The anonymous creator, brains and author behind Tiffany/Amber/Megan/Nicole shares why she started Seriously, So Blessed, the highly popular Mormon mommy blog spoof. She speaks candidly about how she responds to Mormon culture as an author and as a member, and why humor is such a powerful tool for helping us look at ourselves in an honest light.
What was your motivation to start “Seriously, so Blessed!”?
I started the blog on a bit of a whim, just as a joke with a few specific friends in mind who I knew would enjoy it. A few summers ago, I stumbled on some personal blogs (you know, “friends of friends of friends” and such) that were just so unbelievable to me. Some recurring themes became pretty obvious. As I laughed, the thought occurred to me that it might be fun to try to make my own. So I threw together a stereotypical post, wrote a stereotypical profile, and sent it to a few friends for a laugh. It was a fun creative writing exercise to try to get the tone exactly right (“We have non-stop fun all the time and are LOVING married life!”). It was definitely a joke that just snowballed. Part of what is so bizarre and awesome about the Internet is that random junk takes off with no warning.
Where do you find your inspiration for posts?
Inspiration is all over the place. I keep expecting to run out of ideas, and then I look around and think, “That will never happen!” I’m a lifelong member of the LDS Church and have always been a part of the culture but simultaneously a participant and observer. I’m a people watcher by nature so I feel like I’ve always enjoyed noting little idiosyncrasies or patterns of behavior. A lot comes from my own life experience. I jot down ideas everywhere and then piece them together for posts. For example, last year, a waitress asked me if I was in the mood for “Eye-talian food,” and I instantly reached for a pen and thought, “How has TAMN not said ‘eye-talian’ yet??” I also read a lot of personal blogs, and readers are constantly sending me blogs for fodder. (What’s weird is that it’s always their sister-in-law’s blog. People are constantly sending me their in-laws’ blogs. Isn’t that funny? It’s never their sister or their cousin or their aunt. It is ALWAYS their sister-in-law.) So yes, I cull material from all over, and it’s pretty fun.
Of course I don’t think all Mormon women are like TAMN. In fact, I’d say most Mormon women are wonderfully far from TAMN. I know and respect tons of smart, capable, thoughtful, sharp, strong, non-materialistic, substantive, self-aware, kind, righteous, talented women who are nothing like TAMN. Except maybe with their Diet Coke addictions and their love of reality TV. But you get my point.
Is there a tendency for LDS women to hold themselves to an impossibly high standard or feel pressure to conform?
In any highly homogeneous culture we all feel pressure to be and look and think and act a certain way. Many Mormon women are hard on themselves because they’re good and want to be good and in our culture we do a lot of self-reflection and introspection on how we can improve. Part of being a member of the Church and part of being a person of faith and a follower of Christ is always thinking of how you can get better. With a lot of young American Mormon women that quest can get out of hand quickly. You start to think you need to be absolutely perfect in every area. You need to be having nonstop fun all the time, your marriage needs to be perfect, your kids need to be perfect, and you need to have to have pictures of every activity. I get emails from readers saying that there’s this unattainable standard that they see people around them portraying (or seeming to portray) and that the blog helps them realize that nobody’s perfect and it sounds ridiculous if you make things seem perfect all the time.
That’s what’s been fun for me about writing SSB is that there are lots of serious things that weigh on women’s minds that are not on TAMN’s mind at all. For example, in one post TAMN and her husband were in Washington DC just for the summer. She introduced herself to the bishop and said that she wouldn’t have time for any callings unless they were really visible. So she could be president of something, but if she needed to be on a committee she wouldn’t have time because she had the twins. TAMN doesn’t value important things, but rather places a lot of value on what she can be seen doing or what she can brag about doing.
Are there any topic or issues you won’t poke fun at?
