Amelia Kanan

Writer + Photographer + Producer

Month: March, 2015

“Amelia is SO nice.”

Stranger (1 of 1)

No. I’m not. In fact that word “nice” is the exact word I use when I have to describe someone who I don’t like. I mean, if you can’t say anything “nice” than don’t say anything at all, right? And…let’s be real, it’s way too difficult for me to keep my mouth shut.

“What do you think of Eddie?”

“Oh, Eddie is so nice!”

Eddie – the guy who took me on a date to Red Lobster and drank boozy milkshakes all night and told me he was drunk. (And..no, that isn’t Eddie pictured above…)

“What do you think of my new girlfriend?”

“She’s so nice!”

She was nice – but she wasn’t funny, she wasn’t cool, she didn’t say anything intelligent and I didn’t like what she was wearing.

Before you think I’m a cold hearted bitch, when was the last time you were honest about your inner dialogue? My inner self is kind, sweet, generous and full of love for all humans but that doesn’t give me the responsibility of having to “like” everyone or for that matter, pretend to “like” everyone. That’s fake – and homie don’t know how to play that.

I don’t like how we make our kids invite everyone to their birthday parties. Or force individuals to have the obligation of including everyone. That’s highly unrealistic and, in my opinion, unhealthy. We’re encouraging fake relationships devoid of honesty. “Hey kid, ignore how you feel and put a smile on your face.” Sure, exclusivity isn’t cool but, I don’t think it would exist if we could all just be a little more honest in our relationships. Different strokes for different folks, you know?

I used to be a “nice” person. You know how some people bring home stray animals? Well, I used to bring home stray people. Also during those days, I hugged random people every day. I never kept a tally because that would’ve been weird but, I probably hugged at least 20 people per week. Homeless men, an old lady I met waiting in line at Jewel-Osco, the embarrassing drunk girl at a party, saying goodbye to someone I met on the train or the maintenance man in my building. People around me thought I was so nice. But, the truth was, I didn’t actually like any of those strangers, rather I felt sorry for them. Those “nice” gestures were inauthentic because I thought I was better than those people. My motives were completely self-righteous. Never once did I consider that maybe, just maybe, one of those random strangers didn’t want me to hug them. Or, maybe they weren’t sad at all. Or even worse, they were the ones who were pitying me and thought I was the one who needed the hug. Here I thought I was this Queen of Hearts, gracing all the sad, little people with hugs, rainbows and sunshine. #ignoranceisnotbliss

Today, I’m proud to say that I’m not nice anymore. No longer do I hug strangers nor do I pity anyone. And, if I don’t like someone, I have enough love and respect for them to call them “nice” and avoid hanging out with them. Yeah, I’m totally not self-righteous anymore.

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Dead People

Growing up, I had a string of unhealthy obsessions and one of them was with dead people. Naturally, like most things, I blame my Catholic parents.

As a family, we said our nightly prayers before bed and they were usually followed by a philosophical discussion led by my dad. For some reason, bedtime seemed like his favorite time to talk about all things scary: angels, ghosts, and dead relatives. “You know – lots of people who love you are always with you, Amelia”. What the fuck? They are? Even when I’m naked?

One night, after watching a special on people who had near death experiences, I took the liberty of asking God for a bunch of things.

“Please God, make sure every single homeless person is warm and snuggling with someone, don’t let anyone in the whole world cry, and don’t let anyone I love die. Also, I wouldn’t mind if I have to get glasses and braces, I think they look cool. And please please please God, I know you love me – so, you don’t have to come visit me to prove it.”

My dad freaked out. He started yelling at me, “Don’t you ever tell God to leave you alone!”

As always, my mom calmed him down and I was left alone, with a racing heart, in my dark bedroom, that at the time was believed to be haunted by my great grandma who had died the year before. This theory became a confirmed fact when our housekeeper told my mother that she had seen my great grandmother in the mirror in my room.

With all this death experience and talk of spirits as a concrete reality encompassing me, I evolved into a dark pre-teen. But, not the cool kid kind. The weird kid kind. It was weird because I managed to find the one way you could be superficial with death.

Like when I came to school dressed in a black dress and white pearls and told everyone to call me Jackie Kennedy Onassis. It was wasn’t Halloween. It was a free dress day in February. No one called me Jackie and with the exception of recess when I wanted to play soccer with the boys, I stayed in character the whole time. But, Jackie would’ve wanted it that way.

When I was 13, I told everyone I wanted to die so I could be with John Lennon and the next year, I convinced myself of being the reincarnation of Virginia Woolf, which was the motivation behind me picking up a cigarette butt on the ground and smoking it. Virginia made me do it.

In my defense, I was trying to make the best of my fears. I would talk to dead celebrities all the time. They were my friends. Jackie taught me that there is so much power in silence (something I’ve always known but have had a hard time actually integrating into my life). John taught me that real strength is in kindness. And Virginia, she taught me that it’s ok to talk about how you really feel and that smoking doesn’t kill you- suicide does.

