The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo - Amy Schumer (2016)
THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW
I’d been single for about three years when I met Ben. Well, that’s not totally true. There are three dudes who might read this and say, “WHAT THE FUCK, SCHUMER?!” And I’d be like, “Don’t call me ‘Schumer,’ that is part of the reason why we broke up!” I’m kidding, but there are three guys who were my boyfriends over the course of those years. Whoops! I mean four. I just remembered another one. But each was over after a couple months, and I never got to the point of feeling like a real couple with any of them. We played at it. We tried it on like jeans to see what it would feel like. After a month or two, one of us would call the other one “baby,” or meet the other’s friends, or make hypothetical future plans, but we never got there. I never made it there with anyone during the last few years before Ben.
I found myself feeling very satisfied in my work during that time. I know that sentence may sound like a cry for help. “I’m just happy really throwing myself into my work right now” (as she chases a bottle of pills with a liter of Jack Daniel’s). But I mean it. This kind of unlikely satisfaction can actually happen. It was almost unsettling to be so okay with being single. I was almost certain that I’d start needing some sort of romantic stimulation or sexual activity to feel totally good about myself, but the need never came. I was feeling great, working my ass off doing stuff I was really proud of. (Such as a scene on my TV show depicting a girl who uncontrollably farts when she’s scared, which ultimately leads to her being murdered.) It helps that my work is actually fun.
I’d already been through the panic that sets in when all your friends get married in their twenties and start having kids. This was then followed by the even worse panic when you turn thirty and you’re still single. During that phase, I was terrified, and I started making pacts with male friends that if we were still alone in our forties, we’d get married and allow each other to see other people but keep our commitment to grow old together. Compared to the marriages I witnessed growing up, a prearranged, late-in-life marriage with a friend (or two) actually didn’t seem that crazy. It was, however, probably a little nuts that I started making so many pacts for marriage. I was setting it up so that my forties could be a sort of reverse Big Love situation—a bunch of real live brother-husbands. How does that not exist?!
My parents have both been married. A lot. Three times each, to be exact, which teaches you never to invest too much in loving someone because he may be replaced within a couple months. I’ve had UTIs that lasted longer than some of my parents’ marriages. And these marriages have led to a constant revolving door of siblings. The first time your parent is dating someone long enough and seriously enough for you to meet his or her kids, you invest. You think, Wow! This person may become my new sister or brother. Maybe we’ll share clothes and get tea together on Tuesdays at Alice’s Tea Cup! You show interest in them as human beings. You ask them questions like “When is your birthday? Do you like beets? Ever used a vibrator?” Okay, not the last one. But by the time marriage number three and stepsibling number whatever come around, you just kind of learn their name and maybe, if you’re up to it, you get a feel for their general vibe.
By the time my father met his second wife, Melissa, I’d already learned this strategy. Dad’s marriage to Melissa happened, in no small part, so he could benefit from her health insurance. What could be sexier and more romantic than that? Meet-cute alert! If I had to make a three-second movie to illustrate this relationship, it would open with a very unlucky woman dropping her wallet. Her Blue Cross Blue Shield card dramatically falls out, and my dad slowly picks it up without making eye contact with her. When things became official between them, Melissa introduced us to her daughter at a dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
My father has been to most of the restaurants in this chain all over the country, a point of pride for him, and he’ll tell you—if you’ll listen—how many and which cities he has yet to visit. It became a tradition that our dad would take me and Kim there, and we would start with the calamari (I like the ones with the legs because I’m gruesome; I’ll also eat cow tongue sandwiches and gefilte fish. I don’t give a fuck!), then have potatoes au gratin, creamed spinach, and filets, still loudly crackling from all the scalding-hot butter they are drenched in. So when my dad introduced us to the person who was to be our new(est) stepsister, he naturally chose Ruth’s Chris. Kim and I were already wise to the fact that this insta-sibling wouldn’t be in the picture for long, so when she started talking about how excited she was because she had always wanted sisters, it kind of broke our hearts. We drank underage and choked down our steaks as fast as we could to get through the meal.
