Tag Archives: 20 something

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. 

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.

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.

Work Quirks

Last week marked my three-year anniversary at work. Crazy how time flies. It feels like just yesterday I was power-washing homes and hunting squirrels for rent. But for better or for worse, I’ve now been a bonafide businessman for three years. And though I still look like a science fair entrant in business pants (or “trousers,” as my fancy friend calls them), I’ll concede that I’ve slowly matured in other ways, some of which both puzzle and frighten me.

Hot for per.
I knew I was in trouble the day “per” cropped up in my everyday dialect. I don’t remember our first encounter, but I do – embarrassingly enough – remember thinking “My God, where have you been?” It didn’t take long for me to develop a sick sort of satisfaction in its abuse. It felt so easy. So natural. So trousery. For example, rather than send my friends an email about “that cat video we talked about at lunch,” I found myself saying things like, “Per our discussion over sandwiches,” or “Per our conversation re: cats.” (More to come on re:) I was totally out of control. The only time I can remember obsessing in such a way was when I was eight and discovered the word “bastard.” To be sure, I hadn’t yet discovered the meaning of bastard, so I used it interchangeably with “friend(s)” or “guy(s).” E.g.: “Come on, you bastards! Let’s get some snacks!”

Picture of my finest creek-walking gear.

Around the same age I discovered “bastard,” Can you believe it?

Re: the ridiculousness of re:
After readily adopting “per,” it was only a matter of time before I began exploring the darker, more formal morsels of jargon at my disposal. Though I experimented with several options – most notably the notion of signing my emails with “Best,” – I eventually landed on re:. Re:, as in, “I got your voicemail re: the peanut butter.” Or “Your email re: the trouser sale was well received by all.” I knew it was terrible sentence structure. I knew it was pretentious. But I didn’t care. It felt good to be bad. And if I’m being totally honest here, it made me feel a hair grayer (in a well-respected wizard sort of way, that is).

The Hello Whisper.
I find something very uncomfortable about passing people in hallways. They’re at one end, you’re at the other, and you have no choice but to surmount a full-frontal approach before meeting your respective destinations.

To handle these situations, I’ve developed two coping strategies: The Hello Whisper and the Captain’s Wave. Certainly, each has become somewhat irrelevant as I’ve grown more comfortable in my company, but they’ve both served me well.

The Hello Whisper came to me in the first year of my career, presumably born out of shyness and insecurity. It happens like this: upon noticing an approaching coworker, I tuck my pelvis under, focus intently on the carpet and quicken my pace, as if I’m late to a very important meeting. Once I feel that my coworker and I have reached an appropriate distance from each other, I look up, smile, and silently mouth “Hi” Like I’m very excited to see them, but also quietly respectful of the hardworking businessmen around me.

The Captain’s Wave.
As seasons changed, I began to replace my meek Hello Whisper with something a little bolder, a little more dramatic — the Captain’s Wave. It came to me when I realized that what I hated most about hallway encounters was the anticipation. Do I say hi? When should I say hi? How do I say hi? Where should I look until I say hi? What if I have chocolate on my face? What if it’s my boss and I have chocolate on my face? 

So, I decided to avoid said discomfort by asserting myself from the get-go. If I notice a coworker at the opposite end of the hallway, I throw up my hand and give them a big, slow half-circular wave, like I’m saluting them from the helm of my ship. It seems to work quite nicely. After a few months testing it in the market, I’ve found that it gets about a 55 percent response rate, depending on how backlit I am.

So there you have it. A small taste of my more unfortunate work quirks. Also, for my own vanity, I must note that I’ve weaned myself off “per” and “re:,” though you have every right to judge our brief affair.

As you can see, I've grown quite comfortable in my work environment.

As you can see, I’ve grown quite comfortable in my work environment.

Friday Night Bubbles

This winter, I started a bit of an embarrassing Friday night habit. To be totally honest, I only call it “embarrassing” to save whatever bit of coolness I have left in this world because, in reality, I kind of love it.

Bourbon and BubblesAfter a few brutal weeks at work, I started thinking about how nice it would be to throw myself an ultimate relaxation party, a night to pamper myself like the Bravo! Housewives I know and love (knew* and loved*, really, as I can no longer afford a lavish life of cable). I decided that a bubble bath made the most sense, particularly as my apartment didn’t seem to be getting any sort of heat at the time (or ever, for that matter).

But I didn’t want this to be just any kind of bubble bath. No, it needed to be something special. Something fancy. And perhaps most importantly, something that would look good on Instagram.

So I splurged on organic bubbles, face masks, hair masks, candles, single barrel bourbon and a closet full of cleaning materials to properly prepare the tub. Had Kroger sold kitty life-jackets or swimming trunks, I would have certainly added them to my cart. Only the best for m’Lady Joan.

IMG_1641The day of my inaugural bath, I went to yoga (again, keeping up with the whole Real Housewives theme) and came home ready to soak like a true elitist. I scrubbed the tub until it fit my personal health code, and filled it to the brim with hot water and nearly a 2-liter of bubble bath solution. I poured myself a stout glass of bourbon, slapped on my face and hair masks, lit the candles and – for perhaps the worst and most embarrassing part of my tale – switched on the Enya Pandora station (which, for the record, is basically a Lord of the Rings playlist. And that’s more than fine by me).

Deliverer of said tooth marks.

Deliverer of said tooth marks.

As I slunk into the tub, I felt any remaining shred of street cred slip from my bones, like I’d just performed my own baptism into the lonely Church of Catladydom. I sipped my bourbon – gripping it carefully with my dry, winter witch hands – as the water gently stung the tooth marks on my wrists and shoulders. It was at that moment that I knew – I’d never be cool again.

– End Scene –