Fitting In: Hipster Parties, High School, and The Prom Dress Effect.
My band played an all night after hours party the other night and around 3am, several hours after I had finished my set, I sat at the back of the room and people watched with my best friend of the last decade.
“You having any fun?” Said man to my right.
“Yeah. I am. Why?”
“You look like you don’t fit in here.”
I took this information and passed it onto my friend.
“This is happening again? Ten years later? Do we have to come back here in prom dresses?”
Let me explain:
Flash back to ten years ago, at an all ages show my friends band was playing. I had been friends with the guys in the band for a while, and my friend Christine and I were invited to come watch them play. Coming from a small town, these were exciting little nights, pre-drinking age where you could actually go see live music and hangout not in your parents basement. We loved music, and we went to these things for the shows. And okay, perhaps a little for the cute boys. To this day I remember picture perfect exactly what I was wearing. Yellow hoodie, flare jeans I bought for $30 from Capital Iron, and hair in a ponytail. I can imagine my friend was dressed probably in the exact same attire. We stood at the back, and watched the bands play. Content with ourselves, and the night.
“Hey!” Girl in black sitting against the wall calls to me.
“Yes?” I smile, thinking naively that I was making a new friend.
“Why are you here?”
Not knowing I needed a reason to be at an open free event I replied “My friends are playing? We were invited?”
Girl in black replies with a statement that will stick with me my whole life:
“You don’t fit in here.”
I can’t say that at the age of 16 this didn’t hurt my feelings. I felt defensive over the fact that I was just being myself, and I felt defensive over my friend as well. We were who we were, wore what we wanted, probably never really ‘fit in’ perfectly anywhere, but we were happy. We didn’t fit in with the jocks or the popular crowd, but we never wanted to. Sure it would have been nice to get invited to parties, which we weren’t, but we made our own fun. And the friends we had were true friends. We had none of the gossiping and bullshit that we heard went on in the cool crowd. We also didn’t fit into the rest of the groups because I feel like in high school, in a time where everyone is trying to figure out who they are, the extremes of stereotypes exist. Goths look like Goths. Band geeks look like band geeks. So when you don’t fit into any of these groups, you make your own. But at the same time, the other groups are less inclined to welcome you in. Thinking of you as an alien coming to invade their judgment free spaceships. I have found my whole life that those who assume the world around them is judging them are the quickest to judge you.
So what do you do when a 16 year old girl calls you out at a concert for not fitting in? When your heart drops just a little cause someone made you feel unwanted and not accepted? What did we do?
We came back the next week wearing fucking prom dresses.
You think we don’t fit in now? We’re coming back looking like Goddamn Barbie dolls. That’s how they saw us, we were going to give them that. Laughing at ourselves, laughing in the face of judgment. What else could we do? We weren’t going to cater to their wants by never coming back, but we also weren’t willing to change who we were for the sake of fitting in. Whatever that means. It’s just an illusion really. One of my favorite lyrics is “I’m afraid of men with clocks for eyes and suits for skin.” This applies to everyone, hipsters included, 16 year old Goths included. If you are wearing a suit of any kind that isn’t genuine to who you are and what you believe in, you’re not being yourself. You’re being someone else. Congratulations, you fit in. And for the record, I’m not dissing (using high school language cause I’m in this mindset now) hipsters or Goths. Both of these groups include some of my most loving wonderful friends. What I’m not okay with, is not being yourself, or feeling like you can’t. I’ll never be okay with that.
I could name 100 scenarios where I haven’t fit in. 13 years of dance classes where the girls wouldn’t talk to me and I stood alone at the back all those years. I was however, the only person ever asked to compete, that didn’t have to audition. The mean little girls didn’t like that too much. Baseball practices where I was the only girl 7 years in a row. I wasn’t good at baseball, but I loved it. Didn’t fit in there either. Junior high, copy and paste my high school experience. Didn’t have a group exactly, but had a handful of wonderful friends. That’s where I discovered my love of theatre, which became my first experience of what fitting in felt like. The kind of fitting in that took no effort, no wardrobe changes. It was a Breakfast Club of diversity where no one looked like each other, or came from the same group of friends, which in turn, made us all equally not fit in. In a world where everyone is 100% themselves, you feel welcome. You feel the same in a very good way.