The marriage with Melissa lasted a few months and out went that sibling. I still think of her every time we … NEVER. I never think of her.
But back to my parents and their parade of marriages. My mom was already one divorce deep when she met my dad. Her first husband’s name was David and they had one son together—my brother, Jason. When Jason was a few years old, they divorced, and my mom married my father soon after that. I was born a year later, and then Kim somehow snuck into this world. We’re all four years apart. When Jason was eleven years old, he lost his dad, who died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of thirty-nine. After my parents divorced, my mom dated several dudes.
There was, of course, the first man she dated after the divorce, named Lou, whom I told you about in the chapter “Mom” and who also happened to be the father of my best friend, Mia; and then John, who wound up being at the very least a cokehead, but my siblings and I think more likely a crackhead. My mom thought it was time to move this guy in with her children after knowing him a few months. One weekend when my mom went to a volleyball tournament with my sister, she left me alone with John and he took off to indulge in a weeklong drug bender, leaving me at home. I was a teenager at the time, so I was psyched. But still, it’s probably better not to live with a crackhead. To give my mom the benefit of the doubt, I suppose there are worse things than moving a crackhead into your house with your children, like maybe … no, a crackhead is the worst thing. After he left me alone, my mother ended their engagement briefly, until they got back together and he did the same thing again a few months later.
Then there was Andrew, who was very, very slow. I mean, I Am Sam would have schooled this guy in a game of Heads Up. There was Doug, my mother’s childhood sweetheart who resurfaced for a brief time, and Hank, whom we nearly moved in with.
There were a few more, none of whom I liked, and in fact I’d try to scare the suitors away. As soon as my mom would introduce me I’d call them “Daddy” and do anything I could to weird them out. I’d look them in the eyes and say, “My mom makes men fall in love with her and then gets tired of them. She will dispose of you like Kleenex in a week.” They would giggle, thinking it was cute. Until they hit the bottom of the bin.
Our mother’s third marriage was to her boyfriend Moshe, a Persian Jew from Israel who owned an auto mechanic shop in Queens. Moshe was stubborn, loud, embarrassing, and full of strong convictions. He and my mom were a real couple and genuinely loved each other. I found out they had gotten married by looking through photos she left on the counter one weekend when I was home from college. One photo showed them with two witnesses standing in front of a justice of the peace. I yelled into the other room, “Did you and Moshe get married?!” She shouted back, “Yeah!” They did it so that he could stay in the country, but then 9/11 happened and no one was too keen on granting citizenship status to an Iranian Jew. After a handful of years they divorced, and shortly thereafter Moshe had to go back to Israel to take care of his parents and was never allowed back in the US. I still miss him to this day. He was kind, and he loved us and our mom so much.
Since Moshe left the picture, my mom dates from time to time, and I hope she finds someone to grow old with, if that’s what she wants. Sometimes it seems like she may just want to be alone, and I understand that instinct, too. As someone who is on the road all the time, I know very well how difficult it can be to share your life with a person once you’ve become so used to being on your own. You have to ask questions like “What do you want for dinner?” or “Can I have more of the blanket?” or “Can I have more of your dinner?” or “Can dinner be pigs in a blanket?” And that can be harder than you think. But it can also be really nice. I’m getting distracted. What is better than pigs in a blanket? Read my next book for the answer; my next book’s title is NOTHING.
Then one day, out of nowhere, the fear I had of growing old unmarried just faded. My life was feeling full. Despite my parents’ various attempts at marriage, I’d hear stories of happy second marriages, or tales of people not meeting until they were in their fifties or sixties, and feel calm about the whole thing. I was settling nicely into my thirties. I was dating a little but was not at all as consumed with it as I had been in my teens and twenties. The days of He didn’t call me today and it’s three p.m.—what does that mean?! were truly behind me. I realized that nothing was missing. I felt pretty and strong in my own skin. From the inside. Not from the reflection I saw while staring into some dude’s pupils. I was feeling like I had it all.