There are lots of things I don’t mock. There are no jokes at the expense of any gospel principles, the temple, the importance of marriage, basic Christlike attributes, or what TAMN sincerely wants for her kids. Actual Church stuff is on the periphery of a lot of the humor. It’s not a “Church” blog; it’s just a young, talkative, ridiculous mom. Whenever I get hate mail about how I’ve crossed the line or am making the Church look ridiculous, I always laugh and think, “There are lots of lines I could be crossing that I don’t.” I just know so many young moms who are so good and who are trying so hard. Not young moms exclusively, but it’s a set you see blogging most often. It’s a thankless stage of life and I appreciate that often they seem to be the ones laughing the hardest.
Why do you think people sometimes have difficulty distinguishing doctrine versus culture?
Numbers and things are more visible and easier to measure. I don’t know that you can measure, “Today I was full of charity – check!” the way you can measure, “I always look fantastic,” or “I was back to my pre-baby weight five weeks after the delivery.” It’s easier to shop at the right stores or see that your blog has the right design or gets so many comments. They provide validation or pat on the back. There are lots of ways that we can hope that we’re successful or feel that we’re successful, but that’s not as visible as when you see someone with a new model of car, or living vicariously through their husband’s fancy job, or whatever it might be. TAMN is more wrapped up in it because she feels more competition with her friends since they are into comparing husbands or outranking each other. Not even themselves, but just what their husbands do. It’s an added pressure when women compare not just themselves, but what other people are doing that somehow reflects on them.
How do you view the role of humor in LDS culture and specifically among LDS women?
Humor is vital. We definitely have a tendency to take ourselves way too seriously. Again, that stems from a really sweet sincerity, of people who are trying hard to be good and who always want to be better. But in our quest for improvement we often forget to laugh, which is easy to do, since we’re so busy. But laughter is important to your sanity and to your health. Marjorie Hinckley said, “The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer laughing. Crying gives me a headache.” I agree.
How would you advise women to stay true to themselves? How have you done it?
Part of it is recognizing what is important to you and what’s not. If it’s important to you and worth your time, go for it, and if it’s not, leave it alone. I don’t do my hair every day, I don’t spend that much time on it, and I don’t feel bad about it. That’s kind of a shallow example, but I’ve noticed that me being comfortable with myself gives other people permission to be normal too. I’ve found a lot of kindred spirits that way. With the blog, I’ve been amazed at how many people I feel really close to that find the same things funny as I do. I would have never known how much we have in common or just how much we click if I hadn’t made the joke to start with. You can find lots of substantive things to bond over besides superficial things. For me, it’s important to just recognize what you enjoy, embrace it, and shrug off the rest.
Do you see blogs as a blessing or a curse?
Both. Blogs are a blessing in that they are a great way to stay connected with other grownups, to help stave off feelings of isolation that are common in moms with small kids and to feel part of a circle of support or friendship. Blogs are a people-watcher’s dream because they give you a fun peek into people everyday lives. But they are a thinking person’s nightmare, because it’s so easy to compare your real self with someone else’s fake self. They’re a curse because they’re like a nonstop Christmas letter, a daily update where you see every polished detail about someone’s life. If people read enough personal blogs they can really end up with a complex.
How much time per day do you devote to blogging, between research and writing?
It’s tough to gauge. I really enjoy it and think about it throughout the day, as I’m looking for different ideas. But there are entire days where I don’t have any time and others when I do a lot of catch up. There’s no specific time set aside to work on it. I should be more structured, but I have a hundred balls in the air that I’m juggling and the blog is just one of them.
At certain points I have more creative energy, depending on what’s going on in my personal or family life that particular week or month. Sometimes I feel like I can’t even capture all the ideas and other times I feel like it’s a little bit of a chore. Overall, it’s an incredibly fun creative writing exercise. I use different brain muscles that I do in anything else in my life. The feedback is a joy, the positive and negative responses are always funny, and it’s a real treat to have an audience for the stupid things going on in my head and to try to tweak things to get the tone just how I want it.
How would you describe your motherhood style?
