Author Archives: joanna

Things that go bump in the night

I’ve never been good at partying. I spent the first half of my youth terrified of missing parties (skating parties, pizza parties, etc.) and the second half terrified of being judged at them.

I still exhibit some of these behaviors. For example, I taper my germ intake before big life events, and I usually lay low in the days leading up to them. Then, if I’ve successfully avoided all potential contaminants and do manage to attend to the party, I spend the next day kicking myself for the weird things I said or the people I may or may not have offended.

However, there are times I’m able to kick back, cut loose and throw down. And when I do, this is what happens:

The Brunch Plans. This is the first sign my inhibitions are slipping into dangerous territory. My close friends and therapists will know I absolutely loathe making plans with people. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the company of others, it’s that I’m a total commitment phobe. Making plans with people has always been scary for me. “What if it’s weird? What if they don’t have fun? What if they say ‘yes,’ we meet up, we have nothing to talk about and so I bring up meth mouth? Again?”

These are the thoughts that haunt my daytime socializing. The problem is that when I drink, I shed my hermit’s cloak and (much to my own horror) morph into something of a social butterfly. It’s incredibly inconvenient. And it usually happens one of two ways:

In some cases, I will engage in a “let’s make plans sometime!” conversation. You’ve seen the kind. When two estranged friends engage in a sloppy heart-to-heart and decide to rekindle an old flame.

“Oh my god, we should totally get drinks sometime. No, seriously. This isn’t just like a drunk thing. Let’s really do it!”

These types of run-ins are usually benign. Drinks + sometime = never. It’s merely a polite way of honoring your former friendship, but recognizing that you’re both now seeing different people.

But then there’s the second, much more serious kind of social butterflying. The “b” word.

Brunch.

As in, “We should totally do brunch tomorrow!”

Unlike “drinks,” “brunch” isn’t a word you can casually throw around. It sticks. It’s basically the promise ring of plan-making. Which means in my case, it is a cry for help. A plea for some handsome, like-minded hermit to swoop in, cancel all my plans and carry me to the nearest pizzeria.

My hero.

My hero.

And if my knight does not willingly reveal himself, I move straight to The Prowl.

The Prowl. There’s always one point in the night when I think to myself, “I’m going to bring someone home tonight.” This thought usually falls around 11 p.m. – too early for pizza, too late for good decisions.

My bedroom is basically an I SPY book of red flags. How many can you find?

My bedroom is basically an I SPY book of red flags. How many can you find? Answers below.

In truth, it’s a very small window of opportunity. I’m generally open to the prospect of coupling for about 15 minutes or so. But then I remember how much I hate sleepovers, and how possessive James gets at night. Which raises yet another concern: the cats. Should I tell him beforehand? Or do I risk a surprise introduction?

He requires full attention.

He requires full attention.

But of course, this last concern is pointless. My potential mate will undoubtedly know I have cats, as I will have:

A.) Offered this information as part of my introduction,
B.) Asked him to follow Joan on Instagram, or
C.) Made a dark and self-deprecating joke about dying alone in a Slanket.

In the end, I decide it’s not worth the risk of having to take him to his car in the morning. And so I move on to the Irish Exit.

The Irish Exit. If the hour is getting late and no one has promised me pizza, I will make a very quiet, very rude exit. I’m a slippery creature. One minute, I’ll be standing beside you, talking, nodding, smiling – seemingly engaged in conversation, yet secretly hailing an Uber.

It’s a learned skill, really. Finely honed between the ages of 26-28. You see, in my early 20s, I could easily be guilted into staying out past my prime hours. But now, if it’s late and I want to go home, I have no qualms with leaving everything and everyone in the dust.

Which brings us to:

The Sleeping Beauty. When I was little, I was convinced people were spying on me in my bedroom. (An early sign of psychosis? Perhaps.) I always imagined my crush – Bernard from The Santa Clause – was somehow watching me sleep, peering in my window, waiting for the right moment to pounce on my lips. As such, each night, I arranged myself like Sleeping Beauty: hair fanned out around my face, wormy little lips parted in anticipation, hands clutched by my pre-pubescent breasts.

Oddly enough, I revert to this mode when I’m drunk. I no longer think men are waiting to pounce on me in the night, but I do enjoy the occasional Sleeping Beauty treatment. It’s a naughty little treat, sleeping fully clothed and made-up. But I love it. And who knows, maybe Bernard does, too.

