Tag Archives: Childhood

Germophobes Unite.

For most of my adolescent life, I managed to keep my germophobia under wraps. While it was stressful at times, I worked very hard to keep up an easy-going, germ-indifferent public persona. But now, as people are slowly catching on to my constant hand washing, inability to walk barefoot and fear of fruit garnishes, I’ve decided to come clean. While I don’t expect to shock many people, I do hope, at the very least, that in writing this blog post I am able to significantly decrease the amount of people who ask for a sip of my drink or to borrow my chapstick.

The first signs of my disease cropped up when I was still a spry young chap on the cusp of Kindergarten. As I did not have much to do after my morning screening of Fraggle Rock, I took it upon myself to police the bathrooms in hopes of instilling a more rigorous hand-washing regimen among my relatives. I’d station myself directly outside of the bathroom door and interrogate people upon exit. Sometimes I’d go as far as to press my ear to the door to make sure I heard the faucet running. How my family must have loved me.

I ended my career as a self-elected CDC official upon entering Kindergarten. At this age, I had bigger fish to fry. Like trying to convince my classmates that my dad was part bear. (To rationalize his coat of back hair, my dad told me that he’d spent his preteen years living as a bear living in Sacramento. I believed him for longer than he had intended me to.)

Anyways, the first event on my Kindergarten social calendar was the Pilgrims and Indians brunch. Coincidentally, it was this event that scarred me for the rest of my life:

I considered the brunch my inaugural ball into public schooling. I usually came to school clothed in Lands’ End overalls and knockoff Zoo merchandise, so this opportunity to dress up was a big deal for me. I gave my mom my costume instructions and immediately organized a trip to Stride Rite. Come Brunch day, I was ready to make an entrance in my homemade pilgrim frock. My only regret was agreeing to wear the bonnet as it completely overshadowed my bowl-cut.

In for a bowl-cut shape-up.

After all of my hard work and meticulous grooming, it was shaping up to be an enjoyable afternoon. That is until one of my female classmates projectile-vomited directly onto my chest. I don’t remember much after that happened — I’m assuming I fainted on the spot.

Things didn’t get easier after Kindergarten. As I got older, I began to fear more than just my peers’ sooty paws and their spontaneous projectile-vomiting. Once lice came on the scene, I successfully planned and executed my first self-quarantine. My sister, who was notably less prepared for such a disaster, was not as lucky.

Over the years I’ve gradually learned how to discretely cope with germophobia. College was a real breaking point for me — I like to think it relaxed me a bit. Only once did I wipe down a tap with hand sanitizer prior to keg-standing. Serving also gave me a crash course in coping skills — I didn’t last long as a server, but the only germ-related trauma I really flipped out about was when a dollop of queso splashed into my eye while I was bussing a table. I quit shortly after that incident, but not before Googling “Pink Eye” and “workers’ comp”.

People often referred to me as a style icon of my time. You’ll notice my bowl-cut here, as well.

And although I no longer accost people in restrooms, I do exhibit my geromphobia in a number of more subtle ways:

  • I avoid all fruit garnishes on drinks as I am well aware of their manhandled filth.
  • I am terrified of walking barefoot — but not without good reason.
  • I visibly panic when people ask for a sip of my drink (it’s hard coming up with a polite way to say “absolutely not”.)
  • I am somewhat frightened of used books. (As a child I found a booger in one my library books.)
  • I thoroughly (and I mean thoroughly) sanitize the elliptical at the gym….before using it.
  • I throw away my chapstick after questionable people harass me into sharing it with them
  • I am giddy at the sight of public restrooms with doorknob-less swinging doors, automatic faucets, automatic soap pumps and automatic paper towel dispensers.

So I guess the moral of this post is, please don’t ask for a sip of my drink. Or to borrow my chapstick. Or for a bite of my meal. And please don’t ask why my hands are so dry — it’s obvious that I’ve over-washed them. And I realize that in writing this post I sound like a serious nerd. But let’s be honest, I think that ship has sailed.

Tales of Christmas Past

Buster found ham under the Christmas tree

Since the day after Christmas is the most depressing day of the year, I figured I’d share a few personal Christmas stories to lighten the mood.

When I was little, my dad would make me wrap the gifts he’d gotten for his friends and co-workers. It was a bit like child labor, but I enjoyed the responsibility and it was a nice creative outlet when my sister needed time-off from choreographing Lion King music videos. I called myself, “The Mad Wrapper,” and I’d autograph every gift I wrapped. Unfortunately, I was (and still am) a terrible speller. Thus, instead of signing my gifts “The Mad Wrapper,” I signed them all “The Mad Raper.”

Looking back, I sincerely hope my parents noticed my law-suitable trademark before handing these gifts over to friends and co-workers. While today I can laugh at my horrendously disturbing spelling mistake, I’m sure “The Mad Raper” did not go over so well in my father’s workplace.

