By Adele Uddo

When most people hear I was raised on a California commune, the reaction is usually something like, "Wow what FREEDOM! Must’ve been so cool to have hippy parents. No rules, right?!”

There were plenty rules. In fact, the “straight kids” had fewer rules than us. At that time, the term “straight” wasn’t about sexual orientation - it referred to conventional people who ate meat, mowed their lawns, and kept their clothes on around children.From the moment my mother abandoned our previously straight life in New Orleans, to travel across country in a bus called the Mars Hotel, with her new boyfriend, Lightning, I longed everyday to return to ‘normality.’ Normal was the big Italian food-biz family we’d left behind.I wasn’t into wanderlust and what it was to be a “spiritual warrior” at 7. I was into ballet class and Mawmie’s Italian Meatballs.


But alas, mom made the rules, and we were hightailing it out of town, far away from New Orleans and my philandering father.Eventually we landed on six acres of ‘fertile’ farmland just south of Humboldt Country. Our humble encampment soon attracted other people living in buses, and some who were simply homeless.The food fascism was the most miserable of all rules to adjust to, especially since our newly estranged family was in the food and restaurant business.

According to my mom and others who lived on the land, a crucial key to being a ‘warrior’ meant eating fruits, veggies, millet and potatoes. That’s it. No meat, dairy, fish, eggs, sugar, nuts, wheat, rice, soy… You name it, we couldn’t eat it.I’m from Sicilian stock and born in the obesity capital of the US.

Having tasted the good gluttonous life, I resented the ways of my manic-organic mother.I did everything I could to defy her diet dogma. Clandestinely in my room, I’d smuggle Yoplait and other items kids discarded at school. Once, someone gave me a wad of Hubba Bubba gum. I swallowed it whole. By god, I too would be polluted like the rest of society! Ingesting dairy and other ‘toxins’ was my only recourse against the apple cider vinegar I was force fed by the spoonful every morning.“Murderer,” my mother’s yogi boyfriend muttered, whenever I snuck meat.

Even then, I appreciated animals more than most people, so I felt conflicted about eating them, and guilty every time I sat down to dinner with my Italian relatives, who force-fed me no matter what was on menu.

While most foods were forbidden, drugs were allowed. Back then, people made time to sit in a circle, sometimes several times a day, to share a joint and talk about things like nutrition and astrology. Like communion, everyone was included.I occasionally puffed a little pot since I liked watching smoke come out of my mouth.


Most of the time, I’d rather be vacuuming or race-walking through llama pastures. Anything but zoning out in what felt like slow motion, due to my excess adolescent energy, which I think I’m still burning off as an OCD adult.Sure, there were times when I joined the partying. Usually with my friend Kananda’s dad, who gave me my first bong hit in 2nd grade. Kananda had dropped acid before 2nd grade, and told me repeatedly her “favorite” was mushrooms.

When I smoked dope, I cackled, spoke gibberish in foreign accents, danced around with no music, and cursed loudly. Kananda would vacillate between laughing at me, and trying to impose a motherly ‘that’s enough’ attitude. Sometimes I’d act more stoned than I was to see how far I could push before her amusement turned into genuine concern that maybe this time I’d actually gone crazy. I was hungry for junk food, but starving for certain boundaries.Apparently so was Kananda, whose mom was graphic about her great sex life. She actually encouraged her daughter and me to watch her and her lover Lion in bed.

I was open to the idea, but Kananda kept putting the kibosh on her mom’s incestuous invitation by rolling her eyes and calling it “gross.”One of the things I envied most about straight kids was that their lives seemed so appropriate. They didn’t have to ask their mom to please put on some clothes when friends visited. Having my mother greet young girls naked did not make me cool at school. The popular kids were into Ditto jeans and sparkly shirts, NOT nudity or ethnically ambiguous, homemade or flea market-bought attire that seemed best suited for a Renaissance Fair.


If warriors were supposed to express themselves creatively, shouldn’t our attire evoke something? I often hovered around dressed in black, like a dark cloud amid a sea of rainbow wardrobes.

I’ve always been privy to both my parent’s sex lives. My mother is still comfortable sharing details about “making love”, while my dad told me which women he’d like to bang, including my mother’s sister, and the French lady who would be much hotter if she just shaved her nipples. My mom and her feminist friends responded to such men by refusing razors.

I felt like a renegade whenever I wore makeup. Was I pandering to the patriarchy or simply expressing my own style? Shame didn’t stop me from dropping out of college to pursue a career in parts modeling.

Somewhere along the way, I began to embrace more of what I once resisted. Now that I can eat all the candy and chemicals I want, I find myself gravitating toward healthy crap, including apple cider vinegar.

It’s not so much rules I that I resented, it’s the rigidity that often accompanied people’s beliefs. I can be compassionate AND eat chicken. I can care about equality AND be ‘objectified’ as a body parts model.Sometimes I wish I felt as strongly about something as certain people feel about their faith, or veganism. Yet most extreme ideologies still seem too righteous and restrictive and even ridiculous to me.

Growing up between polarized cultures has taught me to strive for balance…and encourage others to express their truth however they wish. Even if they’re called a “murderer”.