I SPY answers: Stuffed sloth, stuffed cat, real cat, cat tree looming over bed and, last but not least, blood-red wall paint — a giant red flag in itself. 

Spark up

Every few months, I go through a phase where I can’t stop talking about something I’ve seen, read or watched. My friends will likely remember my Butler phase, when I managed to end every conversation with: “But have you seen The Butler?” (But seriously, have you? You should.)

My current obsession is Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Organizing and Decluttering. 

If you haven’t heard about it, the gist is this: declutter your house by touching every single item you own. If it “sparks joy,” keep it. If not, toss it. By keeping only what you absolutely love (or absolutely need), you turn your home into a haven of clean, positive energy.

Now, as an unapologetic Kombucha, Gluten Free and Essential Oils Bandwagon Board Member, I was of course intrigued by this crunchy new trend. Particularly the part about picturing your endgame – your new joy-sparked self. This is a critical part of the process, Kondo says. If you’re to truly transform yourself and your space, you must first “visualize your destination.”

After reading this, I did indeed have a vision. Nothing fully formed, just passing glimpses of what could be. I saw silk everywhere – silk robes, silk loungewear, silk sheets for my night sweats. I saw wine. Red wine, of course. Giant goblets of it. I saw warm, dim light. And a record player, slowly spinning a very important and very cool jazz record (don’t ask me which – you couldn’t possibly know it).

And then I knew.

My joy-sparked self was a softcore porn star.

“Life-changing magic,” indeed.

Obviously this did not prove true. Transformative as tidying may be, being a hypochondriac germophobe with an irrational fear of conception, I am in fact the least likely person to dabble in porn. That, and of course the issue with my face. Put me in front of a camera for five minutes, and rest assured, the only thing that’s comin’ is the Dark Lord.

I'm still not sure how this happend.

The Dark Lord. He has been summoned.

Delicate feet in marine environments.

But enough about me and my porn.

The first place I tidied was my closet. In doing so, I found a few relics that had managed to evade my previous purges. A denim body condom (presumably my 20th birthday dress), a slew of spray-tanning mitts, The “Up in Smoke Tour” DVD, a gold sequin miniskirt and an aromatherapeutic raccoon on a leash.

Per the KonMari Method, before tossing an item into the discard pile, I held it and thanked it for its service.

“Thank you for the memories,” I whispered into my gold, impossibly mini miniskirt. I gave the remaining sequins one last stroke, smiling as I remembered all the good times and rashes they’d given me. As I imagine most sequin garments do, that sliver of skirt had seen a lot. Too much, one might argue. But it seemed a fitting cap to my discard pile. A glittering tribute to a past self I’d outgrown – in every sense of the word.

Several days and Goodwill runs later, I’d successfully KonMari’d the shit out of my entire apartment. Was it hard? Absolutely. Transformative? Who knows. But worth it? Without a doubt. My apartment feels cleaner, brighter. I can finally brag about being a minimalist and if nothing else, I found my social security card.

My mom, my sister and me. Jessie's in the overalls, I'm in the womb.

A photo I found of my mom, my sister and me. Jessie’s in the overalls, I’m in the womb.

Bumble for Beginners

For Mom, and for my coupled friends with questions.

Bumble for Beginners: How to Swipe Your Way to Marital Bliss  

First, you redownload the Bumble app. You deleted it last week after a string of anticlimactic exchanges. But you’re halfway through a glass of wine and your cats are ignoring you. Your fate is sealed.

You open the app. You see the face of a nearby man who likely falls into one of three categories: The Weightlifter, the Wanderer or the Young Republican. If you like him, you swipe right. If you don’t, you swipe left. You swipe left on nearly everyone until Bumble casually tells you, “Keep this up and you’ll die alone.”

StraightOuttaOptions

Frightened into submission, you swipe right on the next viable subject — Steven, we’ll call him. He seems decent enough. And it’s a match! You celebrate for .075 seconds before you realize what this means: now, you have to talk to Steven. An actual conversation. It seems too much to bear. It’s all happening too fast. You’re not ready for that kind of commitment. You panic. You throw the phone facedown on your coffee table and rewind the movie you’ve been half-watching for the past 10 minutes.

