When the urge hit me to write a “I bet you don’t know this about JoEllen!” post, I’ll admit I figured it would just be fun, frothy, and easy. For the most part it totally was but surprisingly, some heavy stuff came up. I considered cutting it and keeping things fluffy but that doesn’t sound like me, does it? So, here it is: everything from first vibrators to disordered eating.
When I talk about food it sounds a little like an episode of The Sopranos. I’m Italian and from New Jersey. As such my family pronounces the names of foods differently than most of the world. This is generally considered part of the Jersey Italian accent but as most of my family doesn’t really have the accent, they just do the words, I think of it more like a dialect. Consequently I have very strong feelings about not erasing dialects (I will give you crap for saying people who pronounce words differently than you pronounce them “wrong”).
I was hit by a car when I was 7. Due to my habit of just trying to pretend bad things didn’t happen (I still do this btw), I immediately got up and tried to walk back to my house. I collapsed after a couple of steps because I was a 7 year old who had been hit by a car but whenever I need a little badass encouragement I remind myself that my first response to being hit by a car was to get the hell back up.
There are a couple of things that will happen if you spend a good deal of time with me: You will start using the term “floppy pants”, you will be asked to help me stretch my hip flexor, you will need to identify Steve Buscemi for me at least once (I will say something like “that actor who looks creepy”), and you will probably start thinking the words “bean”, “monkey”, and “muppet” can all be used interchangeably with the word “dog”.
I once bought into mental health stigma. I have been dealing with diagnosed depression since 2005 however in college when seeing a doctor for inexplicable exhaustion the diagnosis was first suggested. My parents and I took great offense and never saw that doctor again.
My first vibrator was purchased online when I was in college. The toy was terrible but the site was hilariously amazing and, shockingly, still exists (though they seem to not sell things anymore, maybe?). While they still have the amusing name they sadly got rid of the accompanying aesthetic. Thankfully Wayback Machine exists and I was able to get this shot of the old homepage from 2000. Funny story, 99% of the reason I bought from them was that I had worked on a production of Little Shop of Horrors that fall and found the connection funny.
I love dogs. Love them. I tend to really love the fluffy ones. They always look like they’re wearing pajamas.
My first career was in theatre. I was the first woman to graduate from my college with a degree in directing. (Sounds impressive but I think it only became an option my junior year) I always say I left theatre because it was “nothing like the muppets” and I’m only kind of kidding. I wanted it to be about working together to make things and it was somehow… meaner?
I started dyeing my hair red when I was 14. I once read an interview with Christina Hendricks where she said that at one point, as a child, she told her mother that her natural color was a mistake and her hair was supposed to be red. I totally understood. Most of you see it when it’s bright, vibrant red but these days I only have it colored 2-3 times a year (usually before I go to an event). The rest of the time I let it rest and settle into some version of orange or pink. I got into this habit after a bunch of my hair broke off due to over-processing in 2014.
I bought whole-hog into societal messaging about virginity, “sluttiness” and what things are “supposed” to be like. Consequently I didn’t have sex until I was 22 (I talked about it in a video for Pleasure Chest in 2013) and didn’t really feel in control of my sex life until my 30s. Had I realized that I wasn’t a “this is my boyfriend, Brent” girl (and that was ok) and that “sluttiness” and virginity were both bullshit I think I would have had a lot more fun.
I lived in London in college. I loved it and always said I would live there if it wasn’t so far from my family… except now I live in Portland which is just as far. I still can’t get my head around living on another continent though.
My relationship with food is incredibly fraught. It took me years to get a therapist to help with it because I wasn’t exhibiting “eating disorder” behaviors. Ten years ago I read this article and realized I wasn’t crazy, my food stuff is unhealthy. I wish I could say I’ve successfully dealt with it. I have not. I’m trying. In the meantime, especially because professionally I tend to see people once or twice year, my weight may be different every time you see me.
My dog Grover is named after the Sesame Street character (not the president, as I have been asked). I have a lifelong love of all things Henson. I remember where I was when I heard Jim Henson died and I still have the Sesame Street albums (yes, actual record albums!) that I listened to as a child. This trait is shared by my entire immediate family. My brother and I reminisce about watching The Muppet Show with our grandmother and going with our dad to see the Muppet Christmas Carol (we remember that one particularly well because we were actually 13 and 15 at the time). My mom called me, outraged, this year at Christmas when she found out there was a Muppet Christmas special she had never heard of (Muppet Family Christmas). The phrase “We’re muppet people!” may have been uttered.
I was badly bullied as a kid. As a lot of it centered around my appearance I struggled for years with the idea that I was not just unattractive but somehow strange, like I was definitely not what anyone meant when they said “woman”. I only started to feel better about this in my 30s and it still kicks back up when I’m not feeling good about myself. Full disclosure: I’m experiencing a spell of it right now.
Most of my toys don’t see much action. I own a lot of toys- I purged a bunch before my recent move but my bedroom does still resemble a small pop-up toy shop. That said I only really regularly use the wands.
I don’t understand a lot of the stuff that is constantly said online, like it actually doesn’t register for me: The game (sorry)? Nope, don’t see any way it’s amusing. Caring which way toilet paper goes? People seem to really care about this, I can’t find a reason it could possibly matter. Also, the whole “Why are pants even a thing? The second everyone gets home they stop wearing pants!” thing is foreign to me. I always wear pants. They are typically floppy.
I love baths and I usually read completely mindless books while I soak. There’s a drawer in my bathroom that contains bubble bath, bath salts, bath bombs, and roughly 12 old paperbacks about British twenty-somethings who work at magazines and can’t find love.
I’m pretty attached to Netflix: If I were really cool and intellectual I’d pretend to hate television but my TV and I have a pretty close relationship. It’s often on in the background and frequently streaming television shows I’ve seen already. Because of this I consider the fact that I can’t get Netflix to autoplay on my Roku a nuisance– I’m not proud of that.
My love life makes the fates laugh: After my divorce I said “no committed relationships”. Then I had a disastrous committed relationship and became even more resolved to never have one again. Within a month I met the man who has been my partner for the last 3 years. When we got together I said “no other ongoing relationships with feelings and stuff, just hook-ups.” Yeah, so I’ll bet you can guess what happened next…. I don’t make grand proclamations anymore.
I taught yoga for a couple of years in the mid-2000s, because that was what directionless basic girls did then. I was not very good at it…actually, my “no one’s broken, everyone is great, be where you are!” approach didn’t jibe with Boston’s weirdly competitive, intense yoga “scene” (it was very scene-y). Luckily sex world seems to be a much better fit for “no one’s broken, everyone is great, be where you are!”
I always wanted to be a superhero: When I was little (3-4) and people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I consistently answered “Womba Woman”. I still love Wonder Woman.
Well that was fun! If you enjoyed that peek behind the curtain at the (sometimes very mundane) details of my life consider joining my Patreon community where I share behind the scenes details of my life, my work, and the process of writing a book. Check it out here! Also, thank you all for always being such an amazing audience. You definitely inspire a girl to share!