The best compliment my father ever gave me was when I was working in the clubs as a lighting tech. He came to visit me one night at I’ll say.. the clubbiest of clubs, downtown Vancouver. That night, a group of women decided to come dressed as slutty nurses, it wasn’t Halloween. It was definitely nowhere near Halloween. The men that frequented this place were the kind that would grab your ass on the way to the washroom, degrading every bone in my body. I learned very quickly in this environment how to defend myself and my honor. I also learned that I could kung fu a man if he ever tried to touch me without my consent.
“Dad, I don’t think I fit in here.” I confessed to him, questioning my decision to put myself in such an environment.
“Amy,” He said with a smile, “You could never fit in here.” To this day that tears me up. He gave me the validation to not fit in. To never fit in. I’ll always be thankful to him, and to that club experience for that.
We learned our own little lesson as well that night. The night we came back to the all ages show in prom dresses. We thought, this’ll show them! Reminder, we were 16, with hurt feelings, and felt we had to do something to stand up for ourselves. Truth be told, no one even noticed. We were expecting a Can’t Hardly Wait, Jennifer Love Hewitt, cue Sneaker Pimps music type of scenario. That didn’t happen. We realized that one girl’s opinion, wasn’t that of everyone else there. It was blown up in our minds because I think that’s what we needed at the time. That’s what you need at the insecure age of 16. You need little challenges and reminders to fight for what you believe in. To fight for yourself.
And what did we do, ten years later, at a party that not only we were invited to, but my band played at? On paper, I’d say that’s the definition of ‘fitting in’ somewhere, but it wasn’t good enough for man to my right stating that we didn’t.
We danced till 5am. No prom dresses. No confrontations. Sure we were still confused as to why we looked like we didn’t fit in, but realized there really was no answer. There was no rhyme or reason to fitting in.
So I empathize with any of you reading this who have had any of these experiences, who always feel like the ‘other’ and never the same as the world around you. To the extraordinary humans who are different, and who choose lifestyles that may not be like anyone else’s. And to my dear friend Christine who stands by my side throughout all of these life experiences.
I say to you, with a smile:
You could never fit in.
Artist Direct Interview about Can't Keep Your Mind Off Music Video
Check out the video we’re talking about here:
Data Romance & Wintersleep Show Announced: June 14th Ottawa, ON
Guts - by Amy Kirkpatrick
The act of following my gut has become like a prayer to me. I think I first realized the true meaning of ‘going with your gut’ meant when I was 17. I was graduating from high school, agreed to go to University for one year (that’s how my parents lovingly tricked me into getting a degree), and felt my first sudden burst of.. “I need freedom. I need change, now.” I’ve learned over the years to listen to this voice, but at first, at 17 I wasn’t sure if this was my first taste of rebellion, or if it in fact was the path to becoming who it is I wanted to be.
I want to move to Hornby Island, I said.
Hornby Island is a tiny island off the coast of Vancouver Island. Its nickname is the Maui of BC because the white sand beaches are so unbelievably beautiful, and the ocean water is warmer than most places in Canada.
“Where will you live?”
I don’t know.
“What will you do there?”
I don’t know.
“How will you make money?”
I don’t know.
“Okay, we’ll help you.” Said my endlessly supportive parents, who were then realizing their daughter would be a city hopping dream chaser for the next 10 years (and counting.)
Within weeks, I had achieved the near impossible. Hornby Island is not a place you just find a home to rent. These houses are booked months in advance, and locals charge an obscene amount of money to tourists who will rent them out for the summer months. My grade 4 teacher had a home there that was unfinished, and had no one living in it. She stopped by time to time to garden and check up on it, but she agreed to let me live there. For $200. For the entire summer.
Here’s the catch, if you can call it that.
