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Posts by Tiffani

by Tiffani Michele

A bunch of my friends call February, “Sexuary”, and vow to have sex every day with their husbands. This has been going on for a couple years now.

Last year I ran my first half marathon and moved into a cute little house, and I kind of went under the radar while I focused, ran, and packed/unpacked my little heart out. I barely had any extra energy to feed myself, let alone spend any time texting/facebooking friends or thinking about sex. Plus, I didn’t have a boyfriend. So Sexuary came and went and I had no idea.

This year is a bit different. I happened to meet up with a bunch of these friends in Vegas and they spent part of the time talking about what they had in store for their month long sexathon…outfits they’d put together, toys they’d bought, and all the things they were going to try. Committing to a month of daily sex takes a bunch of planning and, aparently, alcohol. Also, the floozies were sexting up a storm with their husbands while they were living large in the LV.

There isn’t much I miss about being in a relationship, I think the divorce thing is still too new for me to harbor a strong desire to get back into something that still feels like going to jail…but I did feel sad that I couldn’t join in their girly games. And while I have no problems being alone, I did feel lonely for the first time in a while. I have no one to send pictures of my glittery cleavage too. Or my ass in fishnets. Or just me smiling into my phone, wishing the other person was there. My friends were nice enough to tell me I could sext them anytime and they would respond accordingly, but it’s just not the same.

I also started to opt out of all their Sexuary talk, since I’m not in a relationship nor do I have a dude for a booty call every day of the month. I also don’t have 28 dudes for a booty call one time each. I don’t have 14 booty call dudes for sex twice each. I, uh, have no booty call dudes, period.

But then I thought to myself, “Don’t forget about a little something called masturbation.”

I was raised with the belief that masturbation is wrong. To keep me from doing it, or anything bad, I was also told that God could hear my thoughts and see my deeds. And that, my friends, is a real ladyboner killer. I immediately felt sick to my stomach, and so knew I had to commit to Sexuary. Daily sex, oh yes, and with myself. I had some ‘hangups’. I had some nights I felt uninspired. I discovered that I also needed good planning and booze to pull it off.

I’ve invested in myself a lot this month. Some days I knew I didn’t feel in the mood, and did whatever it took to help myself out.

Me to me: “What do you need right now to get you to a happy, sexy place?”
Me to me: “Ice cream with hot fudge!”
or: “Baked brie with french bread!”
or: “new shoes!”
or: “something from a trashy store!”
or: “I need to dance!”
or: “I just need to find a quiet spot to chill and think. With wine.”

So far, so good.

Strike that.

So far, so great!

Actually…

So far, so amaaaaaaazing.

I shortly worked out how to get God out of my head by realizing that if he’s going to be listening to anyone’s scenarios in their head while they masturbate, they won’t be mine. Not that I’m boring, but I know a lot of highly creative people who I’m sure have a lot more twisted shit going on in their imagination that would be a lot more interesting than anything I’m whipping up in there. And with billions of people on the earth, I think my thoughts are flying under the radar.

And I don’t really give a shit anymore, anyway.

What I do give a shit about is learning how to use the most expensive toy I’ve bought for myself. All I can say is, before I didn’t know what to do with this thing that some amazon reviews claimed was “pretty and would even make an attractive sculptural decoration”…and now I can tell you it’s worth the money if you’re in the market.

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I’ve learned a lot this month. I’ve learned so much, I’m surprised. Maybe I’ll sum it all up when this Sexuary month is over. Some things have been fun to learn and some things have been profound. It’s been a lot of fun and it’s been a lot of work, too. It has taken a kind of commitment and devotion to myself that has been unprecedented in my life so far. I can only imagine that this same commitment and devotion is also present if you do it with a partner, and now I understand why my friends do this every year.

It is grueling though, so I also understand why they pick a month that only has 28 days in it!

By Tiffani “Let’s Talk About Sex” Michele

When discussing the topic for this month, all of us ladies of O+U decided it was only reasonable to assume that February would be devoted to love. All things love. Love love lovey love. We all have love, feel love, give love, receive love, love the love!

And then no one posted anything.

*crickets chirping*

And then we were all, “OK, how about love and/or sex?!” and that got us excited again! For a second. And then no one posted anything.

*more crickets*

Isn’t it interesting that the two things that drive our entire human experience are also the two things that are the hardest to maintain/have energy for/open up to/accept/give. Songs are sung, poems are written, facebook status updates typed out, tweets sent, love notes poured over, sex help books penned, porn posted online, and thousands upon thousands of wishes made for love and sex. Humanity spends a lot of time and energy and money in the pursuit of both these things.

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My first love note, 9 years old.

We all want it.
We all need it.

