The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo - Amy Schumer (2016)

I AM AN INTROVERT


I am an introvert. I know—you’re thinking, What the fuck, Amy? You just told us you hooked up with a stranger in Tampa, and now you’re claiming to be shy? You’re not shy, you’re a loud, boozy animal! Okay, fair enough. Sometimes that’s true. But I am, without a doubt, a classic textbook introvert.

In case you don’t know what that word means, I will fill you in quickly. If you do know what it means, then skip ahead to the chapter about where to find the best gloryholes in Beijing. Just kidding. I don’t have that info. Also, just fucking read my description of an introvert. Why are you in such a rush to skip ahead, you pervert?

Being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re shy. It means you enjoy being alone. Not just enjoy it—you need it. If you’re a true introvert, other people are basically energy vampires. You don’t hate them; you just have to be strategic about when you expose yourself to them—like the sun. They give you life, sure, but they can also burn you and you will get that wrinkly Long Island cleavage I’ve always been afraid of getting and that I know I now have. For me, meditation and headphones on the subway have been my sunscreen, protecting me from the hell that is other people.

There’s a National Geographic photo I love of a young brown bear. He’s sitting peacefully against a tree near the border of Finland and Russia. The caption reads something like, “The cubs played feverishly all day, and then one of them left the group for a few minutes to relax on his own and enjoy the quiet.” This was very meaningful to me because that’s what I do! Except in my case, the bear gets ripped away from his chill spot by the tree, and several people paint his face and curl his fur and put him in a dress so he can be pushed onstage to ride one of those tiny bicycles in the circus. I’m not saying he doesn’t enjoy making people laugh, but still, it’s hard out there for a fuzzy little introvert.

I know some people who’ve written books have struggled through it, and you can feel them ripping themselves apart on every page. But for me, writing this book has been one of the great pleasures of my life. Sitting and writing and talking to no one is how I wish I could spend the better part of every day. In fact, it might be surprising for you to learn that most of my days are spent alone, unless I am on set, which is crazy draining for an introvert. As soon as lunchtime arrives, I skip the food service tables and rush to my trailer or a quiet corner and I meditate. I need to completely shut off. This time spent silently is like food to me. I also eat a lot of food. But if I’m not shooting something, I like to be alone all day. Maybe an hour lunch with a friend, but that’s it.

When you’re a performer—especially a female one—everyone assumes you enjoy being “on” all the time. That couldn’t be further from the truth for me or any of the people I am close to. The unintentional training I received when I was little was that because I was a girl and an actor, I must love being pleasant, and making everyone smile and feel comfortable all the time. I think all little girls are trained this way, even those who aren’t entertainers like I was. Women are always expected to be the gracious hostess, quick with an anecdote and a sprinkling of laughter at others’ stories. We are always the ones who have to smooth over all the awkward moments in life with soul-crushing pleasantries. We are basically unpaid geishas. But when we do not fulfill this expectation (because we are introverted), people assume we must be either depressed or a cunt. Maybe I’m a cunt anyway, but it’s not because I don’t want to blink and smile at someone as they tell me they ran cross-country in middle school.

I was living with my boyfriend Rick during the time I started having this realization about myself. But even as a child, I had always known something was up. I didn’t like to play for as long as the other kids, and I absolutely always bailed on slumber parties. But as an adult, my mom wasn’t around to come pick me up in the middle of the night anymore, and I began to see things more clearly. You could say Rick was the first adult relationship I had, and for the first time, I was playing house with someone, mimicking the way married people dutifully fulfill each other’s friend-and-family obligations. I remember going to his family’s house for the holidays and realizing I would need to take frequent breaks from the lovely group of people we were hanging out with all day. Every ninety minutes or so, I would retreat to his room or go for a walk. I wasn’t made to feel bad about this, but everyone was clearly clocking it. Once, Rick took me to his friend’s wedding. After about two hours of small talk and formalities, I went to hide in the bathroom. I had nothing left to give or say, and I felt the unbearable sensation that I was treading water.