-I had to take care of a cat, a dog, and a bird. (For those who know me, I can barely keep fish alive. Rest in peace Nosferatu, Bubbles, Marley.. the list goes on.)
-There was no working shower, but there was a hose which heated up the water left inside if you left it out in the sun all day. There was an ocean, which the thought of bathing in now seems energizing. Spiritual.
-There was also a hot tub to ‘take care of’ as well.
It was a 3 bedroom, two level house, on the top of a hill, in a forest, with a rooftop that no one around could see. For me, I had struck gold. Freedom.. my mind echoed over and over until I packed my bags and was on the first ferry ride to my island of 17 year old dreams.
I applied at the local sarong/jewelry/incense shop and got a job working there on a trial period. I was fired after a week. Don’t ask me why, to this day I couldn’t tell you. I’m pretty sure it’s because I didn’t actively care if anyone bought anything or not, and the owner wanted someone to push sales. I was on vacation for the first time in my life for all I cared. More time for my temporary cat, dog, and bird. More time for swimming in the ocean every night, and eating Ben and Jerry’s ‘Half Baked’ ice cream in the hot tub while listening to the radio. I lost 10 pounds eating nothing but ice cream, goldfish crackers, and whatever they sold at the outdoor coffee shop called Vorizo. This wasn’t a diet, this was pure laziness and the fact I didn’t have an oven. I was 17 and had never really had to fend for myself.
I look back on this time as the best days of my life. I had made a few island friends, saw some of the most architecturally creative houses I’ve ever been in, went to some eye opening, unconventional parties (that were paired with their owner’s ‘unconventional’ lifestyles). I danced till sunrise with not a drop of liquor in my body. It was just the experience I had been craving. The fresh cut grass of the unbeaten path became an ecstasy. An awakening for me. This time in nature, around animals, in solitude, gave me the strength and the connection to my inner self that to this day, is what gets me through. I went into the forest, and became who I am today. This time validated the voice in my head that told me to ‘go with my gut.’ And honestly, at the time, I don’t think I saw it in such depth as I do now looking back. I appreciated it, but I didn’t realize it was molding me as a human being, and molding the connection with nature and with my heart that I still trust with every bone in my body.
That voice is still there, but not as much as I’d like it to be. It’s the voice that forced me to move to Vancouver when I was in the ‘perfect’ scenario living in my hometown. I use the term ‘perfect’ in the Smashing Pumpkins bittersweet dark hearted way. When I made that life decision, from the time I said “I have to move to Vancouver” to the time I had found an apartment, was less than an hour. I had a job lighting bands within a week. My gut has never been wrong, and I can say that with as much certainty as I can say the sky is blue. But the voice that tells me to go with my gut can get muffled by junk that piles up as you get older (not old, older). Taxes, contracts, family, money, biological clocks. “Tick tock… Why are you twenty-seven and single?” That voice, I like to respectfully ignore.
So now when my gut as well as life plans are telling me “It’s time for a change again.” I’m hesitating.
Taxes, contracts, family, money, tick tock…
I’m searching lately for the 17 year old who could proudly state “I don’t know” and still get the wheels in motion to achieve the impossible. I’m searching for the 17 year old who slept with a knife under her pillow, lived with no cell phone, no internet, no shower (minus the hose) and no fear. She’s still in there, but the years have muffled her voice a little. Doubts, and bills piling up have too. I have never been one to doubt myself, or my actions. I don’t believe in regrets, and can’t say I have any. I’m thankful for every breakup, every breakdown, every bad news that made me stronger. So when this voice has faded, through time, what’s left to listen to? What will guide me to the place I need to find clarity? To make tough decisions. To build the pieces of broken dreams into castles.
My gut. My never failing, never fading gut.
Inhale, exhale, light some incense, find some Ben and Jerry’s.
Smell the fresh cut grass of the path less traveled.
Find freedom, ten years later, so that you will be able to tell with a sigh, ages and ages hence:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference” - Robert Frost.
Find freedom.. I echo to myself.
Find freedom ten years later. Minus the cat, the dog, and the bird.