So why are both love and sex so difficult to nourish and keep around? How is it that these two things aren’t the easiest parts of our collective lives rather than the stress, heartbreak and complications they often become?

My married friends complain about taking care of all the errands/responsibilities/work issues/life problems in their everyday lives and then not having enough energy for sex. They talk in exasperated tones about having to give so much of themselves to kids/spouse that they just don’t get a break. They fantasize about getting away for a little bit all by themselves. I remember; I used to be there, do that.

My single friends complain about doing all the work of living life without the bonus of having awesome sex to make it worth it. They talk about having so much to offer but no one around to want and appreciate it. They fantasize about sharing some of their alone time with someone else that they can laugh/cry/share/eat/grind all over. I know; I am there, think that.

I remember being married and comparing notes with my other married friends…how often do you have sex, and for about how long, and do you really get into it or just do plain old vanilla sex…just to see if my twice a week/10 minutes/same old routine experience was the norm or not. It wasn’t unusual to mentally schedule a night (or nights) for sex so that I could prepare myself during the day and try to keep the stress/busyness at bay. And so I could shave and groom. And actually put on makeup and/or a bra. When it wasn’t those scheduled nights, I would get undressed quickly in my closet with the door closed so that there would be no chance for any exposed flesh to turn anyone on.

And now, with the reality that sex isn’t guaranteed or scheduleable, I am a sex maniac. I think about it. I dream about it. I vow that when I find a partner, we are going to have sex every night before bed and every morning before we get up. I want to cuddle while we watch TV together while rocking our bodies back and forth in a shared laugh. I promise I won’t be stingy with my girl parts and will not hide them behind a closed closet door. Mostly? I don’t want to just feel love, I want to share love. And in the cheesiest sentence I will ever write, I want something else: I want to make love. I’m not saying, “I want to make love again”, I’m saying, “I’ve never experienced sex as something people do together as an awesomely inadequate substitution for actually just wanting to get everything they are and feel and hope and want and fear and love into the same space as everything the other person feels and hopes and wants and fears and loves.” That. I want that.

Aren’t we a crazy lot. We wax poetic about finding true love, then when we get it, rant and rave on Facebook about how that person is driving us batshit crazy.

I don’t know the answer. Sometimes you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Like the grass is always greener philosophy, only sadder. Perspective is an enlightening bitch, and maybe that’s the key.

To my married friends, let me be the reminder that once sex isn’t a constant, it becomes really important again. Like, you’ll become like a raging hormonal 17 year old boy without any options. And once selfless and devoted love isn’t a constant, it becomes something worth more than any golden treasure. Life is still awesome without it, but it’s kind of like taking photographs at midday…it’s a little bit harsh and stark. Selfless and devoted love turns life into the golden hour…dreamy, sunflare-y, soft, and magical.

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And to me, and all my single friends, I’m reminded that it’s important not to get lost or defined by anything outside myself. That anything, no matter how great it is, will start to annoy me if I forget to take care and prioritize myself. And that it’s good to take some time out and just enjoy the silence of myself.

Love is in many forms. Sex is in many forms. Together, alone, with and without.

It’s messy and crazy and brings out the best and worst in people.

Let’s see what this month in O+U brings!

By Tiffani “sprouting like a chia pet” Michele

Ah, 2013. For the first time in a long while, I wasn’t so anxious to get rid of the previous year. 2012 was pretty good to me, so you’ll understand why I’m not clinging to you like the last life vest available on a stormy sea. It’s not that 2012 was any better or worse than what I’m sure you’ll throw at me…I don’t love it any more or less. I think the key was that I had very little expectations for awesome last year. 2011 almost killed me with piles and piles of shit situations. By the time I limped into 2012 I felt a certain amount of depressive symptoms without being depressed; apathetic, numb, pretty meh. I gave up…not on life, otherwise that would totally be depression, but on control of life. Que sera, sera, bitches. I was done with expectations and goals and control.

2012 was about letting what happened, happen, and accepting it. Growing from it, learning from it, being with it. I extended this same laissez faire attitude towards myself. Fuck improving myself. Fuck self help books and Oprah lightbulb moments. I had exactly one moment of clarity, and it was this: Relax and get real comfortable with yourself…the good and the bad. Stop being such a judgemental asshole to your own existence and just go with it. Don’t change it, don’t wish you were different, just be.

Turns out this was just as much work as trying to change everything and make everything better. But it was much more fulfilling and fun than my usual uptight self. Not giving a fuck really makes a difference!

By the time December rolled around, I decided to stop shaving and embrace myself in all my natural, hairy glory. I’d never done that before. Ever. And then, at the end of the month, I’d shave everything…including my head. I felt very happy about all of this, especially all the time I saved in my shower routine NOT shaving every nook and cranny.

