On Seeing And Being A ‘Trainwreck’

shannon trainwreck

How I wish things turned out the way they do in the movies. (Spoiler alert)

The day before I saw Amy Schumer’s new movie Trainwreck, the man I’d been dating for the last six weeks made an impromptu visit to my house after I enticed him with some sexy texting and vague promises. The day before that, we went on a romantic date where we ate flatbread and sampled delicious wines and walked through a hollowed out giant redwood cedar that had been struck by lightning.

The purpose of the date was to discuss the future of our relationship. I desired monogamy, which he’d broken the week prior. He brushed my hair behind my ears and kissed me in that penetrating way on a bridge over slow-moving water. He told me how “amazing” I was and that letting me go would be a “mistake.” And then, we slipped into the woods for heavier petting on a stone bench.

But after he looked me in the eyes for so long that I couldn’t help but look away, after we sipped champagne in my backyard and he quietly smiled at me while I watered my garden in a flowing, blue negligee, he said, “I’m not ready to stop dating other women.”

After six weeks, I was no longer fine with that arrangement, and I told him he should probably leave. I’d already postponed a prescheduled date, (a date I arranged days earlier when I thought we were over) and I needed to get ready if I was going to make dinner. Plus, I really wanted to be able to maintain eye-contact when we made love, and it hurt to think about him brushing another woman’s hair behind her ears, so I needed him to leave.

The man I met that night on my date was a successful business owner. He was attractive and vibrant, and professed how much he loved his only child, wishing he’d had 10 more, but couldn’t hide his contempt for his ex-wife when I asked about his kid’s mother. Then he squirmed every time I said “fuck.” Naturally, I slipped it in wherever I could, and naturally I’d never see him again.

I’d had a hard week and was in dire need of adult fun. My kids were with me for 10 days straight. I’d entertained six family members with more children for six of those 10 days. I was physically and emotionally drained and looked forward to the next eight days wherein my children would be with their father on vacation.

On the second-to-last night of our long stretch together, my daughter came into my room at 11pm crying; not typical for this happy-go-lucky child. She asked me if I could make everything go back to “normal” and bring daddy home. She’s 6 now, but we split when she was 4 and she had a happy memory of going out on the back porch and looking at the stars with him before bed. A memory she loved and wanted right then. To assuage her angst and tears, I took her out on the back porch, held her in my arms and looked at the stars. It happened to be the same day the New Horizon’s space probe transmitted the first pictures of Pluto after a nine-year journey into deep space. We talked about Pluto. And distance, and space and time. I let a few tears slide, but she didn’t know it.

The only plan I had for the time my kids were away was to see Trainwreck. In the last several months, I’ve been watching Schumer’s Comedy Central show, Inside Amy Schumer, and following her on Twitter. Her unapologetic authenticity, her acerbic wit and sharp eye for sexual politics, all resonate with me. She’s a self-proclaimed feminist comedienne. As someone who sued a company for sexual harassment and discrimination, and then left an abusive marriage, I get it. I find her poignant and hilarious.

I was going to go alone. And normally, I would never go on a first date to a movie. I, like most, find that awkward. But the day after facing the harsh reality of non-monogamy, and on the heels of my date with anti-“fuck” guy, I snatched up an opportunity from one of the 55 men who had reached out to me over the last two days through my two online dating profiles. This guy had a picture of Pluto in his profile and, unprompted, said his plan for the evening was to see Trainwreck. I took it as a sign. We made plans quickly. I put on a short black dress, which was low and tight around my breasts with black, leather boots that went up over my knees, and I was out of the door in 30 minutes.

I showed up first, around 9pm, and bought tickets for the 10:40pm showing because the previous one had sold out. Then, I went to the restaurant across the street and ordered a drink and appetizer while I waited. The moment he showed up, I wanted to bolt, become invisible, sprout wings and fly away. He looked nothing like his pictures and I’m pretty certain he lied about his age. He was probably 30 pounds heavier than advertised and appeared stoned and disheveled. His Croatian accent was too heavy for me to understand clearly. I excused myself to the restroom and contemplated flagging down the bartender for my check then slipping out the back door. Or maybe, I wouldn’t even pay? His penance for being such a lying liar. But then I thought he might find his way into the theater across the street and I’d have to have an awkward interaction I had no desire having. And Karma. And I just wanted to see the damn movie.

So we talked. I gave him no signals that I was interested, but I was polite. We shared pictures of our kids and reasons for our respective divorces. Ironically, both our sons happen to be into BMX racing, but when I asked him what he did for a living, he couldn’t give me a straight answer. As the movie start time approached, he bought my drinks and appetizer, and I retreated to the bathroom again to play chicken with my morality.

I ended up going to the movie with him. He leaned too closely toward my direction and hogged the arm rest while I basically sat on the opposite arm rest. He tried to whisper questions between previews to which I’d say, “Huh?” And then ignore him when another preview appeared. At one point, he started caressing my arm and I pushed him away with a tight-lipped smile. He huffed and leaned away annoyed.

But it didn’t ruin the movie. I howled when Schumer’s character talks about the dirty tampon having an ear and when she told the story at her sister’s baby shower of a condom getting wrapped around her cervix and needing to dig it out with a finger-claw. I teared up in the scene where she eulogizes her father and I shook my head in solidarity each time she excuses herself from the bed of a guy she just had sex with. I coveted her outfits, of which I would wear every single one. The movie is loosely based on Schumer’s life—in the movie, she’s a writer, in real life, she’s a writer, and so am I. In the movie, she has difficulty with intimacy and prefers safer distances. So do I. Near the end, when she’s getting a group-hug from her family, I don’t think she is acting when she says it made her uncomfortable because it was too much intimacy. I agree.

It’s a coming of age story; Schumer’s foray into intimacy. And in storytelling terms, her “crisis moment” occurs when she sits on the couch with her step-nephew, Allister, while he describes his Minecraft drawings. He included space in his imaginary world for her and her boyfriend, played by Bill Hader, whom she finally allowed into her own emotional world, of which at this point in the movie, she’d pushed away, and they were now broken up. In that moment she realizes—in spite of her issues with intimacy and vulnerability—she still has to let someone in even when it’s hard. If this kid, whom she resisted, could make room for her in his world, then she could make room for someone, too. At least, she had to try.

How I wish things turned out the way they do in the movies. Because the signs we think are signs, the relationships we allow to move to the next level, the things that seem as though they will work out, rarely ever do the way they do on-screen…even ones loosely based on real life. And although, in the final scenes when Amy rolls around with Bill on the floor of Madison Square Gardens after coming to the table with vulnerability and openness, and he accepts her back without conditions, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work out the same for me. Trainwreck is a romantic comedy and I live in the real world where it takes nine years to travel to Pluto and less than that to make a human being and deconstruct their family.

But perhaps that’s not to say there isn’t hope in celluloid and seemingly impossible missions into deep space. Because there are. And that’s the real world, too.

Shannon Lell spent 10 years on the corporate ladder before being tossed off unceremoniously in 2010. Shortly there after, she started writing. Now, she writes at shannonlell.com and is the editor of Mamapedia.com, a popular forum for moms. She writes introspective pieces on personal and social issues and studies literary fiction at the University of Washington.

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