Tag Archives: Personal

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.

 

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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.

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.

The Great Escape

A few days after I published my Mother of Cats post, I found myself (quite ironically) missing a cat. Joan stepped out on me. I suspect it was in protest to my public acknowledgment of another feline, though I can’t be sure. She’s a fickle creature, my Joan.

People have suggested I write a post from her point of view. Where she went, things she saw, raccoons she met. But I can’t bring myself to do it. I feel like the father of a teenage daughter. It all goes by so fast. One day, she’s reading Animorphs to her pet rats. The next, she’s wearing velour pantsuits and dating a boy with an Astro Van. Much like my dad must have felt during this time, I don’t want to know the intimate details of Joan’s escapades. All I want to know is that she made it home relatively unscathed.

So instead of giving Joan’s account of The Incident, I’ll give my own.

Re: slithering.

Re: slithering.

It happened when some men came to install a new AC/heating unit in my apartment. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay home to supervise them, though they assured me it wouldn’t be a problem.

The day before they came, I called to give them the rundown: two indoor cats, both of whom would perish in the wild (I’ve raised them on a strict grain-free organic diet. The fault lies with me). Keep all doors closed, and leave the baby-gate up in the hallway in case Joan manages to slither past the first round of blockades.

 

The next morning, I called them to go over Joan’s security detail one last time. I then taped a huge reminder note on my door and left for the day.

The note

Fast forward to 7 p.m., when I came home to find another note taped beneath my own.

The response

They left this note at 10:30 a.m. and made no attempt to call me, even though they knew I’d be at work until later that evening.

I ran into the first floor apartment. She wasn’t there.

Cue my complete and utter mind loss. Tears, screaming, sweating, the works. To make matters worse, I had a date that night. And he arrived not five minutes into my tantrum (to his credit, he stayed to help me look).

After an extensive sweeping of the grounds, I determined that Joan was nowhere to be found. Thus, I opened my first-ever missing persons investigation. First order of business: assemble the witnesses and begin the interrogation.

I called the owner of the AC company and did my best to crack him. When did you last see her? Where did you last see her? Did you actually see her run into the first floor apartment or are you just assuming that’s where she is? Have you always hated animals or do you also kidnap children?

I should note that at this point in time, I was days deep into a Serial binge, which meant I thought myself something of an investigative reporter. It also meant that everything he said sounded suspicious, inconsistent. So by the end of our conversation, I’d convinced myself that he’d orchestrated the whole thing just to cover for an employee, who’d stolen Joan for himself. (It’s a valid concern. She has a beautiful coat.)

The guys at work made this awesome yard sign for me.

The guys at work made this awesome yard sign for me. Unexpected bonus: she’s now a potential gubernatorial candidate.

Four days I looked for her. Night after night, I crawled around the neighborhood, rummaging through people’s backyards, gardens and tool sheds. I contracted such an assortment of bug bites I was certain they would kill me, if grief didn’t do me in first.

And then one dark and rainy night, she returned. Just like that. She just showed up at my door, crying and howling, though it was soon impossible to tell where her yowling ended and mine began. It was a miracle.

To this day, we haven’t discussed her whereabouts. The things she saw, the tool sheds she pooped in…nothing. Not a word. I’m confident that she’ll tell me when she’s ready. But until then, I’m just glad to have her home.

 

Three friends. And a forehead vein.

Three friends and a forehead vein.

Reunited at last.

“Give us a moment, will ya?”

Lovahs

Reunited at last.

 

So, about last night.

“Did I say anything weird last night?” It’s a question my friends have become quite accustomed to hearing from me. I find myself asking it on any given weekend morning, whether I’ve had one beer or seven. Why is that?

I know what you're thinking. What's there to worry about?

I know what you’re thinking: “What’s there to worry about? Looks like a normal girl to me.”

I started thinking about this the other day, particularly about the question itself. Why do we ask things like that? Questions that – to be completely honest – you don’t really want your friends to answer completely honestly. Sort of like, “Did I totally f-up that presentation? Be honest.” Or: “Does this haircut make me look like a Muppet? Be honest.” No matter what your friend says, what’s done is done. The presentation? It’s over. Your hair? It’s cut. Ain’t no answer — no matter how honest it may be — that can fix a bang situation beyond repair.

Maybe I’m just speaking for myself here, but I attribute my abuse of this question to insecurity. Because – in my big “aha” moment that inspired this post – I realized that I say weird stuff all the time. Day, night, it makes no difference. Whether I’m telling my boss about my cat’s birthday cake, or telling a man at the bar about my career as an up-and-coming apothecary, there is always something regrettable coming out of my mouth. So why do I even ask? Why do I even care? What’s done is done. That story about sea lion cataract surgery? Told it. That pick-up line about his neck veins? Used it.

So if I’m trying to find a point to this blog post, I guess it’s that I’m going to try to stop harassing my friends for reassurance. Because statistically speaking, I probably did say something weird. But at the end of the day, I’d much rather talk to someone about manatees or Megalodon than…well, pretty much anything.

Megaladon

The day I stumbled upon the word “Mockumentary” was a sad day indeed.

