Alexa Ray Joel is one of my favorite people. It is really fun at this stage in my life to be reminded that I can still meet new people (I only met her within the last month or two) that I can bond with so quickly, and be so inspired and influenced by. Alexa is one of those people.
I didn’t know her music, though many of you already did, when she came to perform on my radio show not long ago. I fell instantly in love with this song (it brought me to tears in the studio), and downloaded it immediately. Then after our on-air conversation, we ended up talking more in the Ladies’ Room. We had so much in common and so much to talk about that I invited her back on. She is also someone who shows up – a trait I love and find all too rare (maybe that’s just in my circles, I don’t know); she came through and returned to co-host an entire Jane Radio show with me.
The main thing I had known about her before that first meeting was that she was the only child of Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley. Now I know that she is talented, whip-smart, older-than-her-years, non-judgemental and so so open. I want to say that I feel that she and I are kindred spirits in so many ways, but that will sound completely egomaniacal after all the adjectives I just used to describe her in this intro. But there you go, I feel we are kindred spirits. (Plus: Who would “O.D.” on a homeopathic remedy, besides me and this girl?)
I am also psyched to welcome Alexa as a regular contributor to xoJane.com. Alexa, you rock.
Alexa’s Dad Eats Massive Amounts of Corn
ARJ: [My father] is very eccentric and he has got it in his head that corn is really good for you. He loves corn on the cob. I don’t know why I’m thinking this.
Jane: That’s newsworthy!
ARJ: He’ll sit there and he’ll eat like five corn on the cobs. I don’t know if he’s listening. Dad, I love you! He loves corn on the cob, and he says, "honey, it’s good for you; it’s good for me; it’s got lots of fiber, and it’s a vegetable. I’m like, "it’s starch; it’s all sugar. You douse it in all that butter and salt. No! It’s not!" Who knows? It’s arguable what’s healthy and what’s not these days. They keep changing it up, you know?
Jane: You know what’s interesting, going after people who are like our dads . My dad was sort of effeminate. People would tell me, "Oh, you didn’t tell me your dad was gay", and I’d be like, "actually he is not". I found out later that he did go both ways. But that’s a whole different story.
ARJ: That’s a whole rigmarole, but yeah that definitely happens, and I think I am attracted to people who are like my father. I end up dating these very artsy, creative, struggling, mysterious, cerebral and intense [people].
Alexa on Divorce
In 1994, When Alexa was nine years old, her famous parents went through a very public split.
Caller Patti: I mean, we are not celebrities, but my husband is a very powerful man and there is a lot of money involved in this divorce, so how did you get through going through such a public divorce while you were in the 3rd grade?
ARJ: You know what’s interesting? I almost miss being [in the third grade] because I wasn’t aware [of] the media’s perception of celebrities, and at the time of the divorce, my mother actually moved. We moved to Telluride, Colorado; it's actually a small little town and I was very sheltered from a lot of what people were saying and my mother was very good about protecting me, so I really didn’t see any of the newspapers.
It was just a personal thing for me as a child. You know you get older and you get more self-conscious, "what does everybody think?!" And I even struggle with that now and being more self aware and 25. Like “what are the bloggers saying?” As a kid, it’s terrible going though a divorce, but I really wasn’t worried about external stuff and it’s so messy as it is-- that it’s enough just to go through it personally, celebrity/non-celebrity, it’s always hard. It just takes time.
Patti: When I was your age I really thought it was the end of all ends and then, you know, when I was 32, I had my kids and now I’m in a divorce.
ARJ: I had my own outlet; some of it, I blocked out because it was a very painful time to be honest. Sometimes, with childhood traumas or hurdles, you do block a lot of it out. But I remembered (which I guess I find through my music now) that we all have to find our therapy. As a child, as an adult. I played a lot of make believe with my friends; I had a lot of dolls.
I had this stuffed dog, Honeymuffin, that never left my side, and I remember being devastated in the move when we went from Colorado back to New York, because my mother actually divorced somebody she had remarried when we were there. I was devastated because in the move the dog got lost that was like... this stuffed animal dog was [there] through it all.