-15 minutes later –

You miss Steven. I mean, did you even give him a chance? You pick up your phone and return to Bumble. You send Steven a GIF – a safe and easy first-move. He responds. It’s overwhelming. Stop smothering me, Steven!

You take a break from Steven and return to swiping. Every so often, Bumble throws in a fellow you’ve already thrown to the wayside. This feels very condescending. Like somehow, Big Bumble is spying on you. Watching you heartlessly sift through men, as you yourself sit cross-legged and pant-less on your couch. “Are you really in a position to be this picky?” Bumble says.

Me, Bumbling IRL.

Me Bumbling IRL.

No. You’re not. And so you vow to do better. You agree to a date with Steven. You decide to go for beers because God forbid you spend an entire meal with this nut job. I mean, you don’t even have any mutual friends.

….

You don’t even have any mutual friends.

What if he’s a serial killer?

You ask him if he’s a serial killer. He says no. Which is exactly the thing a serial killer would say, you knowingly tell yourself.

Date night comes. You try on forty different outfits. Why do you even care? It’s just Steven. For all you know, he’s only in it for the kill.

Regardless, you land on something cool and casual. Coincidentally, it is the same outfit you wear on all your first dates. You dab on bug spray the way most women would perfume, and you head out the door to meet Steven and potentially your own demise.

You walk inside the bar. You see a man that might be Steven. As you approach him, you tell yourself, “Be cool. Be cool.” You wonder if people around you know that you’re on a Bumble date. They don’t. Until you yell, “There you are! Wasn’t sure if I’d recognize ya from your profile picture!”

He blushes. You hesitate – do we hug? You barely even know each other. You go in for a one-armer. He goes in for a full-body. Somehow, you end up patting his back like a 50-year-old rec league coach. He says you look nice. You say, “Thanks. I didn’t brush my teeth because I don’t want my beer to taste weird.”

He laughs. But it’s a sad laugh.

You never see Steven again.

 

The Many-Faced Girl

If I ever need a good laugh, I think about a story my sister Jessie told me years ago:

Me, Jessie and the infamous running hat. I have this photo framed and hanging in my office.

Me, Jessie, and the infamous running hat. I had this photo framed. It is currently hanging in my office.

She was in a bar. She’d just gone for a run, so she was wearing her running hat. A gaggle of North Carolina sorority girls stood between Jessie and her friends, giving her no choice but to part the pastel sea and walk through them. In doing so, she gave one of the girls a polite “s’cuse me” smile.

This girl turned to her friend and said, “Ew. That man’s smile is scaring me.”

To this day, that story brings tears of laughter to my eyes. Jessie still laughs about it too (which is one of the many reasons I love her so very much). It didn’t break her spirit. And it certainly didn’t keep her from wearing that God-awful hat.

But it got me thinking about the smiles I give people. If Jessie has The Scary Man Smile, what smiles do I have?

This is what I’ve concluded:

The Go-To Smile: A haunting toothless grin most often seen behind the windows of unmarked vans. I certainly don’t want to think of this look as my go-to smile, but the photo evidence is overwhelmingly grim. The truth, as they say, is not always pretty.

GoToSmile GTSmile2

GoToSmile3

The Solar Eclipse: When I contort my face and body in unnatural ways to appear naturally beautiful. Accomplishing this look is no small feat, which is why I only do it when I’m in the market for a new Bumble picture.

The Solar Eclipse is a slippery little devil and can only be captured under the most perfect of circumstances (hence, the name Solar Eclipse). You see, it involves a complete alignment of the stars: when one is photographed doing “the skinny arm” from one’s good side, all the while maintaining a dazzling – yet natural – smile and appropriate degree of back-bending sternum protrusion. Like a real solar eclipse, it’s incredible when all goes according to plan. But on the flip side, should all fail, you wind up looking like a complete and utter fraud. (Exhibit A).

Exhibit A – Failed Solar Eclipse. Reason for failure: excessive sternum protrusion. One degree further and I'd be folded over backwards at the waist.

Exhibit A – Failed Solar Eclipse. Reason for failure: excessive sternum protrusion. One degree further and I’d be folded over backwards at the waist.

The Obligatory Smile: A decent shot at a smile, but completely dead behind the eyes. Most often used in group photos or in the presence of children.

Obligatory Smile

The “Pizza Plz” Smile. A horrible facial affliction that knows only one cure.

Front row beauty queen.