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I called it “the Reforestation of Tiff” and I rocked my hairy shit like no one’s business. I took my hairy legs and armpits to clubs in Las Vegas. I showed my bushy crotch at pools and beaches all around town. Speaking of bush…I love mine. I LOVE MY BUSH! In fact, it’s never been a bush before. It’s been a manicured lawn. It’s been a closely trimmed green at a golf course. It’s even been completely barren like a hairless cat. But never, ever, ever have I understood where the term “bush” came from. Until now.

I showed my legs off to my kids. “Look at this!” I’d say. My 13 year old son was actually really impressed. “Wow, mom, I didn’t know ladies could do that!” And honestly, neither did I. But I bluffed. “Real ladies, son. This is what real ladies look like! Look at all this hair!” Open mouthed, he said, “You have just as much as I do!” and yes, yes I did. I felt proud.

I had a moment of self doubt when it came time to shave it all off, including my head.

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But then I said “Fuck it!” and did it anyway. My leg hair was so long I ended up using clippers to mow it down. I was really happy to see it go…and now it’s halfway grown back again. Not shaving is a luxury that I’m OK taking advantage of now…no shame is compelling me to get rid of it. I also left my armpits and arms unshaved. And after a month it’s clear that the reforestation of my bush is only halfway done, so I’m letting that do it’s thing down there. It’s pillowy soft and when I see myself in the mirror I’m reminded not of some 70’s style porn (why oh why is female sexuality always described in terms of porn?!) but more like of countless paintings of women since art began. My bush, it is art!

My shaved head is amazing and makes me very happy indeed. So simple. So humble. So badass.

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I cannot stop rubbing my own head. I like when other people rub it, too. I like putting hats on it and taking hats off of it. I like the feel of wind/water on my scalp. Delicious is the best word to describe having a shaved head. I think it’ll be short for a while. The rest of 2013, at least! After that, who knows.

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Que sera, sera bitches!

by Tiffani Michele

**This is not your normal holiday tradition post, either. Going into it, I already know what’s in store for you oh gentle reader. And it may be TMI, even for my blogging standards of overshare. If you know me, think you might meet me one day, or have just eaten a meal, it may be wise to skip out on this one. I’m not sure in what order I will craft my masterpiece of a post but I know it will include nipple hair, menstrual blood, and shaved heads. You have been warned.**

Last year, I started a new holiday tradition. I have a bunch of oldie but goodies that I like…advent calendar, fancy hot chocolate and scones, decorating the inside of my minivan, dipping everything I can think of in chocolate, mason jar dessert mixes for presents…but last year I came up with a little tradition I like to call, “Shaving My Fucking Head, Bitches!” Until recently I didn’t know it was a tradition, except as the anniversary approaches I realized that I missed my shaved head and really really want to do it again.

I’m not done with the experience. I’m not done with the delicious way it feels when I shower, or a wind blows, or someone rubs my head. I’m not done with how badass it feels to say “fuck you” to societal norms on women’s appearance. I’m not done with how completely vulnerable it is to shave away something so feminine and present myself to the world with only my face. I’m not done with spending no money and no time on my haircare routine. I’m not done with wearing cute knitted hats to keep me warm and then immediately regulating my temperature by taking the hat off when too hot.

Last year I did it on my own, and month by month a few more friends of mine shaved their heads (and loved it!) until now I figure at least 25 of my facebook connections have done it. This year, I’m giving you, oh awesome reader, a chance to join in if you’d like to. You have a month to think it over, and then on Jan. 1st…BAM, MOTHERFUCKERS! It’s time to take it all off. I’m not suggesting everyone should do it, but if you feel a tingle of anticipation and a rush of excitement just thinking about it then you totally should. Just do it.

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Gearing up for this big shave, (and here’s where you should stop reading if you’re prone to queasy) I’m not only letting my hair grow on my head but I’m growing my hair *everywhere*. *All over.* *No razor allowed!* *Anywhere!* At the same time I’m exploring what it means to be feminine without hair, I’m exploring what it’s like to be feminine with hair.

This all came to me a couple weeks ago while washing menstrual blood from off my legs in a rushing river. I was driving up the Pacific Coast Highway to meet 7 friends in Santa Cruz, and I guess the anticipation of so much female power unlocked my inner goddess and she decided to respond by giving me the gushiest start to a period EVER. While I was camping by myself in a clearing, next to a river. I wasn’t due to start my period, but it didn’t stop it from happening when I woke in the morning and stood up to eat some trail mix. With blood running all down my leg I did the only thing I could do…stepped into the running water, crouched down, and rinsed myself. I felt like a freaking pioneer woman or something. Just taking care of shit in a river.

I hesitated a bit, though, even covered in blood with no other option. “Would I be polluting the water? Is it OK, to just rinse myself like that? Is it right? Is it proper? Is it gross?”

