The Redhead Bedhead Turns 5!

As impossible as it is for me to believe my baby, The Redhead Bedhead turned 5 on July 4, 2017. If we want to get technical, my first post didn’t happen until July 22 but I’m not feeling technical and I showed up on Twitter on July 4, 2012 so I’m counting it.

Today, in honor of making it this far I’m going to tell you a bit about how I got here, how The Redhead Bedhead came to be, my origin story if you will. this story has come out in dribs and drabs over the years but I’ve never told the whole thing here on the site. (Though I have told it onstage. Check me out performing with The Mystery Box Show!). Okay, are you ready? Buckle in, we’re going on a bit of a journey.

The ad for my last show

In the summer of 2005 I staged my last play in a theater in NYC. That’s right, I had a whole other career as a director and then I walked away from it. I always say I left theatre because it was nothing like the Muppets and I’m only kind of kidding when I say that. I wanted to learn and collaborate and come together with folks to put on a show but the whole thing was… meaner? There was so much constant clawing and competing. It was harsh and that harshness was probably amplified by starting my first grown-up, real world, NYC theatre job on September 6th 2001 — 5 days before the world fell apart. I never really felt like I had my footing. I never felt like I was good enough and I always felt like I was trying to prove that I deserved to be there. I was earning no money, assuming that was par for the course, and it was sucking me dry.

I spent the next couple of years bumming around teaching yoga (because it was the mid 2000s and that was what basic girls did then) and the whole time I was torn on what came next. I wanted to be teaching people but kind of hated the whole yoga scene. Also, I wasn’t very good at it. It was another place where I constantly felt like I needed to prove that I deserved to be there, that I was good enough, while I never really believed it myself. I kept coming back to the idea that I wanted to write (one that had been in the back of my head for years) and I kept dismissing it. I wasn’t talented enough, I couldn’t earn a living and (perhaps the weirdest reason) my brother is a successful writer– that’s his thing. I was lost for a long time. Also, still making no money (this is a recurring theme).

JoEllen in a strapless white dress with a long, full skirt holding a bouquet of red roses and arm in arm with a bald man in a black suit

My dad. Also, that time I got married.

In March of 2011 I called my dad and I told him I wasn’t happy in my marriage (because, btw, somewhere along the way I thought getting married would make me happy). He asked (Marriott points at the ready) “would a vacation help?” I told him we were way past that point. That night he jumped a train to Boston where, the next morning I, in a way-too-honest conversation told him I was miserable in my sexless marriage. He was going though a divorce at the time and admitted that his marriage had been the same way — for 25 YEARS. We decided to get an apartment together in Boston (my folks split when I was 3. For all intents and purposes, I had never lived with my dad!) and take a breather before we both embarked on our new happy lives.

So, in August of 2011, I found myself in an apartment full of my dad’s stuff. I’d left my marriage and my dad was so excited to come up to Boston. We were both thrilled to support each other as we each started our new lives. Everything was ready, he just needed to move in.

On the morning of September 3rd, 2011, my father died in a hospice in New Jersey.

He had waited too long to start his new life and cancer got him.

That was when I decided, no more settling. No more living a life that was anything less than exactly what I wanted. I wasn’t going to repeat my father’s mistakes and constantly compromise for everyone else leaving me to die without ever truly living my own life.

JoEllen in a short, tight black dress and high heels looking happy

That time I slept with everyone. It was pretty rad.

I set out to live life on my own terms and I started that mission by having a metric fuck-ton of sex. Now, while that was fun for me (and a large portion of the male population of Boston) it wasn’t really getting the job done. I realized that I still felt detached from sex, on the outside of it– like I had a ton to learn. I was also having a career crisis. I was working as a personal trainer and I loved teaching my clients, that was a blast, but I wasn’t feeling fulfilled putting in long hours to build someone else’s business. I started thinking about writing again, I kept coming back to the idea of a book but that didn’t feel right (it probably didn’t help that I was thinking it would be historical fiction…).

Finally, one night I was having a long talk with a friend about our sex lives and I got up to go saying “I’d love to keep talking about this but I really need to go figure out what I want to do with my life”. The next morning, halfway through my 8:30 AM training session it dawned on me — I wanted to write about sex! I would need to learn about sex to do that but maybe that was the point. By the time my shift was over I had conceived The Redhead Bedhead, a site where I would document my adventures in learning about sex. That night I went home and took this picture:

Woman lying on a bed with her legs up on the wrought iron headboard as she writes in a notebook. The top of her head is facing the camera. The photo is black and white and her hair is bright red.

I’m very proud of the fact that I took this myself.

That was July 3, 2012. I scrapped my July 4 plans (it was rainy in Boston anyway) and stayed home to build a website. Within 2 weeks I was posting regularly, having twitter chats about the Olympics with Buck Angel, taking classes with Reid Mihalko and Megan Andelloux and feeling like I found my home.

That sense I had always had that I wanted to be writing but just couldn’t went away because I had found my thing. It wasn’t just about writing, it was about writing about sex. After a lifetime of feeling like I needed to prove that I deserved to be in spaces, I found the space that welcomed me without question. After years of everything being a constant struggle, I found the thing that just worked.

A table featuring a box of blue kegel balls with a pink and white vibrator on top of it. In front of that is a coffee cup bearing the Good Vibrations logo beside a laptop, only the left third of the screen visible.

Another day at the office

This job has taken me to universities, sex shops and conferences across the country (with some help from those aforementioned Marriott points- thanks Dad!) but the most amazing place it’s taken me is back to myself — a person who I had lost while trying to be a directer, a wife, a yogi, a lot of things I wasn’t. This work has led me to study things I never imagined I would, it has reignited my passion for learning, it has brought me amazing friends and a wonderful partner — this work showed me who I am.

Four Redhead Bedhead website headers. First two prominently feature "The Redhead Bedhead", last two prominently feature "JoEllen Notte"

Bedhead Branding

Over the last five years I have grown and changed immensely. I have faced illness and injury, I have achieved and I have struggled and through it all one thing (okay, probably several things but this is the one I want to talk about right now)has remained true: You make this all possible for me. By showing up, reading my work, asking questions, challenging me, encouraging me, supporting me, teaching me, learning with me, and reminding me that I’m not alone, you (yes, you specifically) have made these last 5 years possible and I could not be more grateful. Thank you so much! Thank you especially to Elle, Zac, Steve, Stephen, Epiphora, Lorax, Lilly, Kevin, Tristan, Ruby, Sandra, Thor, Metis, my awesome mom (I know I’m forgetting people and I’m so sorry about that!) my Patreon supporters and everyone else who has kept me and Redhead Bedhead going strong since 2012.

Here’s to the next 5 years!

Now, just for fun below you’ll find photos from each of the 5 years of Bedhead. Enjoy!









2015 – 2016


2016- 2017


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