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 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”.



Post a comment
  1. May 1, 2012

    Beautiful! Wonderful! Inspiring!

    Embracing yourself is such an amazing thing.

    • May 1, 2012

      thanks πŸ™‚ and word to that. Embracing yourself is fanfreakingtastic.

  2. May 1, 2012

    You made me cry in a good way! So much love for who you were, who you are and who you may become.

    • May 1, 2012

      xoxoxo warrior woman. and Viva Las Vegas!

  3. May 1, 2012

    Tiffani I adore you. And I thank God you are a deviant because you inspire the hell out of me!

  4. Erika #
    May 1, 2012

    Love the courage and independence you inspire!!! Love you girl and my life can only be better and improve with you in it!

  5. kate #
    May 1, 2012

    You. Rock! That’s all.

  6. May 1, 2012

    Holy awesome sauce. Love it. Love how you are baring it all. It is inspiring and wonderful and just all around amazing.

  7. Becky #
    May 1, 2012

    I want to cry, and hug you, and laugh, all at once. I have a feeling i’m coming up on one of those big shifts in my life and I couldn’t be surrounded by a better group of women for it. Or maybe I have you all to thank for it. Either way, brilliant post.

    • May 1, 2012

      there’s enough acceptance/blame to go around, LOL. I vacillate wildly between the two on a daily basis. πŸ˜‰ And…bring it ON!

  8. Amy #
    May 1, 2012

    I would like for you to entertain the thought for a moment that the guilt and shame are not yours. That the guilt and shame were foisted upon you by your heritage like a big heavy blanket to hide you from the world.
    Throw it off.
    It’s an ugly blanket anyway and doesn’t go with your beautiful shiny you.
    Leave that nasty ol blanket on the path since you aren’t using either of them anymore.
    You are an amazing miracle of you and the world deserves your beautiful shiny light.

  9. joelynnej #
    May 1, 2012

    I’ll never forget the time I was babysitting for a neighbour from your former religion and found a stash of cola and birth control in the fuse box. πŸ˜‰

    Thank you for bringing us into the month in such a stand up fashion. I raise my cola and booze to you!

    • May 3, 2012

      bwhaahahahahahahha. so sick to feel like you have to hide cola AND birth control…two of the best inventions of hte modern age!

  10. May 1, 2012

    Fantastic. I’m so proud to be a contributor on this blog. I’m so proud to wave right along side of you.

  11. May 1, 2012

    Chugging wine from a mug, and saluting you, Tiff. Thanks for getting this month off to such a kick ass start!

  12. Jill #
    May 1, 2012

    Sing and dance on, my lovely . . . and thanks for the jolt that we all need! Someone’s deviance is another’s normal. And we all know that normal is just another dirty word.

  13. Linda #
    May 1, 2012

    Sniff! I love you!

  14. May 2, 2012

    holy shit, tiffani. this may be the mother of all blog posts. you had me laughing, crying and shaking my head in wonderment. i can only imagine what a wild ride the evolution of tiffani has been. i’ll just say you are an inspiration and i’m proud of you for waving your flag so freely!

    • May 3, 2012

      thank you, brave lady. You inspire me mucho ❀

  15. lisamac333 #
    May 2, 2012

    dammit! my eyes are teary, i’ve got goosebumps all over my arms and a lump in my throat. i’m not a fan of the beaten path yet i seem to be walking it. most days i absolutely love my life…right now the shoes i’m filling are meant to be, i’m here, i’m a wife, a mom, a friend, an artist…i could go on and on, but you get it….then those other days creep up and i think, one day i’m going to get the fuck outta here!ne…i’ll be in africa with my camera, with a heaping helping of compassion and empathy, dirty hands and feet and a wide open heart…maybe one day huh…thanks tiff…no holds barred girlfriend xx

    • May 3, 2012

      to every thing there is a season, right?! and all that jazz. πŸ˜‰ When you make it to AFrica, let me know and I’ll meet you there…camera in hand ❀

  16. wabisabises #
    May 2, 2012

    Damn, Tiff. Just … Damn. What a post!

    For me, it’s not the coke, but the tank tops. Every time I put one on I think “Thank gawd I’m not wearing holy underwear.” And I’ve been out eight years. Does a head play on you for sure, that religion.

    • May 3, 2012

      yes, the coke makes me feel guilty, but the tank tops make me so so happy! LOL

  17. May 3, 2012

    Love hearing the struggles and freedom. My wife and I grew up religious (not quite as hard core as yours) and have, in our 30’s just started to find that incredible freedom you expressed and the after math and the family and friends left in the wake. Thanks for sharing.

    • May 3, 2012

      I love hearing other people’s story about losing religion but finding themselves, too. It’s a rather unique journey and it’s tough sometimes!

  18. sarah #
    May 5, 2012

    ah. so good tiff. so so good. every day a new day to say fuck off guilt and shame. x

  19. kindnessgirl #
    May 5, 2012

    love this…still deconstructing (after 15 years) the harm of fundy religion in my childhood and adulthood. ….it was years of culottes, never ever dancing, or having halloween celebrations, didn’t have my first drink till I was 27- OMG….not to mention the heaps of shame and performance that still travel with me like a dark passenger….but each little part that I discover/reclaim of my self is so fucking good- and I am finding that my tender heart is also wicked strong. thinking of you soulsister as you are so gracefully finding your way… guess we all are, aren’t we?

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