Monday, April 3, 2017

Self Esteem via Unrequited Love

The greatest loves of my life were not men I actually dated. 

This is probably offensive to anyone I've been in a relationship with and to the institution of monogamy as a whole. I'm not proud of the fact, nor is it healthy, that the men who have had the biggest impact on me, were those I've never kissed, and in some cases, never even had more than a five minute conversation with. The ones that got away because I never really had them, have, individually, had a huge influence on the trajectory of my life, and at the risk of blowing my cover, I'd like go into detail about one such gentlemen now.

Context is everything. Before I discuss this particular infatuation, first allow me to paint the picture of Hannah Hogan in the year 2008.

I had just graduated from acting school and was trying to get an agent, but no one was returning my land-line phone calls.  I've never had more stamina in my "career" than right after I graduated college, so I wasn't discouraged, rather, I felt invigorated by the industry's apathy towards me. I was Meryl Streep being told by Hollywood that her nose was too big, I thought rejection was necessary step in the life of any great talent, followed immediately by me becoming a national treasure and my home town renaming its streets after me. I also suspected that, if I were poor, I would work harder, so I refused financial assistance from my family- the bravest thing a white woman can do- and got a job at Timothy's, a Canadian coffee shop that wanted to sound like Tim Hortons but look like Starbucks. The day job paid my rent, and allowed me to afford my own head shots, acting classes and of course, Belmont Mild cigarettes. I was an actress now, so I had to stay on brand.

I made the mistake of signing up for classes at The Second City, and was immediately infected with the improv virus, a disease that took me years to shake from my system. At the time, however, I loved improv, and I thought I was on a path destined for SNL or the very least, This Hour Has Twenty Two Minutes. I wanted all the stage time I could get, which is hard, because unlike stand up, improv is a coordinated event, where a group of people, if not always an audience, must agree to show up and perform. Team work has never been my strong suit, hence, why I am now a stand up comedian, but I was too young then to recognize my flaws, and instead pushed ahead, foolishly thinking I worked well with others.

It was my great fortune that, after taking a Harold Class, I was invited to be on an improv team at The Bad Dog Theater. I was thrilled to be asked to be on a team, because it was the first time any one, other than myself, had recognized my talent. I always suspected that I was amazing, and believed I was an undiscovered living legend, but no one else had openly acknowledged my genius, so when I was cast on a team, I was reassured that my path to stardom was going according to plan.

There were a few hitches, though, namely, that I was a bad improviser. The problem with having a lot of passion is that that's all it is: a lot of energy, not enough skill.  I thought I had "great ideas", but my team mates informed me that I was just "bulldozing every scene." Apparently, improv is about listening and being grounded, two principles that confounded and disturbed. How can I listen if I'm busy being the funniest person on stage? None of it made sense. So, after a few terrible shows, and an audibly frustrated team and coach, my confidence began to wane. I got in my head, which is not a good place to be in when doing improv, sex, or karaoke. After all the classes, rehearsals and shows, I felt like I was getting worse at comedy, like I was un-talented, or at the very least, like every one around me sucked, and both these conclusions depressed me.

Like all my great loves, I fell for him right when I was ready to give up.

I showed up at The Bad Dog Theater and had already resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have another terrible show. I knew I was doomed to bomb on stage, or worse, be mediocre. Internally, I was in a foul mood, but on the surface, I was smiling and talking a lot, most people probably considered me cheerful, but inside, I had forsaken my hope of ever being funny, and it was with this suicidal attitude that I took to the stage to entertain.

I don't know what I said, I just went on stage and started talking, probably in an incomprehensible accent, very typical of my sensibilities at the time. I expected who ever joined me on stage would call me crazy, we'd die a slow death, and then someone would sweep the scene and relieve the room of our treachery.  That, however, is not what happened. HE came on stage, and began delivering all these brilliant straight man responses to my over-the-top, hack, character. He made me look good, and the audience was laughing at me, at him, and at us. Our scene was funny, and the audience loved every bit of it. The show proceeded, and every time I walked on stage, he joined me, and again, we crushed it- together. It was the first time that my identity as a genius actually manifested its self in real life and I was shocked when I didn't receive a standing ovation at the end of the show.

