Author Archives: joanna

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.

Grandma Joanne

Earlier this winter, my Grandma Joanne passed away. I’m so very thankful that I was able to visit her while she was still herself. But it didn’t make saying goodbye any easier. It was a terrible feeling, saying goodbye for good. When you leave someone, it’s usually more of a “see you later” than a “goodbye.” But this was a hard and cold goodbye. The last time I’d spend with my last-living grandmother. And I was juggling our final moments with a Southwest flight? That just doesn’t seem right.

I won’t say much more on the matter as, like a true Clark, grand displays of emotions are not my strong suit. I actually get quite uncomfortable with them, a trait I likely inherited from my dad – the man who exclaimed, “Into zee vault!” at my Grandma Mary’s interment.

So rather than remember my Grandma Joanne with sadness, I’ll share a little bit about her.

My Grandma Joanne was a wild woman – the best kind of wild. She wore bold, bright eccentric ensembles, many of which incorporated at least one species of animal print. She loved art, music and culture, and she introduced me to French and the Good Morning Vietnam soundtrack. Her trademark phrase was “fucking asshole,” a term of endearment or of condemnation, depending on the day. She was a world traveler, a fierce card player and a volunteer docent at an art museum, among many, many other things.

One summer, my sister and I stayed with her while my mom recovered from back surgery. (A smart move on my mom’s part, considering the last time she left us in my dad’s charge, my sister fed me a bottle of Benadryl.)

While we were there, my Grandma Joanne made us memorize a song and dance routine to “When the Saints Come Marching In.” It was quite an elaborate number, with parasols and everything. We performed it at a local senior center.

She told me champagne would cure my sea-sickness (it didn’t), and that Clark women are blessed with huge knockers (verdict’s still out). One of the last things she said to me was, “if any man does you wrong, I’ll come back and castrate him.”

**Cue the line of eligible bachelors**

I can’t quite put my finger on what it was about her, but she very much inspired me. Her personality was larger than life. She was hilarious – wickedly so, but a riot all the same. She was feisty, blunt and bold. She was the kind of person you’d bend over backwards to impress. Making her laugh, genuinely laugh, always felt like a huge accomplishment.

I’ll miss her very much.

Jessie, my Grandpa John, Grandma Joanne and me. Let it be known that BOTH of my grandmother's walked their cats on leashes.

Jessie, my Grandpa John, Grandma Joanne and me. Let it be known that BOTH of my grandmothers walked their cats on leashes.

My sister Jessie, my Grandma Joanne and me on a fishing trip.

My sister Jessie, my Grandma Joanne and me on a fishing trip. This is when I really began to blossom, as indicated by the khaki slacks.

Things I tell myself

Things I tell myself when I’ve had a drink:

I’m going to pick up the piano. You know, get a keyboard and some sheet music on Amazon Prime. Start cranking out some classic jams – Bach, Beethoven, Andrew Lloyd Webber, the usual suspects. It’d be my signature party trick. Something I’d whip out unexpectedly to surprise my friends and woo nearby men with my digital dexterity.

I got very serious about this new musical venture. So serious that I went over to my parents’ house to practice on their piano. But when I sat down to play, I realized that despite seven years of choir and a brief affair with the trumpet, I still had NO idea how to read music. And the thought of learning was – and clearly always has been – just too much to bear.

I’m going to get some miniature life vests and teach my cats how to swim in the bathtub. This was a particularly passionate pipe dream of mine; it burned bright, but it burned fast. In the end, it was a traumatic flea bath that squashed my plans. Joan was so scared of the water that I had to strap on my old swim team one-piece and spray-tan swim-cap and hop in with her. It was – quite literally – a bloodbath.

Bathtime with Wolverine.

Bathtime with Wolverine.

I’m going to become a sommelier on the side. I’ve always had a great sense of smell. A unique ability to detect and describe even the faintest of scents. I think it’s an inherent survival trait of being asthmatic. I mean, think about it: the ability to identify an airborne threat is absolutely grounds for a right-swipe from the big D. (D being Darwin, mom.) If my ancestors were being picked off for wheezing, they had to develop at least one redeeming quality.

Anyways, as taste and smell are so closely related, I figured I’d be a shoe-in for sommelier school. So I ran the idea past my dad and sister. My dad was pretty supportive. Not a huge surprise, since our favorite bonding activities include blind bourbon taste tests. He did, however, tell me to back off the hot foods. One burnt tongue and I’d be out of business, he said. My sister was the voice of reason. “Jo. That shit costs like thousands of dollars. And it takes years of studying and practice. You can’t just become a sommelier as a hobby.”