Finally, in high school, I was able to clear my head a bit with some Grateful Dead, herbal medicine and eastern philosophy.

Being crazy during my formative years wasn’t easy – I got teased a lot. Teachers, adults, my best friends, family – basically anyone who knew me. This could have perpetuated things. It could have made me an angry little soul. But, it didn’t. In fact, it made me resilient and taught me things that some people never get the chance to learn. Plus, by the time I got to college; I knew what I wasn’t good at: fitting in with normal people and I knew what I was good at: telling stories and method acting.

And…the rest is history.

I’m proud to say that I am no longer scared of ghosts and I respect the privacy of all dead celebrities by not bothering them with my thoughts.

Things Strangers Say: Girl with Bangs

“You are so beautiful.”

My stupid mouth. It just speaks on it’s own.

She looks embarrassed, “Oh, no. I wore this hat because I haven’t washed my hair in days.”

Great. Now I have to prove it to her.

“If I wore a hat like that, I would look like a teenage Mexican boy.”

I hope she’s not Mexican…

She laughs.

Good.

She tells me, “You’re hair is so long and beautiful. And that color. Is it dyed?”

Clearly, she felt obligated to return the compliment.

“Oh, thanks. No, this is the color.”

I hate the color of my hair. It’s same the color your poop is if you have too much iron in your blood.

This conversation needs to end.

I don’t like her face anymore.

I smile and put my ear buds back in and turn my eyes are back to my screen.

Maybe that’s why my mouth is so uncontrollable.

My voice gets cabin fever.

Oh, god. She’s saying something –

“What’s your name?”

“Amelia”

She tells me her name and I don’t care but I still remember it’s Susan.

I always liked that name.

I wish I could call her Suzie.

She wouldn’t like that though.

I can tell.

She has bangs.

And not the cool kind.

The kind that make someone look uptight.

She asks if I live around there.

“Yes, on Alfred.”

She had just moved to the neighborhood and so did I.

We’re the same age.

She asks, “Want to be friends?”

She thinks she’s being cute because she saw Kate Hudson say that in a movie once.

“Totally.”

I tell her that I don’t have any friends.

That’s a lie.

I have a lot of friends.

Sometimes I feel like I have too many friends.

I start feeling guilty.

I hate that strangers assume I’m a good person because I’m plumper than average.

And polite.

We exchange numbers and I put my ear buds back in for the second time.

I feel bad – judging her and lying to her.

“I’m sorry, I have a deadline and I really need to focus but call me anytime!”

There is no deadline.

I’m writing about her and her bangs.

Things Strangers Say: The Trainer

He leaned towards me.

Was he saying something?

He ‘s too pretty – I was nervous.

I took the buds out of my ears.

“I’m sorry, were you talking to me?”

He said, “Yeah, I wanted to tell you that I think you’re beautiful”

“Oh, thank y-”

He cut me off.

He said, “Let me finish”

“Alright…”

He continued, “You’re doing yourself a disservice by being overweight.”

Hmm…

Ok.

I didn’t feel…upset.

Oddly, I felt kind of good.

“It’s how I protect myself from men like you.”

He laughed.

I knew exactly who this guy was.

He loved who he saw in the mirror but hated all the shit he couldn’t see.

He asked, “What do you do?”

That’s when I got annoyed.

I hate when people ask me that.

If I felt like being honest,

I would say, “I write and produce films and commercials”

But, this guy didn’t deserve my honesty.

And I really wanted to get back to my work.

“I do a lot of things.”

He thought I was trying to be cute and laughed.

I was confused.

“Has this been your fucked up attempt to start a conversation with me?”

With the most serious face, he said, “I’m a trainer.”

“Cool.”

God damn.

Everyone is a fucking ‘trainer’, these days.

He said, “I train professional athletes.”

Oh no.

Did he see my internal eye roll?

I was probably doing that thing with my eyebrows.

Scolding.

I felt bad.

“Are you from here?”

He said, “I grew up in Iowa.”

Mmm hmmm.

Small town boy.

Never fit in.

Moved to the big city.

Needing to prove himself to all those kids who had teased him.

Ugh.

I hated myself.

I’m a bitch.

Assuming all that.

He asked, “Where are you from?”

Another question I hate.

“Lots of places.”

Again, he thought I was being playful.

Maybe I was…

Actually, no…I’m wasn’t.

He’s too pretty.

He should grow a beard.

I really wanted to get back to my work.

He asked, “What do you do for physical activity?”

Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

“I don’t know…”

He asked, “Have you ever thought about interval training?”

Uhh.

Yeah, bro.

I’ve done it.

I know all about your fucking intervals.

Little do you know how much I love to fucking sweat.

But, guess what?

I don’t want to right now.

Right now, I want to drink my dirty martini and zone the fuck out.

I smile, with pity written all over my face.

“I have never thought about interval training.”

After another hour

and another dirty martini

(that he bought)

we made out in the parking lot.

He said, “I’d be willing to work with you on shedding your shield.”

Two days later,

he texted me. “Bootcamp – tomorrow/7am?”