My next Christmas story is one of love. If you’ve read my Dear Diary post, you’ll understand how much of a creepy mess I was when it came to the male species. Unfortunately, Christmas time brought out the worst in me, and my borderline unhealthy creepiness extended to the elf community. When I was about 7, I was head-over-heels in love with Bernard, the very Jewish-looking elf from The Santa Clause. In my defense, Bernard wasn’t just any elf — he was the Head Elf. Between his position of authority, velour messenger cap collection, and dark, curly mop of dreadlockish hair, I was hooked. Every Christmas Eve, I’d slip into my sexiest set of pajamas — usually my silky Aladdin set — and I’d try to fall asleep flat on my back, with my hands crossed over my heart just like Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty (Google it). I’d fantasize about the moment when Bernard and Santa would break into my household — While Santa was busy binge eating and sparring with Buster, Bernard would sneak up to my room to catch a glimpse of me. He’d take one look at my Princess Jasmine-inspired ensemble, flawless, prepubescent complexion and he would fall madly in love with me.

Obviously things didn’t work out between Bernard and I — as I got older, I realized that his impossibly curly black hair was most likely a weave attached to his velour beanie, and that was just not something I was willing to live with.

Happy holidays.

My friends and I dressed up as a nativity scene for a "Tacky Christmas" party. The bars made us leave our shepherd's crooks outside...something about safety regulations.

My Modeling Career

At least three times per day, complete strangers stop and stare at me, enchanted by my remarkably good looks and immaculate grooming habits. I sometimes go as far as to pull a hood over my head and hide my face behind over-sized sunglasses to avoid the inevitable awkwardness of when people mistake me for Marisa Miller.

Obviously, none of this is true. Not only do I leave the house on a daily basis looking rougher than a young Disney starlet on the fast track to rehab, but I am also so un-photogenic that at times, it can be startling. In fact, my 5th grade yearbook picture was so horrible that my mom cried when I showed it to her. She cried from laughing of course, but it was still quite a blow to my self-esteem. I wish I could find a copy of the picture, but from what I remember it could have easily passed for a public intoxication mugshot. I had one eye closed and the other eye mid-blink, open just wide enough to reveal a wandering eye. I’m pretty sure I had attempted a closed-mouth smile, a look I’d picked up from the back cover of Britney Spears’ …Baby One More Time album. Unfortunately, I don’t have the lips to pull off a closed-mouth smile, so I looked less like my teen idol and more like a constipated platypus.

I don’t know when my troubles with cameras started, but the first memory I have of my unfortunate relationship with flash photography is my 2nd grade family Christmas card. For the record, my family has not since taken a holiday picture, and I think my face has something to do with it.

2002. I tried to curl my hair with sponge curlers and somehow ended up with an afro. This photo is attached to a Mother's Day card.

The day before the photo shoot, my friend Megan and I were sitting on the top bunk of her bunk bed. While we’re still friends to this day, I must say that things weren’t always smooth sailing between us. You might have picked up on our volatile relationship if you read my Dear Diary…..Literally post. We had many a gruesome quarrel, ranging from which one of us would be prettier in middle school to who was stuck marrying Howie from the Backstreet Boys (my poor sister always ended up paired with Kevin, for reasons having to do with their enormous eyebrows).

Megan and I were notorious for bickering, but she always had the upper-hand. This was because her family understood the importance of Limited Too, giving her a clear advantage in the looks department. My mom refused to buy into the whole L2D2 fad and insisted on turning my sister and I into fashion icons via the Lands’ End catalog. While Megan sported the highly coveted glittery panda bear/polar bear/whatever animal was in season Limited Too graphic tees, I donned the more realistic versions…. more specifically, the types of wildlife shirts you can only find at aquariums, zoos and nature preserves.

Here I am in a wolf shirt and what look to be mens jeans.

Megan and I sometimes played a little rough, and by that I mean she beat me up on more than one occasion. The only times I would ever come out victorious were during our “leg wars,” when we would kick the hell out of each other until someone cried or fell off the couch. I’d prepare for these battles in advance by letting my toenails grow to an alarming length, allowing me to kick, slice and dice my way to victory. Unfortunately, my scrappy street style stopped working as soon as toe-socks hit the market.

However, my very least favorite form of Megan’s abuse was tickling. The day before the fateful Christmas card photo shoot, Megan and I were sitting on the top bunk of her bunk bed, discussing Jonathan Taylor Thomas and fighting over who got to be Sarah Jessica Parker in Hocus Pocus. A tickle war ensued, and as I was desperately trying to break free from her, I rolled right off the edge of the bunk bed. As I soared face-first towards the ground, I smacked my nose on the corner of a table.

