Amy Schumer: How I Survived My Dark Past
In her new book, The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, the comedian details a complicated relationship with her parents
Amy Schumer is known to be a straight shooter. Though it’s usually wrapped in humor, whether talking about her weight, her first period, or her fear of flying, the comedian delivers unvarnished tidbits about her life in her standup and on her television show. But in her new book of personal stories, The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, Schumer talks about her mother for the first time, abusive relationships and dives deeper into the effects of her father’s multiple sclerosis and alcoholism.
In a frank essay about her mom Sandra, Schumer recalls the day her world changed, when her mother revealed she would be leaving her husband Gordon because she had fallen in love with another man, who was the father of Amy’s best friend. During that time, Sandra relied on two things: Amy and a blind belief that everything was “okay,” whether it was or not. “This is how we were raised,” she writes. “We were always oppressively OKAY.”
The two remained very close “not a single healthy boundary between us” Schumer writes. Then, as she was to turn 30, she confronted her mother, upset not only about the affair, but about the years of what she calls “manipulating me into supporting her through all this.” Now, the two have a different relationship. “We are kind to one another but I keep my boundaries clear.” Calling family relationships “a constant negotiation,” she adds, “I have never given up on her. I can’t, and I never will.”
To Schumer fans, her Amy’s father Gordon is a familiar character: an irreverent, sharp-tongued, unsentimental man who loves his daughters mightily and has battled multiple sclerosis for the last 25 years. As portrayed in Trainwreck, Gordon also liked women and alcohol, with Schumer writing, “My father was no angel. I know he did dirtbag things behind my mom’s back.”
“My dad was as serious an alcoholic as they came… The only thing that slowed down his drinking was multiple sclerosis.”
Chronicling the challenges he faced with MS, including constant pain and his deteriorating failing physical condition, she says that “he just didn’t want to try any more.” Months ago, Schumer was referred to a new physician, who was recommending a series of stem cell treatments that has renewed hope for Gordon and his family.
Besides her family, Schumer also revealed shocking details about some of her past relationships – including a description of a physically and emotionally abusive relationship the star endured in her early 20s. In the book, she recalls that her boyfriend began by shoving her until she fell during fights and by criticizing her looks on a regular basis. “I got hurt by accident a lot that year,” she recalls of the relationship. “He’s get jealous about something I did and would squeeze my arm too hard and I’d get a horrible bruise but of course it was an accident, and he always felt terrible afterward.”
During one especially volatile fight, Schumer wrote that her then-boyfriend, who had pushed her into a car, then “grabbed a huge butcher knife from a drawer. And that’s when I was sure he was going to kill me.” She escaped, but concedes that reliving that moment remains difficult. “It can happen to anyone,” she wrote. “You’re not alone if it’s happening to you, and you’re not exempt if it hasn’t happened to you yet.”
Schumer also writes that she lost her virginity to a boyfriend who took advantage of her one night while she was half asleep. “Without asking first, without kissing me, without so much as looking me in the eyes – or even confirming if I was awake,” she recalls of the moment he began having sex with her. She goes on the admit that after he apologized the next day, she ended up comforting him. “I was confused as to why he would have done this to me in this way, but the most dominant feeling I felt was that the guy I was in love with was upset and I wanted to help him.”
“I was seventeen years old and wanted my boyfriend to like me.”
Before including her parents (and others) in the book, Schumer says she let the subjects read the text. “For my mom for example, I was like, “Read this whole thing. If there’s anything you want me to take out or if you don’t want me to have it in at all… and the only correction was that Hebrew school is on Sundays, not Saturdays.”
The one person she has relied on through everything is her younger sister Kim. “Not to sound crazy, but she’s the blood in my veins,” Schumer tells PEOPLE. She literally keeps my having fun and laughing and feeling grounded. If we didn’t have each other to turn to and say, ‘What are we doing?’… She makes life feel real. I just love her.”
For more from Amy Schumer, including an exclusive excerpt, pick up the new issue of People, on newsstands Friday.