  I will edit out all mentions of mayonnaise and the word blue. I’ll send you an autographed copy, for free.”

 

  “For real?”

 

  Well, no actually.  But it got her away from the table.

 

  Sometimes people at signings actually make it into my books. When I was signing copies at a large suburban mall, a “furrie” couple was strolling happily  through the bookstore. It seems they had just come from an afternoon wedding. And yes, they were part of the wedding party.  Furries, in case you haven’t heard of them, are people who dress up as animals and have sex. They have annual conventions,  mixers and dinner dances, and generally have a good time with each other.  If you want to read more about “furries,” or “plushies,” just goggle the term. When they approached my table, the man (who was dressed as a raccoon) extended a friendly paw in greeting. His giggling wife was outfitted as a slightly overweight possum. They bought three of my books. “We heard you’re funny,” the man explained. When a guy dressed as a giant raccoon tells you you’re funny, well, what can I say? “Maybe you’ll write about us, someday?” his wife asked. “That would sure be nice. We don’t get the attention we deserve.”

 

  So I went home and wrote the opening scene of DEAD AIR. It features a radio caller discussing a recent Furrie Convention in Cypress Grove.  Like they say, it’s all material.  

 

 

Check out DEAD AIR here.  DEAD AIR book cover

      

     

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Someone has to ask, Mary, so it might as well be me: do Furries wear, um, real fur? Ms. Possum, was she in possum? He in raccoon? Thinking about this reminds me of the difficulties of kissing goodnight at the front door in Wisconsin in the wintertime . . . you either had to step in out of the bitter cold and (sometimes) swirling snow, which made for longer goodbyes, or you had to negotiate through two hooded large parkas, fur or not, to reach each other's lips . . . .

Mary, you always have the best stories! And I really enjoyed meeting Maggie Walsh. I hope all our TLC regulars put you on their "buy" list this week!

Thanks for being our guest, hon.

Hi Laraine, here's the answer to the furrie question. No, they don't wear real fur, they wear fake fur (PETA would approve)--there are actually speciality shops that sell clothing for furries. Think of a costume for a gigantic Easter bunny in the Mall, or maybe one of the Disney characters at the theme park. They're life-sized costumes (yes,complete with head!). I know it seems a bit hot and uncomfortable to imagine wearing one of those costumes--much less engaging in any romantic coupling--but as Maggie says, "whatever floats your boat."

Hi Nancy. Love TLC, thank you so much for inviting me! And I can't wait to read OUR LADY OF IMMACULATE DECEPTION. You were very kind to give me a terrific, kickass quote for my upcoming magazine article on resiliency, I really appreciate it! I think I may also use it in a psychology workshop.It's a keeper!

Mary, that must have been so bizarre. I have a friend who cannot say or see the word "snake", let alone an actual "tubular animal", as she calls them. We were at Disneyland together, right when the then-new Indiana Jones ride was opening. She and I were walking along when she spotted the signs in the distance (about 80 yards away). She gasped, planted her feet, and began hyperventilating, refusing to go any nearer, getting more and more hysterical.

I feel so bad for anyone who has such deep phobias, and can't imagine living that way. My goodness--the color blue is ubiquitous! You can't walk outside without seeing it somewhere. Maybe she was pulling your leg.

Those are some amazing stories, Mary! I had no idea that furries existed...or people who were phobic about mayo or the color blue!

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder
Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

Mr. Wendy dubs anime (Japanese cartoons) for a living, and we went to a convention once (research for me, work for him) ... fascinating! The people dressing up as characters and knowing more about those characters than I know about my own mom ...

The diversity of, uh, stuff? that people, uh, enjoy? never ceases to amaze me. And bless he internet for letting like-minded? compatible? people find each other. :)

Karen, I love the expression "tubular animal"--one of my 8 cats is so fat, she'd probably qualify for that description! Phobias can be very disabling--if you think back to Psych 101, phobias are actually a form of anxiety disorder. Low on the spectrum, but sometimes they can impair functioning and really interfere with someone's life. (think of a young woman who has claustrophobia and can't take a job in a high rise office, because she refuses to take the elevator.) On the really high end of the "anxiety continuum" would be panic attacks and agoraphobia. Phobias are somewhere in the middle. Hmm, still thinking about "tubular animal" and how I could get a book idea out of it .

Hilarious, yet insightful, as usual Mary. Loved this. But somewhere a jittery woman with blood-red fingernails is nervously checking her mailbox, daily.

Mary Jane, you are too funny! Yes, she might be checking her mailbox every day. (of course, on the other hand, maybe I should be checking my mailbox in case she sends me a letter bomb (just kidding! I think....)

Wendy, an anime convention sounds wonderful!! I would certainly love to go. Hmmm, I feel another book idea coming on

Elizabeth, the range of phobias never ceases to amaze me. I met someone at a cocktail party who told me she had a phobia about psychologists. Hmmm. She edged away from me and I didn't see her for the rest of the evening. We happened to meet up again in the front hall as we were leaving, and I couldn't resist asking, "Why do you think you have a phobia about psychologists? Where is that coming from?" And she said, "Oh, because I know you can read my mind--all psychologists can read minds." REALLY? If only that were true!! I could win the lottery, make a fortune in the stock market, and maybe even read my cat's mind. Or wait a minute, reading a cat's mind? Maybe that's too much of a stretch...