Live performance of "Something To Me" in Los Angeles
We just got back from spending a week and change in Los Angeles. The weather was considerably less rainy than home and we’re considering frequenting that town a lot more this year. In between chowing on burritos and staring at billboards, we commandeered our friend’s porch and played some songs on a warm night. Just for the fun of it. It feels like we don’t do that enough. Hopefully we can put up some more live videos soon. We hope you enjoy us playing Something To Me which we’re now offering for FREE here: http://bit.ly/STMDownload
- Live performance of “Something To Me” off our debut album ‘Other.’
- Free Dwnld: http://bit.ly/STMDownload
Conversations with Torrance Coombs: The Artist's Support Group on a Sunday night at The Dresden
Torrance and I have been friends for the better part of two years now. I think we ‘met’ when he tweeted my band, then the becoming of Facebook friends, to real life friends took place. Over the years our conversations have become what I like to call an Artist’s Support Group. We’ve bridged the gap of what it’s like to be a musician and an actor in the business. The ups, the downs, the small idiosyncrasies that friends in other careers may not quite understand to the extent you wish they sometimes would. But you can’t fault them for it. Just as I couldn’t 100% comprehend the tasks and stresses of their careers as well. It’s all relative. Anyways, point being, Torrance and I talk. But because of our careers being so similar in many ways (aka. involving lots of travel) until yesterday, we had never been able to meet up in the same city at the same time for a genuine hangout. Friends for two years, no hangouts, and yet I’ve probably told him more truths about my life as musician than any other people. So why is this? How come I can tell an actor friend, more than say a musician friend or someone I’ve know longer than two years?
Reason #1: We’re not competing with each other to try and make it in this god forsaken music/acting business. As much as you’d like to think all musicians and all actors get along, there’s always certain little things you just can’t talk about with your peers of the same career. Playing your cards close to your chest, if you will. Call it paranoia, I call it being a smart business woman.
Reasons #2: Lack of judgment. Because our careers aren’t the exact same, we’re able to get honest reactions from each other about whatever it is we’re chatting about, instead of a reaction that directly relates to a personal experience of the same. Also, you know sometimes when you tell people personal details about your life, open and honestly, you can feel a tinge of a laugh or disgusting ignorant judgmental aftertones coming from their lips as their natural reaction, you’d never get this from Mr. Coombs. I’ve told him word for word my most embarrassing conversations with other people, and there’s nothing other than acceptance. Or he’ll say something even more offensive to make light of the conversation. Works like a charm.
So after two years of :
“Hey what city are you in? LA? I’m in Vancouver.”
“Vegas? I’m in Winnipeg.”
“Ireland? I’m in New York.”
We finally ended up in Hollywood at the exact same time, and had a free night to catch up with a drink and a chat. Using our actual voices.
“You seen Swingers?” Torrance asks as we walk up to what looks like an old hotel from the city I grew up in.
“This place is in Swingers.” He says.
“Isn’t everything in this town?”
We walk into The Dresden, house band playing, people dressed in anything from gowns to sweatshirts and jeans, and find a small round table to have one of our conversations at. In typical Hollywood fashion, just as every other single bar in this city, autographed photos of celebrities, who may, or may not have actually been there, paint the walls. I’m starting to wonder if some of these autographs are fake just for the sake of having something to impress the tourists. I don’t want the answer to this question, I prefer the mystery. To be fair, our conversation started when he picked me up from my hotel above the 101 Café (which was also in Swingers), but that part of the conversation involves a story which is best kept in my personal life/Torrance’s car. (Sorry readers, you’ll have to get to know me for two years over the Internet before you hear that one.)
“How was Ireland?” I ask.
He had just spent a month shooting a pilot in Ireland, and told me stories of how he lived and shot in haunted castles. This is a point where I was glad I didn’t have the same job as him. Castles? Yes please. Haunted castles? Get me on the next plane out of there.
“Amazing.” He says, showing me photos on his iPhone of landscapes, cliffs, castles, while a waitress delivers an Old Fashioned and a gin and tonic.
