by Tiffani “addicted to overusing ellipses” Michele
For this entire month, readers of this blog will be treated to a carnival of strange behavior from us O+U women in our natural habitat. Step right up and marvel at our combined freak show…be amazed as you read about housewives with habits that have never before been filmed in the wild! Tickets are free…all you have to do is pull up a chair, grab your favorite mixed drink (preferably one with whisky in it), and suspend both your disbelief and judgements!
There was some back and forth between all of us about what our theme “Deviate” really meant this month. Was it ‘deviate’ or ‘deviant’? The former implies a little hop, skip and jump off the path of normal…nothing too weird. The latter implies something so scandalous we’d have to give the blog an R rating and censor all our pictures with photoshopped black electrical tape. But according to the dictionary, to deviate is to “depart from an established course or usual or acceptable standards” while to be a deviant is to be “a person whose behavior deviates markedly from the accepted norm”. Not that big of a difference. If you deviate, you are a deviant.
This certainly held true with my upbringing. I grew up in a fundamental religion. To deviate from their norm is to be a deviant. The only thing is, when you put together a bunch of “thou shalt not” items on the same list, it leads to a weird kind of perspective. For me, there wasn’t a big difference between someone who drinks coffee and someone who uses crack cocaine. Thou shalt not do either! Paying for a coca cola and paying for a prostitute were on the same “DO NOT” list, making them kinda equal in my young mind. Wearing a tank top with short shorts was showing the same kind of immodesty as a stripper on the pole. (one time..in church…while wearing my Steve Madden shoes…a woman said I looked like “one of those pole dancers”) Drinking alcohol and having sex. What’s the difference? Thou shalt not do either! Although technically the sex ban *is* lifted upon getting married. So I had that going for me.
I followed the accepted norm because it was just that…accepted and the norm. I didn’t know any better. There were chinks in my armor, though. I dated a guy in high school mostly because I loved to make out with him after he’d been drinking peach wine coolers and smoking cigarettes…such an intoxicating blend of fruit and forbidden. Sometimes I would watch R rated movies while drinking Coke. Double whammy! Wearing tank tops and bikini’s was rare, but sometimes if I was on vacation and knew I wouldn’t know anyone I’d break them out and put them on. I felt sufficiently terrible about all these deviations, of course…they were things to be ashamed about! My early love of alcohol, movies with the word “fuck” in them, caffeinated drinks, looking cute and sassy with shoulders and legs on display…they were going to deviate me onto Satan’s path, dammit. So I fought against them. Poorly. Until one day…I lost the fight. Spectacularly. Feelings of craziness ensued. Tank tops and short skirts?! Someone must be in the nut house!
I didn’t just hop, skip, and jump off the acceptable norm in my religious upbringing. I catapulted off of it with a martini in one hand, cigarette in the other, and a big “fuck you!!!!!” coming out of my mouth. I relished the freedom, I embraced every wrong decision, I rejoiced at each new experience. At 36, I was reborn into my life. I was a babe in the woods, like Liesl in the Sound of Music begging for her first taste of champagne. Except I was partial to whiskey and it didn’t stop there. I wanted everything that I’d been saying no to for so long, and to my credit I managed to get it.
The cost was a high one, though. One does not label oneself a deviant (which I did) without feeling a judgement associated with it. And one does not simply deviate without a judgement from other people being associated with it. One does not tra la la off the normal acceptable path without leaving some people that are still on it in the dust. “I’m disappointed in you”, “you’ve let me down”, “you’re so selfish now”, “is it a midlife crisis?”…those are heavy burdens to carry. As is the weight of your own judgements who arrive with the conjoined twins of guilt and shame.
I remember one particularly enjoyable visit to Las Vegas with some close girlfriends. There was lots of drinking. Laughing. Late nights. Dancing. Fun. Clubs and pools. Disco ball dresses and, according to the one woman from church so long ago, pole dancer shoes. In short, the whole weekend was full of things that deviated from my usual acceptable standards growing up. As we sat together on our last day, eating brunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, I ordered a coke. I looked around at my friends and all their cokes so easily ordered and started feeling panicky. Mostly because I will never order or drink a coke without thinking of all the lessons in church about how drinking coke is against orders from God himself. And that’s just about coke, you can only imagine what the shenanigans of a weekend in Vegas with friends was now starting to create in my angsty spirit. I watched all the women around me, laughing and not giving a flying fuck about the eternal state of their everlasting souls. They hadn’t deviated off their normal path…they’d been doing this shit since college. They weren’t deviants. They had no judgement from friends and family for drinking or wearing short dresses. Some of them were actually unblocked Facebook friends with their parents! Around that table, I was the only one with guilt and shame sitting right on my lap.
I started sobbing at the table, right over my mac and cheese. It was too much. I felt robbed of the kind of wild abandon people have when they live life without trying to fit into someone else’s idea of what their established course should be. I felt a huge degree of despair about how hard it was going to be feeling like a deviant for the rest of my life now that I was no longer on my acceptable path. It really was just too too much.
My friends gathered around me. Got me a coffee that they dumped some whiskey and Bailey’s into. I took a long bath with a banana, which is the most bath friendly food in the hangover comfort food group. I recentered.
In the end, it’s my friends that will get me through. The ones who have been on what I used to call “the deviant path” all along. Ironically, they have been the ones to show me the most compassion, non judgement, concern, care, and support. These O+U ladies are particularly phenomenal in their ability to love, laugh, and wave their freak flags. And because they celebrate their own freak…their own ways they’ve deviated…they also celebrate that in other people. They celebrate it in me. They encourage me to sing the song of myself. And dammit, now I’m crying and need to go find some more spiked coffee, a banana, and another bath.
But before I go, I just want to badly paraphrase more Walt Whitman.
I contain multitudes.
So do you.
Sing your song, and I’ll sing mine.
Celebrate yourself, and I’ll celebrate me.
This entire month of May, we’ll celebrate together. Even if your song deviates from someone else’s idea of what it should be. After all, someone’s idea of normal is another person’s crazy. Vice versa. So instead of labeling and judging, we’ll share this month. And hopefully, like Whitman, be satisfied as we “see, dance, laugh, sing”.