Soooo....Hello Mary and welcome to our little corner of the world.
So many traumas in our lives lead to phobias I suppose. Maybe that woman has slathered in mayo and forced to do unnatural acts at some point in her life. Or dyed blue for an Inca sacrifice ritual. (I'm remembering a scene from Help where the mom is scrubbing down her daughter mumbling something about coming home at all hours painted who knows what color.)
Actually that sounds like something that would have happened to Me, Margie only in her case it was probably gravy.
Furries just sound weird. I had a friend once, a dancer, who was Micky Mouse for a summer because he fit in the suit. He told me it was the job from hell. Orlando can get pretty warm. Did you know they have cooling systems inside those suits to keep people from having a heat stroke?
Back to the topic...I bet you have heard your share of weirdness.
Thanks for guesting!

Unnatural acts and ritual sacrifices--spoken like a true writer, Xena! I'd heard about the cooling units in those suits from a book I'd ready about teen performers at Disney. The name escapes me (my bad) but it was about a group of teens who were hired as "cast members" and spent the summer at Disney in Orlando. A terrific book with some surprising revelations.

Welcome Mary - great blog.

My town of Pittsburgh hosts an annual Furry Convention. Fascinating. I have a friend who works in the convention's hotel and the stories range from funny to beyond disturbing.

I'll have to check for your books at Mystery Lovers Bookshop!

Thanks so much, Kathy. I didn't know about the Furry Convention in Pittsburgh--that would have been a great research trip for me! And I love the Mystery Lovers Bookshop--they're the best!

My daughter, 25, has always had a phobia of clusters. She loves pomegranets, but only will drink the juice. The seeds inside kinda freak her out. I would have to take the grapes off the vine and put them in a bowl before she would eat them as a child. She is mostly over it now and she has worked it out herself, for the most part. As a child, she never freaked out or anything, but she would do the avoidance dance and just stay away from it. I can tease her about it now like she teases me about my aquaphobia and my claustrophobia.

CSI (the original, good one, not the cheap imitations) had an episode a couple of years ago about a murder at a Furry/Plushie convention. It was bizarre, of course.

Two of my three daughters are thoroughly creeped out by holes, in particular, holes that are grouped in regular patterns. I never realized this until we had a new driveway put in and my middle daughter discovered a hole about the size of a finger-width. Every time we had to go out there she would shudder violently, so I finally filled it in with some pebbles and dirt. When I told my oldest daughter she knew what I was talking about. Up until then I had no idea she had the same phobia.

These girls, by the way, are half-sisters, and were not raised together (they're 14 years apart), and had never discussed this phobia before this. Cue the Twilight Zone theme.

Whoa. My signings are so BORING compared to yours.

Lorna, we need to do some signings together! Safety in numbers, and all that.

I had a crazed admirer at a big signing in Atlanta and the organizer had to call security. This guy bought 8 copies of my book and said he wanted them "personalized"--all the same way. Hmmm. Personalized? An odd expression. A tiny red flag went off somewhere in my brain. He pushed the first one towards me and said, "I'll dictate what I want you to say." (power trip, anyone?)

Trying to play Agreeable Author, I said, "Sure, go right ahead."

"Write this down exactly as I say it." Hmm. Okay. "Thank you...to Malcolm Earl..."

"Okay, got that, thank you to Malcom Earl..." (all the time thinking, why am I supposed to be thanking this guy?)

He smiled a toothless grin and said, "For the best..."

For the best what? True confession time. Getting some weird vibes here.

Uh-oh. To my horror, he wound up for the big photofinish..."Night of my life." Whoa!!

Big triumphant smile on Crazy Fan's face. He leaned across the desk. "And I want them ALL signed that way. Thank you, Malcolm Earl, for the best night of my life. Yours Truly, Mary Kennedy."

Yowsers....I dropped the pen, pushed the books at him and yelped piteously until someone called security.

Pam, sometimes fear of clusters is a sign of OCD. Not as bad as MONK, but a low level version. Interesting! Sometimes I like to think that these phobias have an evolutionary basis (fearing small enclosed places wouldn't be a bad thing if you were a cavewoman and got stuck) and some are just random and defy explanation.

Karen, I wish I had seen that CSI episode. I think I'll google and see what episode it was, maybe I can watch it online. Interesting about the genetic pattern in phobias. Did you know that the latest research shows that hoarding (you've probably seen the reality show HOARDERS) has a genetic basis. They think it could be related to some anomaly on Chromosome 14. Even if this turns out to be true, people who hoard definitely needs some psych services (as do their relatives) to deal with this disorder. As I write this, I'm looking around my office and thinking I would qualify for an "intervention" myself. What a mess!