The Whole “Silver Linings” Thing

I’ve recently discovered that I’m not a fan of the phrase, “Everything happens for a reason.” Not only is it cringe-worthy in both text and tatt form, it’s perhaps the most unhelpful way of cheering someone up. I’m sure the phrase originated from a place of love and good intention, but after years of abuse and whimsical iterations in wall art, I believe it has been reduced to a semi-PC way of telling someone that shit happens. And that their situation is in fact so shitty, that you honestly can’t think of anything else to say.

To be sure, I’m not knocking anyone who believes everything happens for a reason. Who am I to judge someone or something when I can’t see the bigger picture or what lies ahead? All I’m saying is that it’s become a blanket consolatory statement that’s used too often for too many kinds of situations, both trivial and life-changing. I know this because I have been both the deliverer and receiver of this message many, many times.

And yet, to further contradict myself, I must say that there is some truth to the general idea of the phrase. No, I’m not sold on the fact that every single thing happens for a reason, because there are far too many horrendous, devastating and inexplicable things that happen in this world; insinuating that there’s a specific reason behind every catastrophe and tragedy is both insensitive and impractical. But when you look at the phrase from a different perspective—from more of a doors-closing-windows-opening angle—it starts to look more like the whole “silver linings” idea. And that I can get behind.

I started to realize this a few years ago when I was mercilessly rejected from every single job I applied for. Looking back, I now see that emailing a Chicago ad agency a PowerPoint file for my “creative portfolio” was a bit of a stretch, but it felt appropriate at the time. For what it’s worth, I even included a disclaimer that read something like:

“No, I don’t have the tools or Adobe products I need right now, but give me a job or a Mac Lab and I’ll do these print ads again…but better.”

But other than that particular instance, I couldn’t understand why each and every company would reject me. I mean, wasn’t I a catch? My pet-sitting clients seemed to think so. As did my mom. What better references could you ask for?

All-time low: Posing at a Battlestar Galactica exhibit. And the answer to your question is yes, I am still available for spaceship modeling. Message me for details.

Attending a Battlestar Galactica exhibit in Seattle was perhaps one of my nerdier moments in life. Here I am, modeling a bonafide Colonial Viper.

I fell into a pretty dark hole for a while, one that consisted of Battlestar Galactica, a brief stint in the power-washing business, and many nights spent coercing my first love, Buster, to name me his favorite family member. At my lowest point, I began stuffing cat nip in my pillow to trick him into sleeping with me. I started house sitting more frequently and—in between useless job applications—poured myself into becoming one of Greater Louisville’s most prestigious pet-sitters. For a time, I considered taking it up professionally; I have an unusual connection with animals, and I am incredibly comfortable using other people’s expensive kitchen appliances and entertainment systems. Sure, it wouldn’t be the most lucrative career, but in the off seasons, I could pick up a side gig as a dog-walker. College tuition well-spent, indeed.

Buster and his catnip pillow.

Buster and his catnip pillow (in my former bedroom/parents’ home office).

But as you might have guessed, tending to other people’s critters only fulfilled me for so long, and so I decided it was time to do something different. I decided to start documenting my post-grad progress (or lack thereof) so that rising college graduates would be better prepared for what was to come — a commencement speech ripe with ridiculous proverbs, promises and plugs for alumni donations, followed by a humiliating beating from the job market and a bed in your parents’ office. I wrote about moving back in with my mom and dad (and their bearded dragon, cat, rat, bird and meal worm colony), because I wanted people to stop calling my generation lazy and unmotivated. I wrote about all my crazy (often gruesome) adventures in pet-sitting, my forehead vein and my somewhat unsettling obsession with cats. I wrote about everything, and I came to realize that I loved it. And that I wanted to make a career out of it.

So what I’m trying to say is that being rejected from all those jobs was really, really painful. And scary, to be sure. But it also opened a lot of doors that I didn’t even know existed. It helped me rediscover my love of writing, and it led me to a lot of really amazing people and self-discoveries. I grew closer to my family, I fell in love, I stumbled into an awesome job and I got to be with Buster in his twilight years of life.

So no, I still don’t believe that every single thing happens for a reason. Instead, I think that—at least in my case—a shitty situation created new paths and new possibilities that I hadn’t otherwise considered. And that’s something I’ll try to remember in 2015.

26

A few months ago, I turned the anti-climatic age of 26. And while I realize that this by no means makes me any wiser or more qualified to offer advice, I learned a few things in the past year — both insignificant and slightly significant — that I want to share. Before I begin, I’d like to offer a disclaimer on this post: parts of it are a bit deeper than my usual stuff. You–as my mom often does–might find yourself wondering, “Why are you being so intellectual, Jo?” (She asked me this after I told her I was reading The Red Tent). And to be honest, I’m not really sure. Perhaps it’s a sign of maturity, or perhaps its a chemical reaction from all the gray hairs I’ve forcefully removed from my scalp. But don’t worry, I won’t be an intellectual blogger forever.