And that is how,

every true love story,

begins.

Alice Hated The Smell of Flowers

Dead FlowersAlice hated the smell of flowers. Rather, she preferred aromas that challenged her senses. Bouquets that boasted fearlessness and vigor like gasoline or even skunk. No one seemed to understand this. Family and friends would say things like “Alice finds amusement in rivalry.”

Though it deeply stung her, Alice refused to defend herself. She wasn’t very good at arguing, let alone proving a case without any proof. Instead, she would just smile, which only enraged her loved ones more.

How could she explain the layers of truth to her fondness for pungent fragrances? While she loved how soft flowers felt between her fingers or how silky chocolate felt against her tongue as it stroked the roof of her mouth, the actual odor of sweetness suggested nothing but weakness to the girl. Fragility was too dreadful of a characteristic for Alice to handle and the smell of it flooded her mind with shame, frustration, guilt and even worse, immutable loneliness.

As Alice grew into adulthood, her nose didn’t mature out of any phase. Every new year, Alice was met with new barriers that pushed her further away from personal connection. She never kept fresh flowers in the house, but she did become very good at keeping secrets. During university, she learned of the power that can exist behind a shield, even without a sword.

Well into her 20’s, Alice had befriended her loneliness and poured all of her personal love into her job as a teacher. As a superior, Alice was proud to be a different sort of mentor. After all, she had been different all of her life, how could it not be true in this area of her life? Her pet students weren’t the typical. She found herself partial to the defective ones. Ralph was unruly yet she never yelled at him. Grace was naive but Alice never showed her intolerance. In Alice’s classroom, the strong were punished for arrogance and the weak were heralded for their efforts.

Oddly enough, Alice didn’t realize this irony until a few years into teaching. She had also began to date a certain gentleman. She and this male suitor had met while shopping at the market on a Saturday. It wasn’t the charm or the compliments that had squeezed Alice’s heart so tightly but rather the sensitivity in how he spoke. After their fruit and vegetables had been purchased, he asked her to dinner and she accepted. It had been 2 months and the two were finding themselves quite fond of each other.

His name was Frank and to make ends meet he worked odd jobs. Mainly odd projects for his wealthy uncle. But, there was more to Frank than his casual labor. Frank was an oil painter and unlike artists of his time, he didn’t paint drab portraits or calming landscapes or lucrative religious icons. Frank’s eyes were infatuated with bold, sharp, and crisp shapes, with lines that didn’t blend softly. He mashed gobs of white into his paint blends to make glowing oranges and sunny greens. To most, even Alice, Frank’s paintings didn’t make much sense but – out of her likeness for Frank, she adored it.

Alice’s heart skipped when she was with Frank. A lot. He was funny, yet not silly. He challenged ideas without aggression and he was deeply committed to something that didn’t mean anything to anyone but him.

The irony of being charmed with all this weakness didn’t strike Alice until Frank surprised her, at school, with the biggest assortment of flowers she had ever seen.

Frank knew how uncomfortable public attention and spontaneity were for Alice, so he thought it wise to surprise her when she was alone – at lunch time.

No matter what time of year it was, Alice could be found outside. If it were winter, he would have found her bundled up, enjoying a stroll around the campus. If it were spring, she would be sitting on a bench with her eyes closed, inviting the sunlight to glaze her face. Nevertheless, it was Autumn.

The guard at the school gate, knew exactly who Alice was and exactly where Frank could find her. Since Frank was carrying such a beautiful arm full of flowers and had a gentle voice, the guard didn’t ask many questions.

She had just begun a new book and was under the red maple tree by the Math building. While Frank didn’t know how much Alice loved the smell of decomposing plants mixed with wet dirt, he did know that Fall was her favorite season and it became even more apparent when he saw her, sitting under the red maple tree.

Alice, finished a chapter and looked up to see a few leaves fall from the branch when she saw Frank. Her heart impulsively fluttered and her smile was so big Frank could already see it. As he approached though, Alice saw what he was holding. Pinks, purples, whites – the brightest of blossoms that surely emitted the sweetest of smells. As she kept smiling, she also began plotting – what to say, how to react and more importantly of all, how much should she pretend?

Alice wasn’t a liar. Yet she had developed a keen instinct to pretend and withhold details that could potentially cause others to assume negative things . Her calluses were only so thick. She was well aware that it was the pain from her earlier years that had created the calluses. Since she had been so young and so fleshy, the wounds, although somewhat healed, were internally scarred.

Alice stood and walked to meet Frank. She hugged him, smashing the buds and stems, triggering more fragrant to be released. After thanking him greatly, she took a deep inhale through her mouth and as she exhaled tears puddled in her lower lashes. She took the giant arrangement into her arms. Out of fear of dropping it she cradled it as she would a baby. A gesture that she had little experience. Alice felt different. She was still not fond of the sweet smell of the flowers but somehow it didn’t trigger disgust or anger.

Years later, Alice would look back at these times and shudder at how weak she had been for so long and perfectly grateful to her husband Frank for awaking her inner sweetness.