And then I thought, “There are countless corporations defiling billions of gallons of riverwater a second, which you’re actually not aware of but probably should be more vigilant about, and you’re wondering if your natural body fluids are shameful? What is wrong with you?!”

For the rest of the drive; after purchasing Motrin, a chocolate bar, and tampons from the nice gas station dude, I wondered about what other things made me feel shameful about my femininity.

Let me tell you, that opened a big can of whoop ass worms.

I realized that from the time I started shaving, around 12, until that moment, that I’d never stopped shaving. That, in fact, I added more and more things TO shave until a significant part of my shower routine was spent with razor in hand.

At 12, it started with my lower legs.
At 14, it was my lower legs, upper thighs, underarms, and general bikini area.
At 16, a friend pointed out that I should start shaving my nipple area because some chicks got hair there. I didn’t, but started just in case.
At 17, a boyfriend commented I had “monkey arms” and instead of breaking up with him I started shaving them.
At 18, it was my lower legs, upper thighs, underarms, half my arms, nipple area, more focused bikini area with landing strip pubes.
At 21 it was my lower legs, upper thighs, underarms, half my arms, nipple area, bikini area, and asshole area. To be a more proper lady, of course.
By 30 it was all that and also my upper arm area and also tweezing my eyebrows and waxing my upper lip/chin.

That continued until recently. In fact, not only did I do that…I did it religiously every other day. I wouldn’t even have sex unless I’d shaved within the day or two. I never thought about it, it was just an effort to be “attractive”, “womanly”, “feminine”. It was driven by shame. Not that the act of shaving is shameful, but how I felt if I didn’t shave was. Why? I don’t know. It’s just hair! But I have no idea what I’m like au naturale. Do I have nipple hair? Don’t know! Do I agree that I have monkey arms? Don’t know! But probably not, since that dude was an asshole and why the fuck did I keep shaving my arms long after he was gone?

A few friends have pointed out that being a single woman is not the best time to experiment with a shaved head and hairy legs.

Fuck that, why not? Beyond the obvious, of course.

Who could ever fall in love with a bald, hairy woman? Who can even like a bald hairy woman who may or may not have nipple hair? Is that even dateable?

And that’s when it hit me. I’m done doing things from a place of shame because I think it will please other people and therefore make me more pleasing. I got shit to work out before I worry about who will or won’t love or even like me. Date me or don’t. Kiss me and my unwaxed upper lip or don’t. If hair or no hair is really a dealbreaker to someone, then it’s best I know that up front because that shit would never work out. None of that even matters until I can answer one simple question:

Can I ever fall in love with a bald, hairy woman?

Not that I’m a lesbian, I meant, you know, me.

Can I like myself even if I’m bald and hairy?

This is the month I’m starting to figure it out. I’ll have a merry christmas and then BAM! Time to shave.

You, of course, are welcome to join me for any or all of this experience.

Happy (Hairy!) Holidays!

by Tiffani Michele

Do you remember when you were 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 and maybe even 8; and you played dress up, imaginary games, and acted with stuffed animals? Do you remember wanting to be 18 different things when you ‘grew up’, depending on your mood and/or what you learned about in school that particular day? Remember when you were just you, undefined by what you did/how much you earned/who your friends were/what other people thought of you? Remember being unselfconscious and able to make funny faces and do random shit as the mood struck?

Yeah, I don’t remember being like that either. But I know everyone has those moments in childhood mostly because I look at my own kids doing and being just like that, and I have pictures of me in various dress up clothes totally acting the part.

I can’t remember what I wanted to be when I grew up. But I know what I became: a student, then a wife, then an employee at various jobs I didn’t care about, then a mom, then a volunteer at assorted church/community positions. I became fulfilled in some of those roles and bored in others, but defined myself by all of them.

Now I’m in a no man’s land…not a wife. Not a churchgoer. Not a student. Not even a volunteer for anything anymore.

Where does that leave me?! Do I become something different when I’m not anything that I thought I was?

Do you? Have you ever reinvented yourself? Changed up your life in big and little ways? Decided to become something no one (including you) ever thought you’d be?

If you want to, you can easily shake up your life by doing one simple thing: just do the opposite of what you’d usually do. If you’d usually say yes to something, say no. Vice versa…say yes to other things if you’d usually say no. (Within reason, obviously!) It’s a bit like falling down the rabbit hole and experiencing vertigo on the cellular level.