Because my dad was on tour, he would be on the West Coast, East Coast, so I was doing a lot of traveling to visit. I was living in Colorado as a home base, but still visiting my father on the road, and I remember Honeymuffin got lost in the move, and I was devastated. But we all have our things that we cling to to get us through that are symbolic for something deeper, whether it be a stuffed animal or playing make believe a lot. I used to ride around on my little bike, a scooter; I know this sounds kooky but [I’d] talk to myself and pretend friends were there.
Alexa on Giving Advice
In December of 2009, Alexa took several homeopathic pills, causing a concerned roommate to call 911. The event was immediately described in the media as being a suicide attempt, although Alexa has contested this, even while being very candid about suffering from depression. She has turned this around and made her Facebook page a place where she can support others and they can open up to her.
ARJ: I [don’t] necessarily think I have particularly done anything besides be open and honest to deserve this treat of having people [open up to me], and it’s almost a responsibility in a way. People write in and say, "my heart is breaking," and even written to me about depression and "I have no self esteem and I hate my body". Really vulnerable issues that it's hard for women to talk about. Women are expected to just wake up feeling amazing --looking perfect every day. Be a mother, be this, and juggle all these roles. So I try, I’m very humble by that people trust me with some of their secrets.
ARJ: Just be open and be yourself. You know, as women we all have a petty streak and we can catch ourselves. Specifically with other women judging other women. And I always try, okay, "don’t go there, that’s not nice, I wouldn’t like somebody saying that about me" so -- I’m not perfect, but yes, it’s good not to judge.
Jane: That’s why I wanted to have you on today with you as a forum for people to call in if they had issues with hardcore breakups, because you’ve been there.
ARJ: I don’t think it could get any more hardcore. I know everybody has had it rough. Particularly with first love and there is nothing harder.
ARJ: Okay, well, my story in a nutshell. I was very in love with my bass player. I was 19, he was 34, which right there is already a problem. I didn’t realize it at the time, I was so shy and here was this cool older guy, and the relationship moved really fast because he was looking for fulfillment in his life and it became very co-dependent, and that happens when you’re young. And it’s hard to really sum up, but yeah, it spiraled out of control and we were very in love, but I would say we lived together for two years and then he kicked me out and then it was really hard for me. I struggled for a couple years after that… Obviously I couldn’t work with him anymore. He was like, “You fired me,” so I said, “You kicked me out of our home!” He went, “Oh, good point."
So the guy wasn’t always dealing with a full deck himself; if you hang out with crazy people you start to feel crazy yourself. I was wanting to help him with his drinking and various things and a lot of women do that, particularly with older troubled men; you want to be this young little angel that’s gonna help them, and it’s a mistake.
Jane: You have a very angelic face so I could see people looking to you for that. You have a purity to you. So I could see people looking to you saying this is the girl who is going to get me out of this darkness.
ARJ: Dark troubled characters! But yeah, it was hard for me, but I was staying relatively low key in what I was feeling, in a sense that I didn’t want to deal with it fully. I wasn’t seeking therapy or any of that. I was crying a lot. I felt really depressed and it came to a head. I never knew I was going to speak about [it] publicly, but it became a magilla in the news. I took some Traumeel, which is a homeopathic anti-inflammatory. I just wanted to kind of not think and fall asleep. I thought it was just going to knock me out, which is a really irresponsible silly thing to do. I was in a very emotional state, maybe being a bit of a drama queen too, which is to my own detriment.
I wound up going to the emergency room. It was this whole trauma. I felt terrible. It got misconstrued a lot in the press, and they did find out. I was pretty open about it; I hope not exploitative about it that I didn’t go into detail, but I was open about it in the press and there were some unfair attacks on my mother saying that she caused it. I mean my mother has built me up my whole life, told me I was wonderful and beautiful, and [she] was nothing but a role model and a source of goodness to me. I was open about that on my Facebook.
Jane: I feel like we are kindred spirits in that we are both very open, right? Just open.
ARJ: Yeah, very open. Absolutely. Well, it's more exhausting, almost, to hide everything and pretend to be somebody else, pretend to be perfect. That takes more work.
