The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo - Amy Schumer (2016)
AN INTRODUCTION TO MY STUFFED ANIMALS
For some reason I’ve always been drawn to these old, nightmarish stuffed animals. This started early on in my childhood. I never really liked the new, plush, cute animals—the kind with rainbows and hearts that they always market to little girls. You would never see my favorites crowded together in a toy store display. No. I liked these horrifying, broke-down creatures from yesteryear.
I’d like to introduce you to them—in no particular order. (I don’t want them to think I have any favorites. Even though, of course, I do.) At some point, I plan to put out a request on Twitter where I ask people to post photos of their childhood stuffed animals that they still have and love. Let me clarify that if you still sleep with these animals, and you are a woman in your midthirties, you are weird. I absolutely do NOT do that every night. I don’t. So shut up.
I got Mouser when I was about ten years old at my friend’s garage sale on Long Island. I had helped set up the goods they were selling, and I was eyeing him all morning. He just had a good vibe and we clicked. There was debate about whether he is a mouse or a bear, but I always felt he is clearly a mouse. Another confusing fact about his identity is that he is made of felt and velour but he is somehow covered in rust.
Bunny came into my life when I was about seven years old. She was the only one among my stuffed animals who was very new and freshly store-bought when I got her. This particular puppet style of flat rabbit was kind of hot at the time. Despite her being the most corporate of the gang with her mass appeal, I love Bunny, no question. I am calling Bunny a girl but I just now realized that I never actually assigned a gender to any of my stuffed friends.
I got Panda when I was eight years old. She too was kind of on the new side, but because she is so soft, she’s gotten the most play out of me. I tattered her up right quick. Again, never thought of Panda as a girl or a guy. Just a panda.
I saw Penny at an antique store when I was seven. We have shared the most forbidden love story of all. I loved her so much, so fast. While my mom shopped around, I held on to this little felt panda puppet with a hard head full of straw and soulful googly eyes. I was heartbroken when my mom refused to buy her for me because she cost forty dollars. But a couple weeks later, we were reunited when my mom surprised me by bringing her home to me. Upon seeing her, I yelled, “Penny!!” My mom was very moved that I’d named a creature who wasn’t yet mine. I once lost Penny for a year, only to find out she was at this chick Rachel’s house. Rachel said she thought I’d given her Penny, and I explained to her that she was nuts because I would never part with precious little Penny. This second reunion with Penny was especially sweet. I think Penny is a girl but that never defined her. She’s a little warrior.
The MVP has gotta be the lady in the photo at the end of this chapter: Pokey. Pokey was my mom’s when she was a little girl so I’ve had her since I was born. She has, without fail, scared the shit out of every single boyfriend I’ve brought around. When I was a little girl, I was not invited to sleepover parties unless I promised to leave Pokey at home. She’s been described as the bride of Chucky and also a nightmare machine. But I don’t see her that way. I love her and still put her arm around my neck when I need comfort, just like I did when I was a little girl. Also I’m not sure Pokey is a chick but I do know that I have stained her with enough tears to change her color. She—or he, or it—has gotten me through it all. Pokey is filled with the same hard straw material as Penny’s head, and despite my very fluid interpretations of her gender, I did choose to have her re-covered in pink fabric and white lace when I took her to the doll doctor (which is a thing). I have never been one to pay much attention to gender identification. We had—well, we still have—a cat named Penelope who lives with my mom, but she has both paws in the grave at this point. I named her Penelope before we learned she was actually a boy, but we didn’t change her name and we still refer to her as a “her” to this day.
Other stuffed animals have come and gone over the years. I have a two-headed bear that I never named. It was a gift from an ex-boyfriend. It was a pretty perfect gift. Soft and disturbing, which is how I would describe myself. I still have it. It’s too perfect, which is also how he would describe himself. I’ve gotten a lot of stuffed animals from boyfriends over the years. I’m someone who likes to erase all record of an ex as soon as we break up. I try to Eternal Sunshine them from my life. I erase all pictures from my cell phone and throw away all gifts. I save printed pictures, but in a box in the closet.
The same ex who gave me the two-headed bear gave me a huge—and I mean huge—stuffed gorilla for Valentine’s Day. We named him Carlos. And don’t look into that for some racial undertones. I just liked the name Carlos. We’d joke about how he got me huge gifts even though I had a tiny apartment. He’d buy me giant things that didn’t fit in it, sometimes on purpose. Once he got me a huge plant, more like a tree, which made my apartment look like a place Jane Goodall would want to hang out. I had to drag it to the backyard area, which in New York City is really just a frightening alley for rats to frolic in and eat whatever you’re storing out there—in my case, boogie boards.
The last stuffed toy I got from a boyfriend is a little stuffed horse. When my two-year-old niece first saw him, she started to call him “Neigh,” which is the sound a horse makes, in case you grew up in a city. She now sleeps with Neigh and I have to play the waiting game until she moves on from him, but they’ve been going strong for a while now. I hope she isn’t like that with dudes when she grows up. Or chicks. Or maybe she won’t identify as female. Whatever she does will be fine. Or he. Damn, it’s hard to write a book and not get yelled at.
I know you just started reading this book so you are still getting to know me, and maybe you are questioning my commitment to these animals. You think I’m writing a fanciful flight about these odd and amusing creatures. But I am 100 percent genuine in my devotion to them. Where does my obsession with them end? Not in a disgusting New York City garbage can where I once made a boyfriend rescue them after we discovered the movers had made a terrible mistake and thrown them all away. (To be fair to the movers, Pokey does look like she belongs in a dark alley in a war-torn village and not in a nice grown-ass woman’s bedroom.) You might be thinking of asking me, Amy, did you commission Tilda Swinton’s life partner, Sandro, to paint a portrait of your stuffed animals to commemorate them forever and ever? No, that would be taking it too far—oh wait, no, I mean fuck YES I did that.
They’re worth it. Each one of them is a ratty, pilled pile of fabric sewn together precariously, but I love them more than most of my family.