I had a pretty big year. You’ve already heard all this earlier in the book … My movie came out, I hosted Saturday Night Live, and I filmed a one-hour special for HBO directed by one of my idols, Chris Rock. So many of my dreams were coming true all at once, and a lot of people were paying attention to me, including Barbara Walters. She’d just labeled me one of the “most fascinating people” of the year. Sure, why not? I didn’t feel particularly fascinating, but if Babs thought so, it must have been true. I taped an interview with her during which she asked me one of those questions about where I saw myself in five or ten years. I answered that I would want to be writing, producing, directing, and creating. She was surprised. She said, “You didn’t say married and with children.” I was surprised too, because the thought hadn’t even occurred to me. I laughed to myself and said to her, “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I would love to have those things but I don’t know how realistic that is for me.”
And maybe I gravitated toward that answer because my job isn’t exactly compatible with married life, and mostly because I was beginning to think that my parents were, at their core, both loners. Maybe I was like them. What’s wrong with being alone anyway? Being alone is sometimes a great place to be, but people are always trying to correct this “problem” for you, even if you yourself don’t have any kind of problem with it.
Seeing my parents as “a unit” these days is even more of an argument for remaining alone. Sometimes my mom will help me out by bringing supplies to the hospital where my dad lives, and watching them interact is strange. They were married for fourteen years and had two kids together, but now they talk with all the warmth and recognition of two people who maybe attended the same high school for a year but at different times. Their distance from each other probably started on day one of their marriage, something I really don’t need all the details of but I’m sure one day I’ll hear, because my dad likes to share. One day he told me about this woman, Lana, who went on to become his third wife. They had dated in the seventies back when my dad was hot shit. Tan and athletic, funny, and rich to boot. (I don’t know what “to boot” means. But you already bought this book and you can’t take it back—it’s too late.)
Lana was crazy about my dad. Back in the seventies she’d bring her pots and pans over to his bachelor pad and cook for him. She was head over heels, and she hung around long enough and forced herself into being my dad’s girlfriend. I have no judgments about that, by the way. As you know by now, I have moved to Astoria, Queens, to trap a man into a relationship and cooked him skirt steak with creamed spinach and a baked potato, because that is the one meal I know how to make. (And if you come over and notice out loud that I have never used my stove I will cut you with a never-used kitchen knife.) Anyway, one day, Lana’s parents came to Manhattan to visit. Lana and Dad had been up in his penthouse apartment hanging out and smoking “grass,” as my dad calls it. “And, Aim,” he said, “this was really good grass.” They were all heading downstairs in the elevator to go out to dinner, and when they got down to the lobby, a beautiful woman walked into the building. My dad said he stepped away from Lana and her parents, and walked right up to her and said, “Excuse me. Have you ever seen the penthouse in this building?” She said no. He asked, “Would you like to?” She said yes. The next thing my dad said to me was, “And that was the only time I’ve ever been tied up.”
So to reiterate the facts here: My father left his girlfriend and her parents in the lobby of his building in order to go upstairs and have sex with a complete stranger, who apparently loved bondage. And he felt the need to tell his daughter all about it, thirty-plus years later. Lana’s father was pounding on the door and calling my dad nonstop, so he locked himself in the apartment with the stranger for hours. And yet somehow, thirty years later, Lana still wanted to reunite with him and became my stepmother number two.
ABOUT A WEEK after the Barbara Walters interview, I was hanging out with my friend Vanessa Bayer, and we were talking about the latest with dudes. We both always had a guy or two we were juggling but not excited about. Which, by the way, means just texting and not actually meeting up. I realize it may have sounded like I was trying to say, “Vanessa and I were dealing with a bunch of different dick,” but we weren’t. We were always texting people. Not that there’s anything wrong with juggling dicks. Which is the title of my third book—Juggling Dicks. So Vanessa said she’d heard of a dating app for your phone specifically aimed at creative people that attracted a lot of celebrity members. We decided to sign up. You pick some pictures of yourself to post and a song that will play if people click on your profile. I chose the song “Dirty Work” by Steely Dan thinking this was pretty funny to put on a dating site. In my main profile picture, I was wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap with no makeup. It was a selfie and I made a gross face, looking as though I were dying, because I was hiking, so I was. I also put up a picture of Sophia from The Golden Girls, Claire Danes making her cry face on Homeland, and one more normal photo where I was smiling and wearing a sweatshirt. Vanessa and I posted our profiles at the same time and scream-giggled like little girls.