It wasn’t until I became best friends with some fellow comics and performers that I realized being an introvert wasn’t a character flaw. Even when we all go on vacations or on the road together, we take little breaks in our own rooms and then text each other to check in. This quality is tricky when your job actually requires you to constantly travel and interact with new faces, new towns, and new audiences. You cross paths with lots of people in this line of work, and you feel shitty if you don’t give away some of your energy and conversation to every driver, hotel front-desk clerk, promoter, backstage crew member, member of the audience, waiter, and so on. And I do mean “give away.” Energy is finite between recharges. That shit runs out. It’s not that I don’t respect these people working hard at their jobs (which are all jobs I have done, by the way, because I have done every job in the world other than being a doula. More on that later). I know they mean well, and I know there are many people out there who, unlike me, want to tell their cabdrivers all about how their flight was (flights are always fine) and what the weather was like in New York (cold or hot—who gives a fuck?). How many hotel room keys do you want? (A hundred and nine.) I’m just not one of those people, and I don’t want to waste their time and energy (or mine) with mindless small talk. Every time a driver picks you up from the airport, they ask why you’re in town and what you do for a living. When I was a rookie, I used to tell them the straight answer, but I learned my lesson because this kind of thing would happen every time:

“Oh, you’re a comedian?”

“Have I seen you before?”

“Are you on YouTube?”

“Oh, my cousin’s a comedian. His name is Rudy Fuckface. Do you know him? Google him.”

“Have you ever met Carrotbottom?”

“You know who’s funny? Jeff Dunham.”

“You should do a show about cabdrivers.”

“Oh, I could tell you some funny material for your act.”

“Weren’t you in that one movie?”

“You weren’t? Are you sure?”

“I don’t usually like female comics.”

That one really gets me. It’s not like anyone would so casually say, “I don’t usually like black people.” Either way, it’s offensive to say this to a female comic. And let me guess, you’ve only ever seen one female comic in your life and it was in the eighties and guess what? You probably fucking loved her.

So to avoid this kind of conversation, for a while I changed my story and told them I was a schoolteacher. But they still had too many follow-up questions for me, and so I started saying, “I tell stories for a living.” This was just creepy enough for them to cut the small talk.

I can stand onstage all night talking to thousands of people about my most vulnerable and private feelings—like my thoughts on the last guy who was inside me, or the fact that I eat like the glutton in the movie Se7en when I’m drunk. But I really don’t do as well at parties or gatherings where I feel like I am obligated to be more “social.” Usually I will find a corner to hide in and immediately begin haunting it like the girl from The Ring, just hoping no one will want to come talk to me. But in the right time and place, I can be pretty pleasant. For example, I’ve had several nice exchanges with nude elderly women in gym locker rooms. Even if they are blow-drying their hair with their gray tornadoesque bush out, I will engage.

It is probably no surprise that sometimes I prefer social media to human interaction. This is probably an introvert thing as well. Social media is just more efficient, like online dating. Everything can be quick and painless, and when you find out that someone is crazy or not funny, you can promptly tap out of the conversation. Even the photos a person chooses to post on Instagram can help save you a lot of time. I once ended a potentially romantic relationship because the dude posted a picture of his friend’s dog’s funeral. Like literally the dog’s body being lowered into the ground in a garbage bag. Saying he was honored to be a part of the day. Not even his own dog!

In my opinion, what a person posts on Instagram should be humanizing and accurate. Not that a dog funeral isn’t those things. But his post made it clear he thrived on sadness and enjoyed being a part of drama to make him feel alive and important. My favorite pictures to post are of my sister picking up piles of her dog’s shit when we go on walks. Why not be real and show all of yourself? One of the first times that I was paparazzied, they caught me stand-up paddleboarding in Hawaii. I didn’t even recognize myself. I saw the shots in magazines and thought, Oh, cool, Alfred Hitchcock is alive and loves water sports. But nope, it was me. When my friend told me they were online, she broke it to me as if both of my parents had died in a fire. But I proudly posted the worst picture on Instagram right away, because I thought it was hilarious. I will make fun of myself a lot in this book, but understand I feel good, healthy, strong, and fuckable. I’m not the hottest chick in the room. I would be like the third-hottest bartender at a Dave & Buster’s in Cincinnati. Another time, when a paparazzo photographed me committing the unspeakable act of eating a sandwich, I immediately posted a correction as to the type of meat it was (they said ham, but it was prosciutto).