I fell in love with him because he made me look good, which is the only reason to fall in love with someone.  It should be noted that we were on an improv team for several weeks before this particular show, but it was not until he made me look funny that I in any way noticed him as a sexual being. I always knew he was handsome, but so are a lot of guys, and I need something more in a man, namely, their ability to prop up my self esteem.

Thus ensued my summer long infatuation with a guy on my improv team. Our team had weekly rehearsals, and it shocks me to admit now, but improv was the best part of my week because I got to see him. Of course, when he was around, I didn't talk to him, in fact, I mostly avoided him. I thought he was so cute, talented and amazing that I blushed at the site of him and I didn't want him to know I liked him because he had a girlfriend but mostly because, deep down, I thought he was out of my league. From what I gathered creeping his Facebook, he was very well educated, a real prodigy,   and had lots of friends who did fun things like drink and play pool. I, on the other hand, am not well educated, not unless you count a two year diploma for Acting For Film and TV, and while I had friends, they were not mainstream cool, namely, they were improvisers.  I felt honored to even know him, confused as to why he was even doing improv, but blessed because working with him made me want to be funnier, and wanting to impress him inspired me to work harder.

That summer, while in the throws of unrequited love, I started a sketch comedy troupe. It was all I could do to keep myself above ground. Our sketch troupe performed every Thursday, and we wrote and performed new sketches every week. I was riding the waves of love and the ensuing creativity that were the symptoms of said love. They say Aphrodite is the goddess of love and creativity, and if my twenties taught me anything, it is true that love or lust definitely arouse great amounts of art, or in my case, character monologues.

I began reading The Artists Way, which is a very artsy self help book that helped me to identify my insecurities, creative blocks and deepest desires. I felt good artistically but awful emotionally. To distract myself, and appear popular on Facebook, I started hanging out with other comedians, going to parties, making friends, writing, and of course, making vision boards. It was summer in Toronto! The flowers in the Annex were blooming, people were getting Vitamin D again, life was rich and painful and I was inspired by every love-sick moment of it.

Then, suddenly, tragedy struck. One day at rehearsal, he announced he was quitting the improv team because he was moving away, to another city. I was devastated. I was almost ready to make eye contact with him, and now he was leaving me, perhaps forever. I went through all the normal stages of grief, but landed on denial, and decided to hang out there for a while. How was I going to stay inspired if he was gone? How was I going to be funny with out him? I started drinking more, and really related to the pop song, Bleeding Love, by one hit wonder, Leona Lewis.

The last improv show we did together was a very big deal to me, and after wards, I analyzed every moment of the scene, looking for subconscious hidden meanings behind the "chicken scene", but came to no satisfying conclusions, no real evidence, that he had feelings for me. After the show, I walked up to him and said, it was nice improvising with you, you are so talented,  and he said, thanks, and then walked away, out of my life, forever. He was always, unlike this blog, a master of brevity.

The next week, after he abandoned me, through Bad Dog Theater, I had an audition for a TV show. They were doing an across Canada search for young comedians. I auditioned, it went well, and I got a call back. I auditioned a third time, and was cast as one of the leads of the new sketch TV show called, "That's So Weird". It was so stressful auditioning for the show, but when I felt untalented, or like I couldn't shake-off my self doubt, I thought of him. I thought that he thought that I was funny, and I kept going.  To this day it amazes me that I booked that show. Since then, I have bombed so many Tim Horton's commercials, but at that time, I channelled my twisted, perceived confidence HE had in me, and it made me feel invincible.

Eventually, because I got a real life boyfriend, I deleted him off Facebook and I got over it.  I am embarrassed that I let my infatuation go so long and deep, and now that I've had serious relationships, I know I didn't actually love him. You can't love someone you don't know, or at least that is the mature thing I feel like I should say at this point of the story. I'm thankful for him being in my life, for the brief few months that he was, because he did bring out the best in me, and that's what love is supposed to do.

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