We clicked on the profiles of a couple guys who looked cute, and it seemed like every dude was either a model or a photographer. They all posted the same two Rolling Stones songs and the same photos of themselves riding a motorcycle, chilling with a bulldog, holding an old-timey camera in Europe, or doing a cannonball off cliffs somewhere tropical. They were attractive—too attractive—and clearly a bunch of full-time pussy magnets. It was very discouraging. Vanessa and I had only been on this app about four hours and already I was feeling ready to throw in the towel, loofah, and disposable razor.
But I decided to hang in there. I made myself click the “like” button on maybe four guys’ profiles, and within forty minutes, I got my first match. The guy was Ben. He was dancing with his grandmother in his profile picture at what looked like a wedding. His song was “LSD” by A$AP Rocky, my favorite song on that album. He wasn’t an actor or photographer by trade like all the other guys—and he didn’t live in LA or New York. He was a Chicago guy. We sent each other very simple hellos and short, funny messages.
A few hours passed and we were still messaging each other. He was funny, kind of odd, and interesting, and that made me paranoid. This must be a trick. I’m a celebrity, and I will be reading this whole conversation on some trashy website tomorrow. I had slowly worked myself into a full frenzy. I told him that I wanted to FaceTime to make sure I wasn’t being catfished by a basement-dweller with a comedy podcast. He said, “Sure, no problem.” We tried, but the Wi-Fi in my ancient apartment building wasn’t working, so he called me instead and we spoke on the phone the old-fashioned way for a few minutes. He sounded like Christian Slater and was just as funny on the phone. He had heard my name but had never seen my movie, stand-up, or TV show. I liked talking to him. We hung up, and I thought he seemed cool and that I’d like to meet him at some point, but I didn’t think much more about it.
I messaged with a couple other guys on the app and even made some loose plans to meet a few of them, but I never followed up. I took my profile down in under forty-eight hours. The experience was too intense, and if I saw one more guy looking off into the distance on a boat, I was gonna open my wrists and get into a warm bath. A few weeks later, I reached out to Ben because I was going to Chicago to visit my brother. He told me that he was actually driving to New York City. He is a furniture designer and was bringing something he’d constructed to a client. We made plans to meet for a drink at my place the next night. My sister immediately vetoed this dangerous idea and made me suggest a small, quiet restaurant to meet at instead.
I know it was a bold move to invite a guy I’d never met in person up to my place for a drink, but it does not really compare to my dad acting out Fifty Shades of Grey in his penthouse. Speaking of which, I’m sure you’re dying to know if Lana forgave my dad after he ditched her to be hog-tied by a total stranger. The answer is yes, and she is N to the U to the T to the S. She had an adopted Vietnamese daughter, who was about seven years old. Her name was May, and when we all found out our parents were getting married, May was very much under the impression that Kim and I were to be her sisters for life. She clung to us in a heartbreaking way, and we played along even though you didn’t have to be a psychic to guess the fate of this union. I’d have loved to have kept in touch with May, but her mom made sure this didn’t happen.
My dad was in his late fifties and already in a wheelchair and very sick by their wedding day. We went to a place on Long Island that was part chapel, part someone’s living room, and mostly haunted house. The person who married them seemed like he would be a waiter at the Jekyll and Hyde Club—very creepy looking and overweight, like the guy in Beetlejuice in the dinner-table scene where they all sing “Day-O.” Lana, our shiny new stepmom, wore a white dress, a veil, and dramatic makeup, including a drawn-on mole.