I tell him how I want to write about our conversations, and how time to time I post essays, or articles, or whatever you want to call them on our band page. He’s game. I originally wanted to ask him Inside The Actor’s Studio questions, but thought catching up as friends would be much more fulfilling, even if I didn’t get an article out of it. The band finishes another song and I abruptly interrupt Torrance telling a story about the ups and downs of the acting business to pay my respects to the musicians.
“I have to applaud when songs finish.” I say. “I feel like it’s my duty as a musician to at least give them that.” Knowing the feeling all too well of what it’s like to finish a song, and have no one applaud or even notice the song has ended as you humbly start playing the next tune.
We continue our conversation.
He talks about the sacrifices that you have to make as an actor. I agree to his fears on how traveling for work can take a toll on friendships and relationships. How your friends slowly stop noticing when you’re in town, and when you’re not, and how heartbreaking it can feel at times. But you can’t talk about these things. Not outside of a dark bar on a Sunday night. You can’t talk about how lonely hotel rooms can get (insert Sarah Mclachlin lyrics here), or how the excitement of a new city can get lost in the fact you don’t have someone close to share it with. It can sound like complaining. It can sound like you don’t appreciate all the gifts and chances you’ve been given. These past two statements simply are not true. People hear what they want to hear. They take their insecurities and put them on you. But in these conversations, empathy reins, and any negative connotations that others may have put on you in the past are lifted. These ‘complaints’ are justified and are even related to, very much so. They are understood with kindness, or as I said before, a reply of an even more shocking story that just makes me feel normal.
The band finishes another song. We applaud.
“It’s like how I always treat waitresses and bartenders extra well.” Torrance says, in context to how I have to pay my respects to house band musicians. “They’re usually actors here.”
We tell each other awkward life stories, happenings from Vancouver (where he is also from), stories from my tours, his Ireland trip, the waitress brings another round.
A female voice cuts through our conversation and steals my attention. There hadn’t been one up until this point in the soundscape of our evening.
It’s our waitress.
“You make me feeeeeel. You make me feel like a natural womaaaaaaan.”
I give him a look of ‘this really happens here?’
“All the time.” He says.
Sealing my Hollywood day with the perfect bookend.
After finishing her song, the waitress goes back to the counter, grabs some more drinks, and continues serving her audience as she was before. With slightly more confidence and attitude than before.
We pay our bill, chat about maybe hanging out again before I fly Thursday to Vancouver, and I return home to my room above the 101 Café. The Swingers café. A movie Torrance highly recommends I watch. Did I forget to mention he’s also my movie recommendation buddy, and has only failed me once by recommending a movie that was so horrifying I still can’t get certain images out of my head?
I’ll save that story for another time. Another conversation.
Walking Past the Hollywood Sign: Metaphors, anxieties, and finding solitude lost in LA
On a free afternoon in Hollywood, I decided to take a walk. Lack of sleep made me slightly dozy and delirious to the point where I didn’t exactly even know where I was going. The heat took away any hunger I had been feeling, which I think was my original reason for this little venture, so I decided to keep walking instead of stopping at the neighborhood smoothie bar. I should start by explaining Franklin Village, a place I’ve grown to know and love very much during my stays in this town. Franklin Village, located about ten minutes walk from downtown Hollywood (the Hollywood you see on TV during award shows kind of Hollywood). For most people, this little village wouldn’t seem like much, a passing strip on your way in or out of town, but for these little times where I’ve been blessed to spend some time here it’s become my home turf. It consists only of these things: A magazine/incense shop, a couple small restaurants, a smoothie place, a used record/book shop, an Improv Theatre, and a wine store/coffee shop. For anyone who knows me, they know this is pretty much all I could ever ask for in terms of ‘necessities’. My point is, I walk past all this. The only area I know at all in this town, and I keep walking. Debating turning around at first. I could just wander into town, check out the touristy sights? My