8 Things I Learned From Amy Schumer's Memoir

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Can we talk about a book that came out two years ago? Please? I know I'm late to the game, but it was so good!

Last month I finally read Amy Schumer's memoir, "The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo," which is an amazing title, let's be honest. I kept putting off reading it because I thought I knew what to expect. I've seen some of her stand-up. I saw "Trainwreck." Her book is gonna be like that.

Only, it isn't like that at all.

In her memoir, Amy gives you a glimpse of who she is and what she's like when she isn't performing on stage. The real her. And maybe it makes me ignorant, but it wasn't what I expected.

So many of the chapters had me internally cheering at the end. I took enough notes while reading to fill a blog post separate from my monthly reads, so I figured, why not do that?

Here are eight things I learned from reading the book:

1. She's an introvert.

Simple but surprising. She acknowledges that too, noting that the way she is in her everyday life is different than the image she has when she's performing: "I am such a loud little sassafras onstage, but in real life I like to keep a very low profile." To be introverted doesn't necessarily mean to be shy, so while she's often boisterous when performing, she still needs time to herself to recharge afterward.

2. She's honest about money.

Celebrities like Amy Schumer are rich. There's no getting around it, no reason to pretend it isn't true. She's very upfront about the fact that she has money and, yeah, it feels good: "I'm not going to bullshit you: it feels great to know I can send my niece to any school she wants. It's relaxing to know I can pay for my dad to be in a better facility and make sure he sees the best MS specialist in America." I respect that. The honesty is refreshing. Money may not buy happiness but it does make certain things easier, that's for sure.

3. She doesn't take her fame for granted.

Despite being a well-known celebrity, she's aware it could all be temporary, and she doesn't let it go to her head. I loved when she said, "I am not special just because I am famous right now." 

4. Stand-up is harder than we think.

Even though stand-up comedy is fun and entertaining, it's also a job. One that requires a lot of work. Comedians spend years hitting and missing before their name holds any weight. In the book, Amy makes an interesting point about how comedians are always expected to have brand new material. Musicians, for instance, have the option to reuse some of their old work because people like hearing the greatest hits, where as comedians always have to have something new. This isn't to say that musicians have it easy by any means, just that stand-up comedians have it harder than we realize.

5. Everyone has secrets and bad habits.

Amy tells a story about how she admired a seemingly-perfect fitness instructor only to find out that he was a borderline hoarder. It's another reminder that there's no use in comparing ourselves to others because they've got their own shit anyway. "All human beings have secret compulsions and habits. Including me. But now any time I see someone who is so physically beautiful they almost don't look human, I remember there's definitely something totally fucked about them that will bring them right back down to earth." 

6. Women are constantly under a lot of pressure.

This isn't so much something I learned, but I loved what Amy had to say about it. From physical appearance ("Why are we taught that we all need to look like one girl? Some of us want to look like ourselves.") to personal accomplishments, women are constantly being measured up to others to determine their level of success. It's no wonder we end up doing it ourselves.

She talks about how when she was doing press for "Trainwreck," she was often asked about what it meant for women in Hollywood. A woman's success somehow has the pressure of having to represent ALL women. "So the pressure is on. Because the movie doesn't just have to do well so that I can feel proud of it or so the studio can make money—it has to do well for the 50 percent of the population I am now apparently representing."

7. The term 'plus-size' is garbage.

Here's why: "The 'plus-size' label sends an us-vs.-them message: These are the special magical plus-size ladies who are still lovable and beautiful—despite their size. Why create categories for women's bodies? 'Plus-size' is a pointless term that implies anything above a certain size is different and wrong."

8. No one can tell you what you're worth. You show them.

There are a few chapters of the book that are made up of excerpts of her childhood journal, when she's 13, 18, 20, and 22 years old, with added footnote comments from 2016. They were funny but poignant, filled with a clarity only hindsight can give you. If there's one key takeaway about Amy Schumer after reading her memoir, it's that she isn't afraid to stand up for and be true to herself. The good, the bad, and the ugly; she lays it all on the table: "I wear my mistakes like badges of honor, and I celebrate them. They make me human."

Now, Amy knows what she's worth and she isn't afraid to say it or fight for it: "I've experienced a lot of desperation and self-doubt, but in a way, I've come full circle. I know my worth. I embrace my power. I say if I'm beautiful. I say if I'm strong. You will not determine my story. I will." We should do the same.

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If you haven't already, I'd highly recommend giving this book a read, even if you aren't a fan of Amy Schumer. Or maybe especially if you aren't a fan of Amy Schumer. After reading, you probably will be.

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