Megan, her sister and my sister, Jessie, all sat in silence as I lay face down on the carpet. I didn’t move or speak for quite some time, so Megan was probably already fantasizing about all the extra playing time she’d get in our next YMCA basketball game (we often competed for point guard). After I realized I’d survived the fall, I said “JoJo go kaboom.” This phrase has been a family joke for years now, but at the time, it was the best sentence I could piece together while bleeding through my nose.

Needless to say, the next day I had a black eye just in time for our holiday photo shoot. To make matters worse, I insisted on wearing a black velvet dress that somehow had a matching velvet choker necklace attached to it. While my family members exuded merry, holiday cheer, I looked like the sick and twisted daughter they had adopted from the Adams Family.

Since that day, I have been plagued with horrible school pictures and an ungodly amount of bad Facebook pictures. My mom, a middle school science teacher, even exploited my unsightliness and included a picture of me in one of her lesson plans. The slides are about how organisms adapt to their environment, and the unfortunate consequences they face when they can’t adapt. I wasn’t aware she’d done this until I heard her chuckling to herself one day as she organized her lesson plans. Here it is:

What happens when you can't adapt?

Here is another example:

This is my sorority’s 2008 Bid Day picture. It was professionally printed and sent to the chapter members. I cropped it for your viewing pleasure.

Front row beauty queen.

Last, but certainly not least, here is one of my personal favorites. This was taken one night at my friend Brittany’s house. We were getting ready to go out, so I guess you could say this is me all dolled up. You’ll notice that I’m the spitting image of Lord Voldemort in lip gloss.

I'm still not sure how this happened.

I’d like to say that this Lord Voldemort doppelganger was a one-time thing, but I somehow managed to look like him again this past Spring Break (this picture is from my Sensitive Toes post). I’m not exactly pleased with the recurring resemblance.

Water shoes for added protection.

Dear Diary….Literally.

School has officially started, which means I can no longer pretend to be on summer break. I actually shed a little tear driving past my old elementary school when I saw all of the kids playing outside for recess. I remember those days when everything was so easy, when my biggest worries were about Sock Hops or which gel pen to use. I even had mild panic attacks over skating parties. What if I got sick and couldn’t go? Obviously this was an early sign of more hypochondriac behavior to come.

I was a very good student and cried whenever teachers told me to be quiet. I only got in serious trouble once when a teacher confiscated a very dirty Mad Lib my friends and I had been working on. I thought for sure I was going to jail.

I can recall three traumatic experiences I had in elementary school, although I’m certain there are many more that I’ve blocked out. The first was in kindergarten when a girl threw up on me. It was the Pilgrims and Indians Brunch. I was a pilgrim and she obviously wasn’t into it. I’d like to say that this was the first and only time someone has thrown up on me, but that would be false. When my sister and I were younger, we loved to dance around the house to the Lion King soundtrack. One night we were dancing in her room like lunatics, sliding around the hardwood floor in our new flannel Lands’ End onsie pajamas. After several exhausting rounds of “I Just Can’t Wait to be King,” I collapsed onto the bed. Jessie fell on top of me and threw up in my ear.

The next traumatic elementary school experience happened in 3rd grade. My sister and I walked to and from school since we lived only a few blocks away. One day, I spotted a leak in my purple lunchbox. To most people this would not seem like a huge deal, but for some reason it terrified me. I stormed down to the front office, leaky lunchbox in hand, and demanded to speak with my mother. I called her and told her that I would be needing a ride home from school today seeing as my lunchbox was no longer safe to walk with.

To my horror, my mom said no, absolutely not. I screamed and cried and threw a huge temper tantrum in the front office, slinging my lunchbox fluids all over the receptionist’s desk. I couldn’t believe her. How was I supposed to walk home with a drippy lunchbox? In the end, I wandered home sobbing hysterically. When I got there, I told my mom how much I hated her for putting me through such an ordeal.

The next tragedy happened in 4th grade right after I had gotten my braces. I always looked forward to the day I’d get braces. I saw them as the cool thing to have, like they added some sort of preteen sex appeal. My dream was to have both braces AND glasses, like my older sister, but no matter how many times I faked poor eyesight at the ophthalmologist, they never prescribed me a pair of lenses. I got lucky with the braces, though. The ladies at my orthodontist loved me because when it came time to change my bands, I’d tell them “have at it, give me everything you’ve got.” They exercised their creativity through my dental work, and I often sported “rainbow brackets,” aka every band color in the drawer.

One afternoon in 4th grade, I was performing a skit with my friend Kelly (I think it was Kelly?). I’m not 100 percent certain what the skit was about, but it was in Social Studies class and I had a stocking on my head, which leads me to believe we were reenacting the Watergate scandal. At the end of the skit, Kelly ripped the stocking from my head. Unfortunately, the stocking had snagged on one of my brackets so when she pulled it off, the majority of my top set came off as well. I’m not sure why I didn’t immediately call home and go to the orthodontist, but I walked around the rest of the day with a long wire poking out of my mouth.

