Dear Amy Schumer

Dear Amy Schumer

By Halina Newberry Grant 09/25/15

Thank you for your casual, flippant, glib, hilarious and probably unintentional way of empowering people and disempowering the scale.

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Amy Schumer
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How much does it suck to be constantly under the scrutiny of the public eye? To have strangers commenting on everything from your skin to your hair to your outfit to your waist-to-hip ratio and the thickness of your thighs? Having to stand a certain way to make sure your angles are working for you, hoping you hired the right stylist and picked the right dress? Having to think twice about everything you wear from head-to-toe before you leave the house for dim sum just in case they’re out there? 

As someone in recovery for an eating disorder, I am also under that constant scrutiny—but the “public” in my case is my own fucked up brain. Each glance in the mirror is the equivalent of a panel of E! fashion critics or a room of Yahoo! commenters, all thinking their opinion 1) matters and 2) is the final word. Every outfit is wrong for me, the mirror and America. My body is constantly in the way of me looking right. 

It’s exhausting being both you and me. For different reasons, of course. 

Recently, you broke a very strict rule—in both your world, and mine. You shared information that is supposed to be shrouded in shame and secrecy. You revealed your weight.

People like you—famous people—are supposed to avoid talking about it. You’re supposed to just stand there as a silent witness to the machine that sells you as perfectly flawed, and apologize for not being thin enough by crash-dieting or “cleansing.”

But you aren’t supposed to be honest about your flaws because you’re never supposed to be comfortable with them. And you’re definitely not supposed to reveal the truth. You’re supposed to perpetuate the myth of perfection. And you know this! I’ve watched your genius 12 Angry Men parody. You’re not supposed to have imperfections, and if they’re found out, you’re supposed to fix them discretely! Not draw attention to them!

But you broke the pact shared between Hollywood and the glossies and young girls in America who just want to know what they’re supposed to look like. You made public something that is supposed to be a private source of constant discomfort. You aren’t even supposed to tell the truth to the government when you get a driver’s license.

You said, “I’m probably, like, 160 pounds right now and I can catch a d**k whenever I want.” Of course, I only heard the first seven words and then time stopped. I know your point was that you may not fit a typical Hollywood standard of beauty, but you can still get it. But my point is that you broke a barrier that I’ve never witnessed; you said weight doesn’t matter. And that is something that every young person needs to hear from someone they admire at some point in their lives. I’m not young anymore, but GOD if someone had said that so publicly when I was 12, I may have lived life more confidently, more comfortable in my skin. 

Weight for someone like me is an obsession. People like me will stand on-and-off the scale over and over inside an hour to see if the number has changed. We will check it in the morning when we are naked before the shower. Then after breakfast. Then after we pee. Some of us check it after a binge, then purge and check it again. We watch a TV show and then stand on the scale. We make a phone call then stand on the scale. We weigh ourselves then stand on the scale. 

There is a number that you’re supposed to weigh in your world. No one really knows what that number is but things like muscle mass, height, bones, genes, the day and the hour, bear no relevance. If it’s under one number, you’re “disgusting” and should eat a sandwich but you’re perfect for a role as a leading lady in a drama. If it’s over another number, you’re “spiraling out of control” with beer and pizza and pastries and depression over some dude and you’re perfect as a sidekick in a screwball comedy. And that number is supposed to also determine whose love you are deserving of.

In my world, an acceptable number is also a mystery—and our muscle mass, height, bones, genes, the day, the hour and how much water or coffee or beer we’ve consumed are just collateral information that has no bearing on how the number makes us feel. Some of us are so dangerously underweight that our hair and teeth fall out. Others are so dangerously overweight that our hearts will give out if we don’t lose a limb to diabetes first. Many of us are average weight and build, and you’d never know how much we suffer by just looking at us. 

By being honest about your weight, you normalized the number. You are an attractive, talented, successful leading lady. You are not supposed to weigh 160 pounds, and you—like us—are supposed to hide that number in shame, secrecy and in desperation until you can get it down to…something less shameful. And the number determines whether we—you and me—fit in; into Hollywood or into our clothes or how we fit in our own skin. 

But whatever the number is, we never, ever reveal it. We don’t. You don’t. Because revealing it takes away its power. That number has so much control over our lives and your career. If everyone shared their weight, that number would become impotent and unimportant. 

WHAT ARE ANY OF US GOING TO DO IF THE NUMBER ON THE SCALE NO LONGER MEANS ANYTHING?

For people with eating disorders, 160 may be a goal weight, or it may be a top weight, or it might be what we are trying to maintain. You sharing your weight publicly—taking it out of the closet, bathroom, doctor’s office, gym—out of the dark secrecy that we all accept, perpetuate and feel a prisoner to, may just give some relief to other people like me—or young people who may become like me over time. 

So thank you for your casual, flippant, glib, hilarious and probably unintentional way of empowering people and disempowering the scale and an industry that prefers us weak and craving something we can never get from anyone or anything else. What you essentially said is that the number on the scale isn’t an obstacle between us and the things we want in life, be it a d**k or a career or happiness in general. That number is irrelevant, and I think we all needed to hear that. 

Sincerely,

A Former Slave to the Scale

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