I’m relatively new to being a mom. My kids are still pretty little, so I haven’t done a lot of the real mom stuff that’s ahead of me. I enjoy my kids a lot more than I anticipated I would, which might sound silly. I’ve never really been a “kid person,” but it turns out that when they’re your own they’re really delightful. We like the park, we love the museum, we love to just stay at home. We’ll spend a couple of hours going up and down the stairs, playing with the toys at our house, or hanging out with other families. All the regular kid stuff is more fun than I thought it would be. There’s also more emotion now that I have kids. For example, we just got some family pictures taken and I couldn’t believe the mushy noises I was making looking at the pictures after – it was kind of embarrassing. I didn’t know I had this side of me!
What are your interests or creative outlets?
None of TAMN’s hobbies are mine. I’m not a crafter or a photographer. I’m not sure what I can share without spilling too many beans. I’m pretty normal. Well, and awesome.
Do you find TAMN fulfilling or draining? What is your relationship with her?
Mostly fulfilling. It’s a real delight to write 99% of the time. There have been a couple of times, like when I had a baby or was finishing school, when other things in my life took so much of my time and energy that I didn’t feel like I had any left over. That’s when I’ll put it on the shelf and come back to it because it’s not a top priority in part of a real everyday life. But it’s a fun thing to do, to always be watching for. To come up with ideas or to glean different ideas from emails people write, or comments they make, or blogs that they send me. I feel like she’s this ongoing collage. When I think of TAMN as a person, I didn’t used to like her at all when I created her, but now I kind of find her endearing. She’s obnoxious, but the stereotype she represents is pretty sincere. She’s naïve and shallow and materialistic, but she means it and she just doesn’t know any better. TAMN would be appalled at how obnoxious people think she is.
Does writing your blog ever infringe on your spiritual life?
TAMN isn’t church related for me. She’s another aspect of life, but I don’t see TAMN on Sundays. She’s not part of my spiritual life at all. That’s some other feedback I’ve gotten from people. They’ll catch themselves thinking like TAMN and it gives them pause, which I take as a huge compliment. I think that’s fantastic. Why don’t we all think about how we can de-TAMN? My sincere hope is that we can all walk away a little better than we were before we read it.
How many people know your true identity?
A few. I know a number of people who are swear-on-their-life sure that it’s someone else, which I love. I don’t think anyone really wants to know. It’s more fun not to know. On a similar note, I am still amazed at how often people assume and/or are totally convinced the blog is written by a guy.
How much of TAMN do you see in yourself?
Yikes. I see more of her in me than I’d like to. We all have bits of her in us. I love a good Cafe Rio salad (though unlike TAMN, I eat the whole thing). I’ll catch myself blowing things out of proportion and recognize it’s kind of a TAMN-esque reaction. Times or ways in which she’s particularly shallow or makes a big deal out of things that aren’t that important. I’ve also been in callings where I’d think about how TAMN would respond, and then do the opposite.
TAMN says that things are perfect, but she’s also really whiny. When really, how could her life be easier? I catch some of that in myself as well. It’s like TAMN wants a trophy for existing. I’ll catch myself being whiny and think, “Wait, why I am being such a baby? I deserve a trophy for what? For living, for doing things that everyone does all the time? Pull it together, quit being a TAMN.” There was one post where her husband had to work a lot and so she said she was basically “pulling an Emma,” with the implication of huge sacrifice. What’s Emma Smith about having to clean up a diaper or getting to spend all day playing with your kids while JJWT is in law/biz/medical/dental school? What a blessing to have a family, to have a spouse that has a great job or is getting such good training or whatever it might be. We often lament our pretty high-class problems.
At A Glance
Author of Seriously, So Blessed
Marital status: Married
Occupation: stay-at-home mom/part-time professional
Languages Spoken at Home: English
Favorite Hymn: “Sweet Is the Work”
Current Calling: Young Women’s President
On the Web: www.seriouslysoblessed.blogspot.com
Interview by Nollie Haws.