I’m not who I thought I was. At first this was terrifying and paralyzing. A crisis in identity. And then, without the old constraints, I started becoming something more. Independent. Photographer. Traveler. Drinker. Dancer. Hooper. Writer. Entrepreneur. Lover. Hater. Saint. Sinner. I had a weird shift in awareness, understanding that my definition of myself is the only thing that defines who I am. If I get rid of the definition, then I don’t get rid of the “I”…I simply am “me.” And even better than that, I found that if I shift my definition of myself it likewise shifts how I perceive my place in the world.

Who am I? I’m nothing, and I’m everything.

And just who do you think you are?

What do I want to be today? It’s the same question, actually, that I probably asked myself when I was 3. And I probably answered it pretty simply then and in the same way I answer it now: “Whatever makes me blissfully happy.”

The bad news is that without a set definition of yourself, you’ll always be on the lookout for who you really are. Always searching. Always exploring. Always delving. The good news is that without a set definition of yourself, you’ll always be surprised at what you’ll find. Never a dull moment. Never a right or wrong way. And every moment can be shifted from being a way that isn’t working into being a way that does work.

And that’s how losing my identity has turned out to be the best thing for learning all about who *I* really am.

by Tiffani “No Longer In Her 30’s” Michele

I was going to title this “Aging Gracefully”, but that lent to images in my head of a lovely woman in creme pants and lacy blouse with pink cheeks and gold earrings slowly sipping on tea while lounging in a chinzy chair. And that aint me. I’m known to wear a inappropriately short dress that makes me look like a discoball. I love to make my hair look like colors more suited to frosting on top of cupcakes. I like to dance and sing much too loudly. I love wearing neon colors.

So then I was going to title this “Aging Not So Gracefully” but that lent to images in my head of a used to be party girl a la Pamela Anderson with stringy hair, ashy skin, lips hashed with lines from puffing on cigarettes, and a body hammered by years of thoughtless living. And that aint me either. I’m careful about drinking enough water, getting enough rest, and stretching in the morning. I love feeling strong, athletic, and grounded. Hard drugs aren’t in my past or future, and the only thing I might drink to excess some nights is whiskey.

I almost went with, “Aging, She’s a Bitch!” but she’s really not. Age is another word for experience when it comes to humans, and if someone offered to give me one year back in exchange for one big experience I’ve had in the last 40 years I would stay 40 instead of cashing 20 things in and going back to 20. I know my body intimately now in ways I couldn’t connect to before. My emotions run deep and I have a huge gratitude for this vessel I’m in. I love how strong it is, I love the babies it’s carried, I super love all the orgasms it’s given me, I love how it’s hair grows fast enough to let me color/cut/shave/style it anyway I want and it will always go back to normal, I love it’s insights and confidence.

So, OK, how about, “Aging, She’s Not a Bitch!” but she kind of is. I’m not so zen that I look at the wrinkles around my eyes and call them laugh lines. Things are sagging that used to be…not saggy. Things are softening up that used to be…not soft. Things are stretched and pulled and wrinkled that used to be…not. I watch my teenage daughter develop into the woman I used to be–taut belly, smooth face, firm breasts and a perky butt–and understand a little bit where Snow White’s stepmother was coming from. I’m not proud of that, I just kind of get it though!

As you can tell, aging has left me just as convoluted and all over the place as anything else in my life. I’m a walking contradiction. I like to say, “I contain multitudes”, a line right out of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. I also accept this reason from my kids when I ask them why the heck they’ve done what they’ve done (because kids really do some crazy shit that makes no sense whatsoever). It really covers a lot.

So. Maybe that’s just it. I contain multitudes. I make no apologies for it. Some days I’m strong, others I’m weak. Some days I know what is going on, others I walk around thinking, “What the fuck?”. I don’t have all the answers. I’m brash and bold and shy and scared. I don’t play by the rules much anymore.

Always always now, I am me.

The first 40 years of my life I feel like were lived for everyone else. For 40 years it was all about what other people liked/wanted/needed/thought/felt/opined. The next 40? It’s the “Me Show”. Some people get it, some don’t. I’m not for everyone. For the first time ever, at this point in my life I don’t really care to be for everyone. I don’t really care to follow someone else’s rules all the time. I know myself well enough to know what I need to do to keep me happy and fulfilled.

I tried to find a horoscope or fortune to tell me what was in store for me in the next year. The fortunes from Panda Express were lame (anyone notice how lame fortunes are getting? They’re more like bossy parents…”do something nice for someone else”…wtf?!) and the horoscopes were all wrong. And then, when I walked into the photobooth with my kids to do a birthday photobooth, there it was. The writing on the wall. The sage words from an Oracle.

Are you ready for what’s in store for the next year? Feel free to join in!

by Tiffani Michele

I’m happy we’re doing a month of “Me!” here on O+U.

Isn’t it decadent? Indulgent?! Selfish, even? Me, me, me, me, me!

