What I learned by posing like Amy Schumer

Self-Portrait of the author beside a portrait of Amy Schumer by Annie Leibovitz

Self-Portrait of the author beside a portrait of Amy Schumer by Annie Leibovitz

Dear Amy Schumer,

I’ve been binge-watching your show on Hulu. Girl, you leveled me with that sketch, “Sexting.” For a moment, you looked at me through the TV and I looked at you. Naked spaghetti dangled from both our mouths. I hunched over the pot I’d boiled it in. You ate straight from the strainer—nice life hack! (Sorry to mention food, I heard you’re in the hospital with hyperemesis and I hope you feel better soon.)

In any case, there you and I were, perched on our couches, in pajamas printed with pets wearing hats. I have the best partner ever, but he was away working, as he often is. So the night my gaze met yours across space and time, I was as alone as the character you portrayed.

Sexting

I sat rapt as sexts lit up your cell.

“Whaddya want me to do to you?” “Bobby” wrote.

You began to type: “Hold me”; “Tell me I’m safe in my apartment.” Finally, you settled on “Rub all of my feet,” and let it fly.

There are 1,093 comments beneath the YouTube video of that sketch. “Tell me I’m safe in my apartment,” hit home for dozens of women, as it did for me.

Strong Not Sad

Many of your fans said it made them sad. But, the more I thought about it, the more I disagreed. Your character was having a comfortable evening in her home. She was doing what she wanted, how she wanted.

She had feelings of loneliness, she craved connection. However, your character still found contentment in solitude. Her fear for her safety did not prevent her from living an independent life. The unsatisfying communications she had with her friend and with Bobby did not ruin her evening.

—And the many comments below your videos that aren’t nice don’t stop you from continuing your work.

A pose by another name

I revisited the portrait Annie Leibovitz took of you in 2015. Before I knew it, I was walking out to my garage in my underwear, camera in hand. I stacked some wood to rest a foot on. I pulled on my partner’s Xtratuf sea boots. I shimmied into the crop top I designed to try and raise some funds for my new online magazine, Storyborne. And I started doing suicide sprints between my camera and that stool.

As I began to mimic your pose, a sensation of strength and power arose in my body. It’s like how shaping your mouth into a smile releases endorphins even if you’re sad. I realized, to get the right effect, my foot couldn’t just rest on the stack of wood, it had to stomp directly on top of it. The position of the coffee cup had to look as though I had just taken a sip, because it had to appear as if I was so confident in my skivvies I was relaxed enough to enjoy a latte.

The one thing I could not master, Amy Schumer, is your facial expression. Too much eyebrow and I came off as sarcastic. When I pursed my lips, I looked like I was trying too hard. At least in this photo, I would say you mastered that middle ground between engagement and ease that I believe comes with inner peace, confidence and strength. To me that is what is special about the photo, not that you were “brave” enough to show a tummy roll.

As I began to mimic your pose, a sensation of strength and power arose in my body. It’s like how shaping your mouth into a smile releases endorphins even if you’re sad.