Author Archives: joanna

A Valentine’s Day Tumble

It’s February 14. Valentine’s Day. The time is 8 a.m.

I’ve decided to look nice today. It’s V Day. I’m not normally a romantic – far from it, in fact. But I need an excuse to buy this $22 bottle of wine I’ve been eyeing. So I decide to make a day of it.

I curl my hair, paint on some eyeliner and don my finest red shirt.

I throw down my morning vitamins, gather my things, and head downstairs to put on some underwear before leaving for work.

Once in the basement, I take off my boots and pants. I reach into the dryer to pull out a fresh pair of underwear – and it hits me. I’ve made a terrible mistake. The same mistake I made during the bowl-cut reversal of 2013. I took too many vitamins at once. And now, I am going to vomit.

I panic. What do I do? Where do I go? Do I have time to put my pants back on? Can I even make it upstairs?

Horrified at the thought of a housemate finding me pantless and puking in our laundry room, I yank on my jeans and sprint upstairs.

But I’m in socks.

Thick purple socks. For Valentine’s Day.

So I slip.

And I fall.

I careen down the stairs at a breakneck speed.

My body crashes into the door (which I’d shut behind me), splintering the wood and busting the lock.

I emit a long, tearless wail.

And then another.

My knees are broken. My door is broken. And I have no choice but to lie down to die.

I imagine the paramedics finding my body.

“28-year-old female. Caucasian. Covered in vomit and knee bones.”

“Man, is she…”

“Yeah. Dressed for Valentine’s Day.”

“How horrible. Think she had a fella?”

“Nah. Neighbors said she was single.”

“Christ. Good thing we got to her before the cats did.”

A few minutes later, I regain the use of my limbs.

I poke my kneecaps. And I am surprised to find them intact.

I unfurl my body from the heap I’ve formed at the foot of the stairs.

I email my maintenance man to tell him I might need a new door.

I email my boss to tell him I’ll be late – I fell down the stairs.

He responds, “Do you need a Life Alert necklace?”

I smile. It’s Valentine’s Day. And a man just offered me jewelry.

img_5509

The Licki Brush

I received a delightful Christmas gift from a friend at work. It was a Licki Brush. What is a Licki Brush? It is, quite obviously, a tongue-shaped brush you put in your mouth so you can “lick” your cats. Duh.

Much to the horror of my friends and family, I was tickled to death by this unexpected little treat. Social grooming is everything in the cat world – the ultimate sign of acceptance. To finally bridge the gap from Poop-Sifter to Contributing Clowder Member would be the breakthrough of a lifetime.

I was, of course, a tad nervous about what this brush might symbolize. I mean, the signs were all there: not only did I receive a Licki Brush for Christmas, I also received a Snuggie, a Slanket and a new set of loungewear. My family is basically cajoling me into a life of solitude. Yeah, it’s all bubble baths and Kenny G mixtapes for now. But before you know it, I’ll be holed up for good. Trapped in a nest of my own making, living on garbanzo beans, boxed wine and tuna.

slanket

The Slanket: my go-to for fancy times.

snuggie

The Snuggie: my choice for holidays, work and Dungeons and Dragons campaigns.

But that’s weeks from now. And not at all what I’d planned to write about.

No. Today, I review the Licki Brush.

As mentioned above, the Licki Brush is a tool for humans to groom their cats in true cat fashion. Like an As Seen on TV product, it masterfully treads the line between self-aware and utterly ridiculous. It is absurd and yet it makes sense. It is the answer for people, like me, who often wonder, “How can I be sure the Clark line stops with me?” Or, “How does one even begin to commit to a life of abstinence?”

The packaging is a light, bright sky blue. It’s clean and simple and thus not at all indicative of the experience of actually licking a cat (though I suspect this was intentional).

le-brush

The brush itself is quite large – much larger than you’d expect. By my measurements, it is about twice the size of Joan’s little pea head. (Editor’s note: If you, too, have a cat with an abnormally small face, I suggest you wield the brush carefully.)

If I were making a list of pros and cons, I would first note that the brush is surprisingly satisfying to chew on. It’s like a big rubber block. A Kong for humans, if you will. On the downside, I found it difficult to juggle both chewing and drinking, and so I struggled to reach my ideal wine intake. And that I would not stand for.

Does it work? Does it really help you bond with your cats? Honestly, it’s too soon to tell. Joan and James had very different reactions to it. James made a run for it the moment I turned to face him. This did not surprise me, for he is my gentle giant. My Ferdinand.

Joan was a bit more interested. She inched closer, gave the brush a few good sniffs. I took this as a good sign, so I leaned in to groom her. At which point she countered with this:

bet

I’ve yet to test my luck again.

The Doctor

Visiting the Doctor: A Hypochondriac’s Perspective

You walk in. You sign in using the communal waiting room pen. This disgusts you.

You hand the receptionist your insurance card in exchange for an annual wellness survey. You mouth “thank you” and scurry to a dark, unoccupied corner of the waiting room.

You glance at the survey. It asks you to circle any ongoing symptoms or general health concerns. You laugh. Because they have no idea what’s coming.

You pick apart the list of possible symptoms as one might a tapas menu. Mood swings? Sure! Night sweats? Why not? You crack your knuckles and begin to unleash a year’s worth of neuroses. Within minutes, you convince yourself that you’re dying, if not already dead.

You’re soon escorted back to the next holding pen. There, you strip down to your moose socks and don the dreaded cotton gown. Honestly, you don’t really think about the other naked bodies it’s touched. Until you sit down.

Days later, your doctor comes in and you chit-chat. You talk about your family, your health, the news, etc. You crack a few good jokes. She laughs. “I’m on a roll!” you think. And for the next few minutes, you smile like a smug little asshole, blissfully unaware your gown is wide open.

You move on to blood work.

You faint during blood work.

You come to in a high chair, doubled over at the waist with a trashcan between your ankles.

A nurse hands you a lollipop. You accept the lollipop. You get the lollipop stuck in her lab coat as she checks your vitals.

You mumble your apologies. She tells you to eat your lollipop. You tell her it touched her lab coat and now you’re scared to eat it. She hands you another lollipop and a small cup of water. You notice that the cup looks just like those used for urine samples, but you say nothing. What’s the point? Clearly, you’ve lost too much blood to live.

I asked the blood tech to take a picture of in case I died. Here it is.

I asked the blood tech to take a picture of me in case I died. Here it is.

Another nurse comes in. She asks how you’re feeling. You say “weird.” She asks if you have children. You say no. She says, “Well honey, then that ain’t ever gonna happen.” You agree. Wholeheartedly.

You sit in the high chair like a small child waiting to be released from dinner. Once you’re able to stand on your own, you’re cleared to go.

At check out, you’re given a printout of your medical conditions. It reads:

Anxiety.
Asthma.
IBS.

“My God,” you say to yourself. “I’m a catch.”

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.