When was the last time you thought about you. What was best for you, what you thought about something, what you wanted. It probably doesn’t happen very often. There are jobs, responsibilities, spouses/significant others, kids, friends, and basic life that seems to get in the way and impose itself on personal wishes.

Also, society in general isn’t very kind to women who put themselves first, who talk about themselves in glowing terms, who take the time to get to know themselves and make choices based on their own happiness. Or, at least, the society that I’m used to keeping. Women like that are selfish, with the wrong priorities, who will probably end up alone and sad. Selflessness is the path to happiness! Service to others! The road to perfect womanhood is paved with sacrifice and martyrdom!

Bullshit.

I wish I’d spent a little more time in my teen years learning about what made me happy as I did learning about how to make other people happy. I wish I’d spent more time in my pre-marriage/kids years making myself happy instead of pleasing everyone else. I wish I’d taken more time to ask myself who I was and who I wanted to be instead of caring so much about who others thought I was and who they wanted me to be. Do you feel me, readers?! Can I get a hell yeah?!

I didn’t know who the hell I was when I married at 20. I didn’t know who the hell I was when I had kids shortly thereafter. I coasted along for a while, on the fumes of being a lot of who other people wanted me to be…but inevitably I ran out of gas and everything fell apart. The biggest casualty has been my marriage, but I also think I could have been a much better mom than I was.

I’m making up for a lot now. Figuring out who I am, who I want to be, what makes me happy. There are weekends when my ex has the kids, and I have 2 whole days to be by myself. And sometimes he takes them for a week or two at a time on a fun vacation, and guess where that leaves me? With just myself!

Me, me, me.

For the first time in my life, I’m putting myself on the list of “people to care about and make happy.”

It’s a hard question to answer first, and people get a little testy when they realize you are asking it of yourself and they still haven’t. Like, how dare you think of yourself like that! I’m martyring myself on the altar of mindless housework/70 hour workweeks/being at my family’s beck and call 24/7…to be my friend you must be as miserable as I am so we can complain about it over a late night glass of wine!

It takes some finagling to balance everything. I’m not as much of a chef as I used to be. The kids are doing their own laundry now. Sometimes they want to do something and I have them wait until I’m done hooping.

I like what this is showing to my daughters, though. I like thinking of them not as martyrs, sacrificing themselves to something outside of themselves, be it a man or kids or a job. I like thinking of them as themselves, strong in the knowledge of what makes them happy. I want them to have a joyful life based on decisions they make surrounding what they want. I want them to know that they matter, their opinions matter, their happiness matters.

“Follow your bliss” is what Joseph Campbell said, and I believe him.

But first, you have to know what your bliss is.

Do you know? Have you taken the time to figure that out for yourself?

By Tiffani Michele

I was just in New England for a week with my oldest daughter, 16, who I dropped off to stay in Cape Cod for a month of writing and general teenage messing around. Before she started the program we spent some time sightseeing, eating, and exploring in the Boston area. My god, it was enjoyable! Once kids stop being needy selfish assholes on roadtrips, it’s amazing how much fun you can have with them!

We maximized the history of the area by taking every ghost tour available. Being Halloween time, there were lots of stories of witches hung on gallows. The first witch hung in Salem was a woman by the name of Bridget Bishop.

She publicly fought with all of her husbands, dressed flamboyantly (although for Puritans, that just meant she liked to wear big hats and a red bodice with her black dress), and was the mistress not one but two taverns. She developed a reputation for entertaining into the wee hours of the night, playing forbidden games such as shuffle board, and generally being the target of much speculation and gossip. In other words, Bridget Bishop didn’t seem to care what society thought of her – and because of that, she became a likely target when the accusations began.

Bridget Bishop was robbed. If she were born a couple hundred years later she would probably have her own reality TV show and be paid money to go get parties started in Vegas. If her ghost is still haunting around, then I’m sure she’s thinking, “What the fuck, people?! Do you know I was hanged for the kind of shit you all do as families on the weekend?!”

But also, it dawned on me that the witch hunt never really ended. The idea of targeting someone because of their lifestyle, sexuality, and choices. It just changed names and is going on and on…especially this election year. Led by Rush Limbaugh and the Republican party under a new improved name, “Whore Hunt 2012″. Sure, we may have invented cars, the internet and jet planes, and harnessed nuclear power and electricity since Bridget Bishop was killed, but women’s rights are still being held hostage to a primitive standard of a third party trying to dictate the who/what/when/where/why of our bodies. For real, this election year is killing me. KILLING ME, PEOPLE! Being banned from saying “Vagina” on the House floor when talking about abortion? Bullshit. The idea of “legitimate rape” being conditional on the woman’s body response? Bullfuckingshit!

