As a little girl dolls held no interest for Joan. Instead she spent every second she could outdoors, scrabbling up and down trees and playing Red Rover. Her behavior was undoubtedly driven in large part by the reaction she elicited from her mom. Skinned knees, a shirt torn from wrestling – when she came home like this her mother could barely stand the sight of her and it made Joan feel utterly, delightfully rebellious. Her achilles heel was her sweet tooth and she would play quietly inside in exchange for a Twinkie. However, with a mother as fearful of fatness as her own this exchange didn’t happen very often.
Then her father left, for good this time, and a dark sadness enveloped the household. Thrown together in their grief, Joan and her mother became an odd pair of partners trying to impress the not always so gentle men who came to call. After school she’d read Vogue and Mademoiselle at the local five and dime, stuffing the best one down her skirt so she could replicate the hair and make-up tips on her mother. At first she was so nervous her sweaty palms could barely grip the glossy pages, but quickly she realized the same bat of her lashes and swivel of her hips worked just as well here as in her living room. It was in these gleaming pages that she fell in love with advertising and also learned that anything French = sexy.
To pay for her accordion lessons she took a job babysitting a few afternoons a week. Mostly she read her magazines while the kids played tag. From time to time she’d try combinations of their mother’s make-up on them, which little Billy actually really enjoyed. Without fail she fed them ketchup noodles; the culinary arts would come later. When she tried to give Billy the latest style and instead left him with hideous whitewalls and a bald spot on top, she received her first pink slip. But by now she could sing, play and squeeze several Edith Piaf songs in all the right places; she was well on her way.
In high school her best friend Cherise became “in a family way” and had to marry. Determined to help her friend make the best of it, Joan threw herself into planning the wedding. She spent many afternoons at Cherise’s home, guiding her friend toward elegant choices such as silk tulle for a fingertip length veil. The groom frequently arrived to call on Cherise while Joan was still there. One evening he horrified Joan by cornering her and expressing his concern over who would take care of his manly needs once Cherise became large. He made it overly clear he hoped Joan would offer her services, starting right now. Her rebuff was razor sharp, stopping just short of an open palm slap.
Still fuming she told her mother whose admonishment to just keep quiet left her shocked and appalled. Her mother’s words rang in her ears. The last thing young Joan wanted to cause was the disgraceful demise of her dear friend so she remained silent, but the choice left her Incredibly distraught. She couldn’t sleep or hold anything down. When she was fitted for her maid of honor dress they told her she would need some falsies so the top of the dress didn’t cave in. Well, crisis or no crisis this simply wouldn’t do. Firmly setting her jaw Joan began a vigorous regiment of phyto-estrogen, massage, and at least thirty minutes a day in the Stoffer machine. The effects she achieved were unprecedented.