There could be something to that, Mary. My mother doesn't exactly hoard, but she shops and "collects". I do, too, although I try to stifle the impulse after clearing out the in-laws' home a few years ago, and trying to lighten our load here at home. But one of my daughters also seems to have that issue, much to her boyfriend's distress. We've never counted, but I am betting she has at least 350 t-shirts, all piled up on her bedroom floor, plus some here that she never took with her. Makes me itchy.

Welcome, Mary! I can't wait to get your new novel DEAD AIR. It looks like great fun.
All the best from suddenly, sunny California after days of torrential rain, tornados and mudslides.

Marie, how I envy you living in sunny California. I'm living in bitterly cold Delaware. (bad karma, perhaps). I deliberately set The Talk Radio Mysteries in a sunny spot (a fictional town in south Florida) because it just seemed like a great escape for Maggie. She closed up her Manhattan office because she was "sick of the cold, sick of New York real estate prices and sick of listening to people's problems all day long."

Karen, it's helpful to think of OCD as a defense against anxiety. If you've ever watched HOARDERS you've seen how upset people get when they are faced with losing their "treasures" (even if their treasures seem worthless, unsanitary and even dangerous to you and me!). There is some research suggesting that hoarding is a form of OCD, although it presents in a very different way than classic OCD (which includes counting, ritualistic behaviors, handwashing etc.) OCD is very difficult to treat, btw. It's a fascinating field and you have to wonder when it was first identified, how it was regarded by the medical profession, how it was dealt with in the family, etc.

Another thing to consider, is that "hoarders" rarely present for treatment on their own. It's always a family member, a loved one or a neighbor who seeks help for them.

Oh, Mary..so wonderful to see you here! I loved DEAD AIR...and I must say, the furries thing is new to me.

At least now I'm prepared for when I see one. Can't wait.

I always love it at singngs when peple want me to sign: To Aunt Helen. Or Nana. Or something like that. And I say--well, you know, she's not MY Nana...maybe I should just put her name? What's her real name?

So often, they look baffled. And they really have to think about it. But at least they're not dressed up like ferrets or something.

What a great post, Mary! I just put a link up on my Facebook page.

Mary, I'm a roleplaying gamer and a sci-fi/fantasy fan, so I have met several furries in my day. Some of them are just ordinary mildly kinky folks and others are, well, several steps outside the norm. Personally, I think sex is sweaty enough without being wrapped up in fake fur.

If you want inspiration from the fanboy/fangirl world, I might suggest checking out an RPG convention or a steampunk convention or a cosplay convention. A few minutes at any of them would give you several decades of character ideas.

Mary! Are you telling me psychologists can't read minds?!

Thank you for the educational portion of this excellent blog. Just when I think I've been around the block a few times, I learn about furries and plushies. Where have I been?

Mary & Karen, there was also a great study a few years back about the interplay of blood sugar with Hoarding and OCD-hoarding. My mom was a life-long coffee-and-sugar-holic, and went through phases of intense 'don't touch my stuff' hoarding. In her later years, we had some long conversations about it, and for her, the roots were in her unpredictably-tempered dad throwing out some precious toys as a punishment, and in loneliness as well as the Great-Depression-survivor sense that no 'thing' was trash and that it was wrong to be so careless with material possessions. During a few years in which her diet was cleaned up, she gradually learned to give things away and allow clean surroundings, although her tendency to memorialize (keeping every cup from Sunday church coffee time) did not disappear.

I saw the CSI with the furries, and it was seriously weird-well, it is television. It's nice to read you, Mary, and I will check out Dead Air. I'm a Marriage and Family Therapist in California, and toyed with the idea of doing a call in on our local access TV station, but I turned chicken, and then I was a little nervous of the some of the questions. I like your writings about OCD. I have heard that Psychiatrists are prescribing anti depressants for it, but I think anxiety has a lot to do with it. Hoarders, I think, are a lot about comfort, and reassurance. I can't believe the variety and humor on this blog. I'm enjoying this tremendously. You're all so, well, clever. I've actually seen Harley in a movie-such fun!

Wow. This is a new one, even by TLC standards...:)

Furries? Ye Gods....

I was going to bring up the CSI episode too. That was the first time I ever heard of Furries, and it's one of those things I would have been happier not knowing about.

I really need to attend one of your signings, Mary - they sound very, um, interesting. Delaware, you say? I'm outside of Philly, so I'll have to check on your schedule. I won't be the one dressed up in fur.

Karen, you are such a tuned-in and respectfully helpful mother. No wonder your daughters are so wonderful!

I am laughing so hard I'm showering my monitor with diet Dr Pepper over here! The reason this is so funny is that I attended a signing with Julie Hyzy today. Compared to your stories, Mary, it was positively boring - though I had a blast, and Julie is a doll. Somehow I think Julie probably preferred her fun but boring signing over your experiences!

Hi Mary, I recently had a conversation with someone at our local bar/restaurant about Furries. And I managed to get a line of that topic into my last book. I found it interesting. :) Cute that they came to your signing.
Kathy www.kathykulig.com

LOL! Book signings can definitely be...an experience. As you say, it's all material!

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