On the other hand, there are those men and women we all know (celebrities or regular people) who only post amazing shots of their abs or photos where they look accidentally gorgeous, known as #humblebrags (RIP @twittels, who coined that perfect term). No, and pass to those people. I don’t even want to know someone who isn’t barely hanging on by a thread. Social media is a great tool for all of us introverts and decent people alike as it speeds up the time between thinking someone is great and realizing they’re the worst. I don’t know how introverts survived without the Internet. Or with the Internet. Actually, I don’t know how we survive at all. It feels impossible.

Now that I know I’m an introvert, I can better manage this quality and actually start to see it as a positive. For example, it’s a known fact that a lot of CEOs are introverts, and being in charge is a comfortable position for me too, whatever I’m working on. I surround myself with smart, talented people, let them do their thing, listen to their ideas, and figure out the strongest ways to collaborate with them to make the best possible final product. I write all my own jokes when it comes to my stand-up, but anything else I’ve created has been thanks to the collaboration of small groups of funny people working alone together, which is my favorite way to get things done. It should come as no surprise that a lot of writers are introverts, so on my TV show, the writing staff is happy to work together side by side for short stints and then disappear off individually into our productive little introvert pods at home to get shit done. We are mainly a group of cave dwellers who can only socialize for limited amounts of time. On any given day with the writing staff, the schedule usually looks something like this:

Noon:

Staff arrives at the office.

12:15:

The group orders lunch. We all want soup, but the soup delivery has taken up to two hours, so we get Bareburger. Kyle Dunnigan always takes the longest because he is gluten-and-dairy-free and we all need to hear about it forever. (This year he stopped being G-and-D-free and we are all furious he quit after we had to listen to him talk about it for so long.)

12:16–12:59:

Staff discusses and laments how long it’s taking for lunch to arrive.

1:00–1:15:

We consume our lunch and talk about The Bachelor.

1:15–1:30:

Bathroom breaks all around. Kurt Metzger tells a story about a weird girl he went down on.

1:30–2:00:

Discuss scene ideas or talk shit about people and watch YouTube videos together.

2:00–3:00:

Discuss what snack we should have. I pee for the hundredth time.

3:00–4:00:

We punch up scripts.

4:00–7:00:

Everyone writes in the safe shelter of their own homes.

It’s hard to be in the company of others for very long while being creative, and I don’t know how the writers of the late-night shows do it: together all day, churning out jokes and scenes. I feel lucky to have a huge group of people who let each other do their own thing, and the process of writing alone together is the best. My sister, Kim, and I often sit side by side on the couch, writing the same movie together quietly without speaking—not just for hours, but for days. We will say about two sentences to each other and they are always about food.

So in closing, I’d like to pay tribute to the introverts’ secret weapon—one of our greatest coping mechanisms for handling social situations. The Irish good-bye is something I’ve perfected over the years. No offense to the Irish with that term. You guys are geniuses for coming up with this patented method of getting the hell out of Dodge without having to explain why. Even if I’m drunk, I can slip out of any event, very subtle and ninjalike, and with no warning—a classic introvert move I rely upon heavily. I’m like Omar from The Wire. Except no. “Amy, I didn’t see you leave last night . . . you didn’t say good-bye!” You bet your sweet ass I didn’t. If I say good-bye to you, it is completely by accident and because you were right in the doorway as I tried to plow through it.

I wish I could Irish-good-bye my way out of this chapter because, true to form, I’m exhausted from writing about myself for this long. But first, before I ghost you like a pro, I want to remind you to stop judging a loud, often tactless, volatile, blond book by its cover. (Except for this book, because the cover is nice and the inside is nice, too.) Just because my job requires me to make fun of myself into a microphone and wear my heart on my sleeve for hire doesn’t mean I can’t be an introvert as well. Believe it or not, I do have a complex inner life just like you, and I enjoy being alone. I need it. And I’ve never been happier than I was when I finally figured this out about myself. So if you’re an introvert like me, especially a female introvert, or a person who is expected to give away your energy to everyone else on the reg, I want to encourage you to find time to be alone. Don’t be afraid to excuse yourself. Recharge for as long as you need. Lean up against a tree and take a break from the other bears. I’ll be there too, but I promise not to bother you.