Jane: Being open is just much more relaxing. It absolutely is. It’s also, I think, one reason we are [both] excited to give advice together to callers on the show is that we are non-judgmental, is a way I would describe you.
ARJ: Well, you can be too open minded. Too trusting, and let the wrong people in as a result of, you know, not being judgmental enough.
Jane: That has happened. I’ve been taken.
ARJ: I understand! Been there myself.
Alexa Ray Joel and HPV
Anyone can get HPV. We all know that, right?
HPV stands for human papilloma virus, and this particular infection comes in over 100 flavors, 40 of which can infect the genitals, specifically the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, rectum, penis, and scrotum (as well as the mouth and throat) -- in other words, in lots of places where condoms don’t cover By the way, "male and female condoms are the only methods of STI-preventing birth control that can reduce the risk of infection" (Thanks, Planned Parenthood!)
75% of women have had, have, or will have HPV in their lifetimes. Our own Emily’s had it, and written about it here. It stands to reason other xoJane staffers have had it and just didn’t know.
Jane: I have actually had an ex contract an STD when he was with me. I did not get it.
ARJ: What about HPV? Have you ever had that?
Jane: I have not.
ARJ: That's very common. It's something like, I think the statistics were something like 98% of people will have it. [At least 50% of men and over 75% of women will have HPV at some point in their lives. 80% of everyone, according to the Cleveland Clinic. --Jane]
ARJ: And that's crazy high.
Jane: And that's the one that now they have the vaccine for? That girls can get this vaccine, that can prevent--
ARJ: No, if you catch it, I know from experience, you're good. [According to Planned Parenthood, in most cases HPV causes no symptoms. It just sits in your body for awhile, while your immune system takes as long as two years (though more often between 8-13 months, according to Planned Parenthood) to evict it.]
Jane: Oh, you've gotten it?
ARJ: I had it. But I mean, a lot of people get it from my ex. [Planned Parenthood says: "Because it's endemic, it's impossible to know who gives the infection to whom".]
Jane: Oh, interesting.
ARJ: I mean it was fine, you know. There are no side effects. You just go and get it taken care of. [Most cases of HPV have no symptoms. However, rare strains of HPV cause symptoms; some types can cause genital warts. Other types can cause cervical cancer. There is no treatment for HPV itself, although there are treatments for these problems, in the rare cases in which they arise. There is an HPV test, but it's only used in a certain few cases. What you need to do is use condoms, and get an annual Pap. An abnormal Pap smear can indicate abnormal cell growth caused by HPV, sometimes the abnormal cell growth is precancerous or cancerous, sometimes not. There is no cure for HPV, but there is treatment for symptoms if it causes any. It will usually just go away on its own. According to CDC, there is currently no way to detect HPV in men, although the HPV vaccine was just approved for male use. By the way, I'm not an expert on any of this, and took this word for word from Planned Parenthood --Jane]
Jane: Ok, but as long as you get it taken care of then you're fine?
Jane: But if you don't--
ARJ: If you don't get it detected, yeah, you have to see your doctor… But there were no side effects, there was nothing. But, like I said, something like 98% of people have it. I wasn't angry with him, because it's so common and he wasn't cheating on me. I mean I was living with him; I saw him everyday.
Jane: Did he not know that he had it and could give it to you?
ARJ: Yeah, he said he didn't know. But if you don't go to a doctor and you're not getting tested regularly, then you know... It's common.
Jane: Yeah, that's interesting. I love that you weren't angry with him.
ARJ: I wasn't. I don't know; it takes a lot to get me angry.
Jane: I'm like that too.
ARJ: I need to have someone deliberately do something devastatingly hurtful. It's almost a bad thing because you have too much of a tolerance for these guys.
Jane: Oh, absolutely. When my ex contracted the STD through sex with other people, I actually felt so bad for him that I wanted to get him help and get him the treatment that he needed for that. But that, I think, is going a little too far. That's the codependent thing.
Alexa and Her Non-Bisexuality
Jane: You're not bisexual are you? [She’s hot. What can I say? --Jane]
Jane: By any chance? It just occurred to me.