mind repeats a couple times, I keep walking. Turning north, past Franklin village, I wander past trees, houses, cars, slowing entering more of a suburbia, and leaving behind any people I had walked past on my way to.. wherever it is I was going. I notice the sidewalks getting more and more aggressive, tripping me, no warning signs of construction, cement slabs bent and pushed upwards because of tree roots and other things. I start to lose myself in the smells, the sounds, the trees, and begin noticing that I’m the only person around, in any direction. I see country-like yellow houses that remind me of my mother. Thinking of her I notice beautiful lush gardens, which remind me of the same. A few people passing in cars look at me as if I was lost, I wasn’t, yet, but I was getting there intently. I look up and see the ever worshipped Hollywood sign. It looked so close. I could walk there, I thought. Maybe get a good photo. It seemed like a shallow feat, one I wasn’t prepared to have sacrificed my day to. But I kept walking anyways. At this point, I’m on a road, no clue where it is leading, in a general direction of Griffith Park. No, Griffith Park is more East. I question myself again. Negative thoughts fleeting, I begin to stop caring where I am, how far I’ve walked, and eventually, where the sign I was searching for was. I could see glimpses of it here and there, block to block. But like a mirage, the closer I got to the sign, the more it disappeared. What better metaphor for the “Hollywood dream”. Hell, this was becoming a metaphor for my entire life. How my dreams, or the love I’ve longed for, the more I seemed to have these things, the more I searched for them, the farther they seemed away. I was deep in thought and too far in to turn around now. I stopped by a tree full of flowers and could hear hummingbirds. To this day, I did not know you could hear hummingbirds. I remember them in the summers of the house I grew up in, but I’ve never heard them sing. There was a strange juxtaposition of the houses I kept walking past. Country style summer homes on one side, mansions on the other. I wondered if one side of the humans appreciated the beauty of the area they were living in, more than the other. If they appreciated how the paths smelled of roses and summer flowers. I came to a conclusion that maybe they didn’t. I hadn’t seen anyone walking the sidewalks with me, and they were clearly left in an uneasy state. As I noticed that the Hollywood sign was no longer anywhere in sight, I realized, I had passed it. The sidewalk I had been walking on literally ended, turned to a dirt path, then to no path at all. If this isn’t a sign to ‘take the path less traveled’, then I don’t know what is. I ended up in Griffith Park. Gates greeted me to forests of trees, hills, and a family of Eagles soaring though a quiet sky. No celebrities, no signs, no malls, no superheroes.
In my white polka dot dress, stockings, and boots not fit to walk longer than five minutes in, I sat on a picnic bench by the side of the road. I breathed without the anxiety of a city’s weight on me. Without the weight of the world on me. A feeling which seems very real from time to time. People walking past looked at me, once again, as if I was lost. All I could think at this moment was, my heart isn’t lost, my mind isn’t lost. I’m alright knowing that I will feel lost from time to time, and to face that fear head on by intentionally creating it was just the cure on this afternoon in Hollywood. Getting lost in the wanderings of my day enabled me to gain back my mental confidence, clarity, and burn off any winter anxieties that had been hanging around like gremlins in my chest. For anyone who has had anxiety, you know this feeling all too well. For anyone who hasn’t, put a 50 pound rock on your chest, suck out any air in your lungs as if you were lost in space, then picture something you fear the most. Spiders. The dentist. Heights. That’s the extreme of what these ‘anxieties’ can feel like. But for me the sun, stars, ocean air, writing, creating, these are my gremlin’s kryptonite’s. This walk was my dark winter’s cure. Something I didn’t know I needed, but my instincts pushed me into doing.
In the end, I walked for two hours, and never cared that I didn’t see the Hollywood sign up close. I found eagles, hummingbirds echoing through trees, my mother’s voice telling me to “Just enjoy every second of it”. ‘It’ being life in my twenties. The good with the bad. I found a moment of peace near the center of the universe. I got lost in Hollywood, and found pieces of myself along the way.
And the cost… Nothing. (Except for a few Marilyn Monroe dress experiences, which I gracefully endured as a sacrifice to wind, and those blessed few hours of solitude.