I walked around with my girl, thinking about how life would be for us if we lived back with the Puritans. Would we be witches? This is not such a stretch, because quite honestly the religion we recently left has a strong connection to Puritan ethics, beliefs and bloodlines.

I thought about what growing up as a women meant to me: being chaste, virtuous, modest in word, thought, dress and action. My sexuality wasn’t my own…it was put away until I found a husband. I remember going in to interviews where 60 year old men would ask me about sex…if I’d had it, if I’d been close to having it, if I thought about it. If there’s one thing more fucked up than a teenage girl being alone in a room with an older man asking questions on if she’s masturbated or not, then it’s this: the fact that it happened and she (me!) didn’t think it was fucked up at all. It was my normal. My sex, my body, my thoughts, my voice, my self…I gave up control over all of it to a religion that used God to take it away from me. If I obeyed then I was labeled good, moral, worthy, righteous, special, choice. If I disobeyed and embraced my own sexual being, then I was wicked, immoral, bad, punishable, unworthy.

People ask me why I left a church after belonging to it my whole life, and I think it happened mostly because my daughter was going to start in the program of having her womanhood defined in that way. Fuck that. After a lifetime of propaganda I’m afraid I’ll always feel a burden of guilt and shame for my sexuality. My redemption is that my daughters won’t.

Feminism to me is that each woman has the right to define herself in whatever way she feels empowered. That each woman has authority over her own self, inside and out.

Does that make us the modern day equivalent of witches? Whores?

Women’s rights, like gay rights, are important because at the end of the day, it comes down to a human issue. Witch hunts, whore hunts…they may start with a targeted persecution but eventually extend much further and wider than can be controlled. By the end of the witch hunt even the most pious and respectable women were being hanged. Men were being hanged. It comes down to hysteria. Control. Politics. Someone else’s personal interests. And if left unchecked it doesn’t stop with the intended target audience. Anyone who tries to force discriminatory public policy based on their own opinion is called a bigot, and they just don’t stop.

I thought a lot about all this while walking around Boston with my daughter. She isn’t a baby, toddler, or even young woman anymore. She’s a woman. I can’t control what labels other people use for her. I can’t control what other people think of her. I can’t control her, either. All I can do is empower her. Embrace her. Accept and love her. Advise her. Respect her for finding her authentic voice, even if it means she’ll go down paths that I never would. And in this election season I can use my brain to vote for the people who make the policies that do the same.

Tiffani “with an ‘i’, not a ‘y’ on the end” Michele

I’m just going to come out and say it. My name irritates me.

I love that it’s what my parents chose. I love hearing the people that I care about say it to me. I love that I have a name rather than a number or a letter. But that’s about the extent of my appreciation for it.

My struggle with my name started way back in Kindergarten, when you have to learn to write your name. It didn’t take me very long to figure out that kids with the name “Adam” and “Jen” had a much easier time of it. When you only have 3 or 4 letters in your name, you learn it quicker, write it faster, and are done sooner. All the 3 letter named kids were off playing hopscotch and jumprope when I was still struggling to remember which letters were in my name in which order and goddamn it which way do the ‘f’s go again?! 7 motherfucking letters in my name, people. It’s hard to find someone with more letters than that, and I missed out on a lot of play time trying to learn how to write them all down properly.

It didn’t get any better, because by the time I learned how to spell my name, I then had to learn how to write it in cursive. Have you seen an uppercase T in cursive? It’s a beast. Look at it…it’s full of swirls and doodly doos and pen swipes and a bunch of different changes in pen directions. Uppercase cursive T was a bitch to learn, and I hated writing it, but for my entire 4th grade year I had to write it dozens of times a day. I couldn’t avoid it, it was right there in my name. My other friends without a name that started with T only had to write it when using “the” at the start of a sentence. They all agreed, uppercase T’s are a son of a bitch to write. Somehow mine always ended up looking like a sailboat that was taking on water and sinking into a sea of despair. A conscientious child, my dismal T’s concerned me greatly and so I spent hours trying to write them in a more beautiful manner so I could get on the “Star Student Handwriting Board” with all my other 3-letter-starts-with-an-A named friends.

Guess how many times I ended up on the perfect penmanship board? Go ahead, guess. That’s right, bitches. Exactly none. None times. That’s when I learned hard work doesn’t really pay off and so I spent my 5th grade year slacking off on homework so I could watch The Muppet Show.

In middle and high school it stayed just as bad. There are no cute little nicknames for Tiffani, no sweet rhyming words. I longed to be named Nicole or some variant, just so I could shorten it to Nikki and be totally badass. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said, “with an “i”, not a “y” at the end” after telling someone my name, I’d estimate that the stack would line up end to end and circle the universe. And then as soon as you say something like that, people lose their minds and write whatever stupid shit they want. Like, if you break one common rule then logic flies out the window for any of it. I’ve seen my name written “Tyffani”, “Tiffini”, “Tyffyni”, etc. This is only aggravated with my following name, Michele. One “l”. How obnoxious is this: “My name is Tiffani Michele with an I at the end not a Y and one L.”