When it is time for pizza.

PizzaPlz

When it is well past time for pizza.

The Come Hither Smirk. And now, an anecdote: In college, I would circle the University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball team like a hyena herding its prey. It was easy, really. Every Friday night, they congregated in the same spot, against the same wall, at the same bar. So I’d take laps around them, each time yelling out, “Devinne?? Devinne?!” as if I was desperately looking for my friend. With each passing, I’d deliver a powerful performance of mixed emotions. On the one hand, I was deeply concerned for Devinne. But on the other, I was cool and confident –impossibly glamorous even in a time of great distress.

I’d orbit them time and time again, dramatically tousling my mane as much as my Bumpit would allow. I pretended not to know or care who they were. “John Wall? What’s that?” In my (arguably delusional) mind, I assumed my aloofness would intrigue them. “Who’s that little girl?” They’d say. “The one with the immaculate spray tan and mischievous smirk? Why is she so upset? Why is she so out of breath? And – by Jove! – why is she so indifferent to our fame?!”

Did any of this work? Of course not. But my Come Hither Smirk – resting bitch face with a chilling side of crazy – is alive and kicking.

Beauty 101

I made an unimportant decision that I am certain no one will care about. Thus, it seemed only natural to post it on social media.

But first, some background:

I’ve worn thick black eyeliner since the seventh grade. I remember the very day I debuted this edgy look – it was at a beginning-of-the-school-year picnic. I came to get my books, pick up my schedule and decorate my locker with pictures of Vin Diesel. I was excited for the new school year. You see, sixth grade wasn’t exactly my best look. I was soft. Meek. My favorite pair of jeans had an airbrushed panda bear on them. I didn’t quite scream, “cool new girl,” so seventh grade was going to be my year to prove otherwise. I was going to be tough. I was going to start wearing Hollister, and, by God, I was going to wear eyeliner.

Why do I remember this day so clearly? Because my crush took one look at my face and asked if I’d been punched in both eyes. (And yet, it never deterred me.)

Lipz2

Here I am testing the Kylie Jenner over-lined lip technique. This was before news broke that her lips were, in fact, surgically enhanced. Who knew!?

Today, while my makeup regimen varies by occasion, it most often involves the same thick application of eyeliner, a heavy masking of my forehead vein and a half-assed attempt to make my lips look less like mealworms. To transition my look to nighttime, I double up on bronzer and brush blush over my collarbones for a faux sunburnt glow.

I know what you’re thinking – this girl sounds like a professional beauty blogger. A real threat to the Kardashian Empire. And you’re absolutely right. However, I recently coined a makeup technique that goes against everything we big-time beauty bloggers stand for. I call it: The Underwhelmer Whammer.

The Underwhelmer Whammer is a strategy based on the controversial business mantra: Under-promise and over-deliver. What does “under-promise and over-deliver” mean? It means setting the bar very, very low and then – surprise! – blowing it out of the water. It means promising to have a project turned in on Friday and delivering it on Wednesday. And it means never, ever bringing home a man whilst wearing a padded bra.

For years, I’ve applied this technique to my wardrobe and hair. The first time I curled my hair for work, a male coworker told me I looked “nice,” and like I “gave a shit” that day. Now, I’ve decided to take it one step further. I’ve decided to, as they say, “give less shits” about my face.

Here’s how it works: Monday through Friday, I will remain mousy and makeup-free. At first, it will be shocking.

“Oh, JoAnne!” they’ll say.

“What’s wrong?” they’ll say.

“Did you just give blood?!” they’ll say.

“Oh no, is it Joan?!?!?” they’ll say.

"Bronzer-less pallor."

“Bronzer-less pallor.”

But as time wears on and my coworkers’ eyes adjust to my natural plainness, they’ll become more comfortable at the sight of my veiny eyelids and bronzer-less pallor. They may even forget I ever had eyebrows. That is, until…

WHAM!

I decide to wear makeup one day, and I roll in looking like an airbrushed goddess.

The Underwhelmer Whammer: a new beauty vlog coming to YouTube this fall.

 

 

The Flu

Thoughts I had while fighting the flu:

Is this what it feels like to become a vampire?

How did this get through my defenses? Has The Fish Taco been lying dormant all this time?

Joan and James are being so nice to me.

JoanieJoan and James are being too nice to me. Can they sense what I cannot – imminent death?