ARJ: Wow! This show. I love how everything comes out of left field. We go from depression to heartbreak to kombucha to 5 hour energy to bisexuality.
Jane: Well it just occurred to me when I was saying "the lovely" but do you consider yourself straight?
ARJ: Yes definitely. I almost wish I could say I'm bisexual because it's very alluring. Everybody's bisexual. Every girl in the city is bisexual lately.
Jane: They claim it, even if they're not. Because they know that guys find it hot.
ARJ: I guess that's what it is.
Jane: Yeah, a lot of times it's a put on.
ARJ: More so than being a lesbian, because then you're not even interested in men. Which I don't understand why guys actually find that hot, if you're not looking at them, in some masochistic way.
Jane: I think guys find anything having to do with sex hot.
ARJ: Do I come off bisexual, Jane?
Jane: No. It was when I was introducing you just now and saying "the lovely" Alexa Ray Joel, and then I thought about how lovely you were, and then I don't know what made me think of that. But I'm not coming onto you because you have a boyfriend.
ARJ: (laughing) I do, yeah.
Jane: So I'm not coming onto you, don't worry. [Clearly I doth protest too much. I would have probably – except that she’s so young and we both have boyfriends. --Jane]
ARJ: No, I didn't think that you were. But, I was actually almost flattered that you said that because I often get "Oh, you're so girly" and it's like well I'm not a prude. So I thought 'Oh cool, Jane thinks I might be bisexual.' Well, I do find girls beautiful. I stare. Sometimes, I'm picky about guys. I don't know, I'm not the girl to be checking out guys on the street, but I look at girls because I find them beautiful.
Alexa on Her First Kiss
ARJ: You were like the cool kid who knew about sex. See, I was the opposite of that. I was the dork that had absolutely no idea about sex. I had my first kiss when I was 17 at junior prom.
ARJ: I was so shy and I so wanted to get asked out by the cool bad guy. You know, the controversial kid. But the guys thought I was a prude. I was always like "Why won't anyone ask me out?" But they thought it was because I didn't hook up. I was like, "I would hook up, but there was this misunderstanding". I also dressed very preppy, very prim and proper. Everyone assumed that I didn't want to have a little fun.
Jane: This is amazing.
ARJ: It was really frustrating!
Jane: Listen, your parents did something really really right with you. If growing up, the child of super famous parents, and you did not have your first kiss until you were 17 is just remarkable.
ARJ: Well, I went to an all-girls school in middle school, at the Ross School, when they were developing. It was a new school and it was all girls. High school was co-ed. So I didn't meet boys until I was like 15 years old and I was scared of them. I was like completely terrified of them. I'm not one to warm up to new situations fast; I'm very stuck in my ways. I'm a little terrified of new things. So I was really, really afraid of boys for a good two years. I got up the courage to talk to them by junior year. And then I had this date for junior prom with this really good looking guy. I remember his name, Alex Coffman. He kissed me and I was so nervous this was the first time I was hooking up, and I didn't know if he was going to try to like, take my top off. I had this really nice prom dress on and I didn't know how to get it off because my mom did it up for me. So I actually, believe it or not-- and this is why I'm taking acting classes now-- I pretended to faint. I was like, “Let's hook up I'm comfortable it's great,” but I was so scared that I actually pretended to pass out in the Hummer. I went "Oh, I'm really not feeling well". He said, "No, no, no, come on," and he stuck my head in the ice bucket in the Hummer.
Jane: (laughing) He didn't want to give up.
ARJ: He really wasn't a great kisser. No offense, Alex, I'm sure you got better. But he had a little bit to drink and it was a lot of tongue. I was really overwhelmed so I pretended to faint. I pretended I passed out for a good ten minutes and it was really awkward. (laughing) I'm so glad I'm not a teenager anymore.
Jane: So the pretending to pass out was like, “I drank too much that I'm passing out”? Or an, “I'm passing out for an unknown reason”?
ARJ: Or, "I'm so turned on that I'm passing out".
ARJ: I mean I didn't have much to drink, but I think that I wanted to act like I did.