Hair pills don’t work.
Sometime around the sprite age of 23, I decided it would be a good idea to cut my hair off. I honestly enjoyed my new ‘do (for about 48 hours), but I spent the next two years of my life looking like Thomas Jefferson caught in a rainstorm. I absolutely hated my colonial bob, and so I did everything (short of extensions) to fix the situation.

Here I am in my company headshot.

Here I am in my company headshot.

This meant taking an obscene amount of hair pills and vitamins that, when combined, promised me Kardashian-esque locks and frighteningly radiant skin. For a couple of months, I convinced myself that the results were worth the investment. My hair felt smoother, my hands looked slightly less scaly, and my breath was only mildly fishy. But one afternoon, my mane-and-tail cocktail didn’t sit too well with my delicate stomach and I ended up getting sick in a coworker’s office. To explain my cold sweat and sudden exit was awkward, to say the least, and so on that very day, I wrote off hair pills entirely.

Yogis aren’t all that crazy.
Until a few months ago, the closest I’d gotten to yoga had been by way of an extensive collection of black stretchy pants. To be sure, I never wore said pants while performing the actual act of yoga (or during any stretching, for that matter), but I appreciated their universally flattering fit and, like any 20-something, how well they complimented my Sperrys.

Then, a few months ago, someone told me that yoga is one of the best exercises for people with anxiety, and that she’d highly recommend it for someone as neurotic as myself (high praise, indeed). While I doubted it would bring forth the peace and tranquility she promised, I figured it was probably due time I learned how to touch my toes. Thus, I began an unlimited package at a yoga studio.

I showed up at my first hot yoga class feeling insecure and skeptical. Not helping my cause was the fact that I was the only person wearing athletic shorts, or that I’d brought an american flag beach towel to dry off with. Everyone else was clad in an assortment of spandex and tattoos, and no one — I mean no one — had a beach towel, let alone a towel as visually assaulting as my own. My skepticism only grew as the class went on, as the instructor proceeded to list the benefit of each pose as it related to the organs. I highly doubted that the compression from “wind relieving pose” (a ridiculous name in itself) would massage my descending colon and flush out my pancreas. Nor was I buying that by placing my forehead on my knee, I’d improve my metabolism and relieve depression. But as I’d already paid for a month in full, I carried on without complaining.

My next few appearances were much the same. With each subsequent class, I learned more about my organs, breath and glands than I had during my sadistic addiction to Web MD. But around my third week (around the same time I stopped wearing athletic shorts), something miraculous happened. I realized that I did feel better. I felt more balanced, more confident and more self-aware. I’m not saying I bought into any sort of lower-intestinal-massage powers, but I recognized a significantly positive difference in my body and in my mind. So, as it turns out, I guess yogis aren’t all that crazy.

And now for the intellectual stuff.

Anxiety doesn’t define me.
For years, I’ve joked about my anxiety. If you follow my blog, you’ll know that I often make light of my germophobia and hypochondria. I get it. It can be funny sometimes. And until recently, I’ve found that joking about it has been the best kind of therapy. But a few things happened this past year that, quite frankly, aren’t all that funny. And they’ve made me realize that my anxiety (no matter how comical it can be at times) has completely run–and at times seemingly ruined–my life.

At the incessant urging of my mother, I won’t go into too much detail about my anxiety. But at some point, I plan to write about it because I think it’s a condition that more people need to understand. Generalized anxiety disorder isn’t worrying about passing a test or being late for work. It’s taking a fear or an insecurity (whether that be rational or completely irrational) and turning it into an obsession. It’s worrying about EVERYTHING — relationships, work, weight, body image, MRSA, germs, receding gum lines, typos, cancer, perfection, social awkwardness, what someone said about you 5 minutes ago, what someone said about you 5 years ago, etc. — to the point where you’re unable to “wake up” and check-in with the world around you. To the point where your mind is so incredibly clouded at times that it blocks any and all external thoughts — no matter how important it, he or she may be. Having anxiety means that routines are religion, and to deviate from them is almost unbearable. It means feeling debilitatingly insecure and inferior and, at times, it means feeling completely detached from everything and everyone. As a result, it means your friends, family and loved ones can’t understand why you’re so distant, so frustrating, so indecisive. They feel insignificant to you, even though they’re anything but.

For 25 years, I’ve done a pretty good job of masking the severity of my anxiety (except for all my bone cancer blood screenings, of course). And I managed to do so, in part, because I didn’t realize the full extent of it. But I’ve recently realized that my anxiety and insecurities have dictated far too much of my life, and that it’s time to make a change. So–with a little outside help–I’m learning that I don’t have to live like this anymore. And that feels awesome. I’m learning that my anxious actions are not who I really am. That they don’t define me. I’m realizing that being open and honest about my anxiety is far better than keeping it to myself, and that laughing at myself has been (and will continue to be) one of the best things I can do.

I’ve debated whether or not to publish this blog post for quite some time. It’s not exactly flattering. But after months of editing, re-editing, deleting and re-typing, I finally said screw it. At the very least, I hope it’ll help people understand me (and why it takes me 45 minutes to pick a beer) a little bit better. But most of all, I hope it’ll encourage those who struggle with similar demons to finally get some outside help, because it truly makes all the difference.