I am going to die alone. I am going to die alone up here in this attic, in this stupid Megalodon t-shirt. (Dying alone has been a recurring fear of mine ever since I realized I don’t know how to perform the Heimlich — to others, or to myself. Twice I’ve chipped teeth while eating too quickly, so choking doesn’t seem too far fetched.)

When will my cool fever dreams kick in?

I had no idea cats could sleep so much.

Dreads

Fever hair.

Is that a dreadlock?

While hopped up on Sudaphed: Why do people do meth?

While crying in the urgent care parking lot: I really need cat litter. And Feeder Supply is right there. But I can’t be the girl who walks in crying, buys cat litter and leaves.

I am the girl who walked in crying, bought cat litter and left.

Should I call everyone I had contact with late last week? Or is that only appropriate with STDs?

What if my boss thinks I’m lying?

Because really, who gets the flu in May?

Maybe this isn’t the flu.

This definitely isn’t the flu.

While searching my body for ticks: I must have Lyme disease.

While searching my body for mosquito bites: I must have Zika.

While searching my body for claw marks: I must have Cat Scratch Fever. Oh, God. What a horribly ironic way to die.

– fin –

Coffee Shop Invasion

Today I tried to be one of those cool people you see in coffee shops. The ones wearing those ridiculously large lawn-mowing headphones, sitting in a corner working furiously on something you assume is their latest short story or screenplay.

I’ve always thought these people seemed hip and successful. So this afternoon, I decided I was ready to join their ranks. It wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped.

To start, it takes me 10 minutes to park before I’m even able to set foot in the coffee shop. This aggravates me. But I try to let it go and tell myself I’m just not meant for menial tasks like driving or parking. I belong in a big city. A bustling financial district with a Light Rail, or whatever.

I arrive at the shop, put my stuff down and walk to the counter to order my drink. I get my usual — a medium dry cappuccino — and settle into a brightly lit corner that I hope will give me a second-hand tan.

Joan's judging eyes follow me wherever I go.

Joan’s judging eyes follow me wherever I go.

The table next to me is occupied by an aforementioned Headphone Wearer, who I’ve decided to name Karen. I crack open my MacBook Air (already pleased with the impression I’m making), and wander around in search of a nearby plug. I find one, plug in, and start unfurling my power cord like I’m laying a bomb or a booby-trap that leads back to my table. Karen looks up several times as I do this. It’s clear she finds me irritating. In this moment, I feel uncomfortably like my dad. He’s always very annoying when people are trying to concentrate on something other than him. He’s chipper. Bouncy and distracting, like a toddler who hasn’t quite come to grips with his body mass or movements.

All powered up and ready to go, I sit down and try to think of something to write about. Five minutes pass. Suddenly, I am painfully aware of how hot the sunlight feels on my delicate winter flesh. I cannot work under these circumstances, I tell myself. Especially considering the mole-removal I endured not seven days ago. So I stand on a chair and attempt to lower the blinds. The opposite happens, and somehow, the blinds open even further, showering Karen and myself with scalding UV rays from above. I hurry to reverse my actions, but it’s too late. The blinds are stuck ajar and I haven’t the upper body strength to pull them back down. It is clear that Karen hates me.

Defeated, I sit back down in my chair. At this point, I realize that I’ve nearly finished my coffee. What happens once it’s gone? Do I just sit here with an empty cup? Do I order another? What would Karen do?

I put this worry aside and begin to look for an acceptable Pandora station to enjoy. Do I go for my usual station — Kanye and Jay Z’s Watch the Throne? Or do I pick something a little more muted, more coffee-shop-esque? I feel Karen’s eyes burrowing into my screen and find myself wondering if she’s ever seen Keeping up with the Kardashians.

Things aren’t going as expected. I haven’t written a single word, I’ve formed a tumultuous relationship with this complete stranger Karen (if that’s even her real name), and my skin is feeling oddly flushed. Am I getting burned? Is my anti-aging cream negatively reacting to the window-filtered sunlight?

I decide to move. A change of scene will help me focus, surely. I pack up my station, wander over to a shady corner and start the whole process again. This time, I put on my glasses as if to say, “it’s go time, folks.”

I’ve now been in the coffee shop for 45 minutes. And I don’t have a word to show. So I write a blog post about being in a coffee shop.