The reception was at a Chinese restaurant, and there were about forty people there who were 98 percent Lana’s guests. Lana’s friends were all very strange with a hint of disturbing, and they were mostly people from her community theater. After her thespian friends gave toasts, Lana got up and read a—no exaggeration—twenty-five-minute speech, which was meandering and pointless. Nonetheless, I thought my dad should at least look in Lana’s general direction while she read to him, her new husband. He never even glanced at her. Not once during the whole damn rant. He just ate moo shu pork and shrimp fried rice, and never acknowledged her presence during the whole speech. She didn’t seem to mind too much. It was clear that she was just giving a performance, and she was thrilled to have so many eyes on her, even if none of them were my father’s.
It was a rough day, and it turned into a rougher night. It seemed like things couldn’t get much worse. Kim was nearly catatonic by the time the evening wound down. We’d both drunk as much boxed white wine as we could get our hands on, and that’s when events hit rock bottom. I felt a tiny hand on my shoulder and a sweet voice ask, “Amy, will you sing ‘The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow’ with me?” It was my new sister, May. She was such an innocent, beautiful little angel. I could not fucking believe I was about to sing a song that I loathe in a Chinese restaurant on Long Island with my temporary Vietnamese stepsister. I wanted to turn to her and say, “I can’t! That song is a lie! You have such a hard road ahead of you! Your mom is cray-cray, and I’m going to take you out of here and raise you myself so you have a shot at happiness in this awful world!” But instead I said, “Yep.” She stood up on a chair and held hands with Kim and me, and we all sang, “When I’m stuck with a day that’s gray and lonely, I just stick out my chin and grin and say, OHHHHHHHHH!”
In the end the sun didn’t come out tomorrow on this relationship. Six months after Lana moved my disabled dad all the way to New Orleans, she decided she’d had enough of him and kicked him out. He ended up on the curb. Literally. She up and left him alone in his wheelchair and he wheeled his way to the side of the road. After that, he moved to a hospital on Long Island, and I haven’t heard from Lana or May since.
And I wouldn’t say the sun came out when I met Ben either. Not because things weren’t awesome, but because I try not to talk in metaphors about my relationships anymore. After everything I’ve witnessed with my parents, I like to keep things super basic—no solar analogies or rose-colored filters of any kind. Just the Valencia one on Instagram, because I look super good in that one. But the night I first met Ben in person, there was no literal sun to speak of; it was raining. I’d just had acupuncture, so there was oil in my hair and there were deep red lines on my cheeks from being facedown on the table, but I put on jeans instead of sweatpants and walked downstairs to meet him outside. I got out into the rain, and Ben was standing there, no umbrella or hood, with a soggy paper bag with a bottle of wine in it. We smiled at each other and in that moment, everything felt right.
I didn’t lie to Barbara, but my thoughts on love and marriage are always evolving. I’m sure in the past I’ve said marriage is stupid. Marriage makes someone sign a contract promising something they really can’t deliver. I’m sure I will again say marriage is dumb. But I can also imagine why it could be lovely. There’s something beautiful about truly being there for another person. In the movie Moonlight Mile, Susan Sarandon and Dustin Hoffman play a married couple who fight a lot but still really love each other. They talk about how they’re there to “witness each other’s lives.” I love that description of commitment. I don’t think my parents ever signed up for that. They didn’t show me what a good marriage looks like or how to stick it out to the end. When you have a sick parent, you can’t help but think of the end. Like literally, the final moments of life come to mind when I begin to love someone. I think, Will this dude push my wheelchair? And even scarier, Would I be willing to push his? These are not light thoughts, and they’re not easy to sort out when you’re in the early stages with a person you care about.
I don’t know what will happen with Ben of course. Maybe we’ll grow old together, or maybe we’ll be apart before this book is on shelves next to Godiva chocolates and gift cards. I would like to think that good things can happen for me in relationships with men, but maybe I think too much about the wheelchairs. I might just be a product of my parents. But it still seems worthwhile to suspend my disbelief for as long as I can—to keep myself open to accepting love—and to give mine every day.