This leads to my final irritant about my name. It’s really presumptuously snobby. I have a cousin in law who also has the name Tiffany. Or, she used to. At the end of law school they had exit interviews and the interviewer also reviewed name connotations. Apparently the connotation for “Tiffany” was so bad, she changed it to her middle name Marie before starting off on her career in law. It’s not like Nikki…thats the kind of name for a girl that will play a game of catch with you while picnicking at the park wearing jeans and a tank top. Tiffani is the kind of name for a girl that is too busy to have any fun because she’s at the salon getting her hair and nails done. Maybe if I really was named Nikki, I’d be better at sports in general. But no Tiffani has ever been or ever will be good at manual labor or dexterity. There are no Tiffani’s in the olympics. We’re only actresses, apparently. We get by on our well groomed looks and frosty personality.

So, to sum up…reasons why my name aggravates me:

*No one ever sings songs about Tiffani, except when The Eagles sang “her mind was Tiffany twisted…” in Hotel California and what the fuck does that mean? I’m snobby and crazy?

*It’s hard to write poems to me because of that whole non rhyming thing.

*It’s laborious to write my name because of the 7 motherfucking letters in it.

*It’s hard to write it and have it look pretty.

My sister hated her name and changed it in her 37th year. My 8 year old just asked me why I didn’t name her Eagle Nebula, so she might be changing her name at some point in the future, too. Me? I think I’ll stick with mine. Yeah it’s a pain in the ass, but it’s so much a part of me I think I’d miss it when no one said it anymore.

But I’ll still always have a part of me that wishes I was a Nikki.

Tiffani “chew with your mouth closed” Michele

I like to pretend nothing bothers me, so this month of annoyances is kind of a hard one for this girl. All the other O+U girls brainstormed an astounding number of things that piss them off, and it’s frankly one reason why I love them so much. These bitches are fierce, and while they each handle their anger/aggravation in different ways, each of them own that shit like bosses.

I do not own my shit like a boss. I pretend I don’t have shit that gets under my skin and carry on with a torturous smile plastered on my face until one day I find myself with an unbearable migraine level headache and an empty flask of whiskey before 9:30 am. Clearly, I need some help with accepting all emotions and not just “the good ones”.

So, I’ll own up to something that drives me completely psychotically nuts.

Loud chewers.

Don’t underestimate the intense feelings that loud chewers brings out of me.

I can filter out the high decibel temper tantrums of kids, annoying Kidz Bop songs, dudes yelling over the booming TV set during sports, and drunk people loud talking in my ear while I’m trying to enjoy a beer at the local bar. But heaven help you if I’m sitting in a movie theatre and you are smacking your way through a bag of popcorn. I don’t even know why they sell popcorn in movies…is there any louder more obnoxious food to eat while in a theatre?

I don’t know if this is nature or nuture…as a kid I heard “chew with your mouth closed” at least 23432 times a day, so I’m led to believe my mom had this particular sensitivity. Except I was young and misunderstood her directive. There was a long span of time when I attempted to eat my food with my mouth closed and without chewing. It was tough. In any case, I don’t know if my hyperawareness of my own chewing made me pay more attention to other people’s chewing or if I just have a genetic predisposition to want to bind and gag anyone who is eating food at an unnecessarily loud audible level.

Even if you are chewing with your mouth closed, you can be a loud chewer, and I can hear that shit too. I can hear if you are chewing with a jaw pop. I can hear you if you are chewing with a teeth grind or click. I can hear you if you are chewing softly but are breathing loudly after every masticated food particle is swallowed. I can hear every lip smack and grunt. I hear all, and I judge all.

Often I can’t focus on movies because everyone around me is destroying my experience through distracting popcorn/peanut M&M chewing. Sometimes at restaurants I have to change seats to get away from the noise of other people’s thoughtless chews. I’ll slide down the bar to distance myself from a loud eater. Always I look at the person/people with a glare until I have to look away in disgust.

I know, it’s not their problem, it’s mine.

But seriously, it’s like noise pollution.

So keep this in mind when eating:

take small bites!
chew with your mouth closed!
never eat popcorn unless it’s heavily softened with butter!
avoid loud chewing foods like nachos in favor of chew friendly foods like pasta.
if your breathing changes while eating, you’re eating too fast.
eat slower!

I, and all the other sensitively well meaning and yet possibly insane loud chewer haters will love you for it. If you can’t change your chewing behavior, then at least offer me a couple shots before dinner. That may take the edge off.

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