And that was that.

I’m going to redownload Tinder. I have a love-hate relationship with Tinder. I hate it most of the time. Until I get a match. Which, for about five minutes, makes me feel DAMN self-important. But the feeling quickly wears off (see image below as to why). And when it does, I’m reminded of just how shallow the whole exercise is.

My profile said I loved cats. He thought I meant the Wildcats. Rookie mistake, bro. Also, ew.

My profile said I loved cats. He thought I meant the Wildcats. Rookie mistake, my man. Also, ew.

Every time I redownload the app, I ask myself, “Why am I even doing this? Why do I keep doing this? Why are all these men holding children? Why would they think I’d be into that? What’s the swipe etiquette for friends? Friends-of-friends? God I hope none of these matches actually message me.”

And finally, when I’ve once again reached my Tindering limit, “I’m just going to find a man the old-fashioned way. Go to a bar, down some liquid courage, hit on some non-threatening randos and hope something sticks.”

I’m going to write a blog post about things I tell myself when I’ve had a drink. The end.

27

A year ago, I published a blog post about turning 26. It was one of my more serious posts, as it was the first time I’d ever opened up about having an anxiety disorder. **Cue the line of eligible bachelors**

Since writing that post, I’ve done a lot of work on my anxiety. I’m by no means cured, but I’ve definitely become more lax about sharing drinks with people. I even ate a fish taco off a hotel floor, which, by anyone’s standards, is downright irresponsible. A death wish, some might say. (Full disclosure: I spent the next day googling variations of: “Do microwaves kill herpes?”)

Since writing that post, I’ve been working on myself. Working on the ability to speak my mind, the ability to let things go, and the ability to get up and talk to people, even when I feel like they hate me.

But perhaps one of the hardest things I’m working on is learning how to value and appreciate myself. I spent a good part of last year thinking, “What the hell is wrong with me? What do they have that I don’t? Am I not ____ enough?” I leave this blank because, depending on the day, I’d fill in any number of descriptors. Spontaneous enough, confident enough, cool enough, pretty enough, funny enough, bold enough, open enough, creative enough. I didn’t feel enough. Period. I felt like an inconvenience in someone’s day, an intruder in their “group.” And while these fears have always lived in the back of my mind, I suddenly found them catapulted to the forefront. It felt like everything I’d feared about myself – my lowest, most self-hating thoughts – were proved true. And that felt terrible.

But today, more than a year later, I’m able to ask myself why. Why does someone else get to dictate how I feel about myself? Why do they get all the power? All of my power?

I’m also starting to realize that people come and go. Friends, boyfriends, lovahs, even husbands – they come and go. There’s only one person I can count on spending the rest of my life with. And that’s me. So isn’t it about time I came to peace with myself? Wouldn’t it make sense to start learning how to love myself? How to feel whole with myself, by myself?

This has been my focus. Which is why I nearly lost my mind when I came across the following:

meme2

If she’s hot and single, she’s crazy.

???

Now to be clear, I’m not saying I’m hot. I’m saying, as a single woman, “What the fuck?”

This meme hit me so hard because it is, quite specifically, the very thought I spent months beating myself up over. The fact that I am 27 and single baffles people, from my dentist to my relatives. I take this meme — even if it was made in jest — to mean there are those who view my singleness as an abnormality, like my childhood snaggletooth. I take it to mean that men must look at me and say, “Oh, she’s single? Well, what’s wrong with her then?”

Why does something have to be wrong with me? There are so many reasons why a woman would be single — why do we automatically assume that she’s a compulsive car keyer?

Maybe she likes being independent. Maybe she’s focused on other things. Maybe she’s just having fun. Maybe she doesn’t feel like doting on anyone, save her cats, friends and family. Yeah, maybe she got her ass dumped. But maybe he was unfaithful.

Maybe she’s just not into you, brah.

Why does a girl need to be spoken for in order for others to believe she’s cool? Why is a woman seen as worthy, valuable, “a catch,” or sane only when a man deems her fit for marriage? 

I realize this post might have crossed the line (several lines, really) from thoughtful to impassioned. And if you thought you were getting into another post about cats or germs, my sincerest apologizes, as I’ve certainly led you astray. To be clear, I’m not making sweeping judgments about men or any other group of people, and I’m certainly not trying to brand myself as a wronged woman in pursuit of justice. I love being single. I also loved being a relationship, when it was healthy. There’s nothing wrong with being in or out of a relationship, as long as you’re happy.

Happy is what I’m focused on. Not who makes me happy. Just being happy. Period. And if THAT’S what makes me crazy, cool. At least it’s not my cats.