All of this talk of elementary school got me thinking about my old diary, which I fortunately still have. Here are a few of my favorite entries, word for word, typos and all…except the names. I had to change all of the boys’ names because I still know some of them, which could make things pretty awkward for everyone involved. I tried to include pictures of some of the shorter entries. I couldn’t use any pictures from the ones that have boys’ names because, again, that’s just way too embarrassing.

To start things off, here’s a little something I found from when I was in 4th (?) grade. I think this explains a lot about the person I am today.

Me, reciting Eminem at age 12

January 5, 1997: Dear Diary, I like lots of boys but my friends make fun of it. (I was 8 years old in 1997)

"bball practis"

November 1997: Today was just a day. I did go to bball practis (sigh) my life is usaly O.K. (some pretty deep stuff)


April 1998: I watch a T.V show called Keenan and Kel. Kel is cute! (this explains a lot)

xoxo Kel ❤


April 23, 1998: Today was awfull. In math I got every equation WRONG!! (except 2). I even got 300 x 5 wrong. Then, at dismesle (dismissal) time my lunchbox leeked. I asked my mom to come pick me up but she said she wouldn’t! (proof!)

Oct. 2, 1998: In my earlyer writing I said, “but above all, I like Leonardo Decaprio.” Well now I don’t like him I like Nick Carter off the Backstreet Boys.

December 26, 1998: Youve heard alot about Megan, but most things were complaints. Well Megan and I are best buds. We used to do friendship tests. Most of them said “you and your friend are in troubled waters.” Well, we didn’t pay any attention to it but now I think its right! For Christmas she got me bath beads, witch I love. But she knows how much I love Nick Carter and gave Maddie a lifesize poster of Nick! – signed, Heartbroken. (followed by an illustration of a broken heart)

My letter to Christina Aguilera

Sept, 26, 1999: I like Jack, so what else is new? Andy said that Jack liked me and tryed to call me. He said that Jack didn’t go to the skating party cause i didn’t. it turned out to be a lie. It turned out that Jack asked Megan for her #. It turned out that Megan was overjoyed and my heart was crushed. I called Jack and asked him if he called me. He said no. I have come to this: ‘When some hearts are lifted, others are dropped’ – Joanna Clark. (yes, I quoted myself and signed it)

October 19 1999: My birthday is ruinned! (even though its not my birthday).

  1. I got sick on the day i was supposed to have my party.
  2. my best friend Megan wasn’t going to come because she invited her new best friend who she spends more time with from school.
  3. Brownie died (my hamster) 
  4. I got a letter saying that i needed to go to ESS, where all the class disrupters and people i don’t like go.  it’s not FOR class disrupters but for kids who cant do a bull worth math. I think it stands for Extended School Studies. OH well. things might turn out okay. (for the record, I still can’t add, subtract or give correct change.)

Feb 2, 2000: I really wanted a boyfriend for the sock hop and valentines day. Sam asked me out. I said no. Then I told Kelly to tell Jake i liked him. She did. Before that, Andy told me that Jake was going to ask out Mallory (ugg). Then Andy said Jake liked someone else. Then Andy called me and said

“Will you go out with Jake?”

“Can i call u back?”

I called Lonna but Kelly was at dance (this makes no logical sense). Lonna told him i said yes, so now i have a sweatheart. Oh yeah? The funny thing is i said “yes” today which just HAPPENS to be groundhogs day AND my dads bday. Pretty cool, huh? (I wasn’t aware I was such a sucker of groundhogs day.)

No date, but 5th grade for sure: Dear Diary, I got my hair cut! Anyways, i am soooo afraid that Jack likes Chelsea. I luve Jack sooo much. then again, i dont know what luve is so i like Jack sooo encredibly much! he is so hot, sweet. he is PHAT. (yes, I said PHAT). I wish he would put his arm around me soooo much.

PHAT

I’m pretty shocked by a few of my entries. I seemed like a real mess. Every page is about another boy toy. One entry is a letter to WHAS11 telling them I have some “need 2 be announced news,” and to please broadcast how much I love so-and-so. The following entry is to “people who make loudspeakers,” asking them to please send me “the biggest loudspeaker ever made” so I can “shout to the world” how much I love so-and-so. But most of all, I’m still blown away by the fact that I called a boy PHAT.

So, since I’ve shared so many of my entries with you, here’s a picture of the last page in my diary:

A warning to all those who trespassed into my diary.

That last page packs quite a punch. What a slew of insults. I must have been quite successful with my scare tactics, seeing as no perpetrators dared sign their names. Either that or no one cared to read it,  which is actually a little embarrassing to admit.