I recently read Amy Schumer’s speech from the Gloria Awards and Gala. I enjoy Amy Schumer a lot for a lot of different reasons; the foremost being how she’s found a niche for being straight forward. (I could go on about how being straight forward is only a niche market, but maybe another day.)
The part of the speech that resonated with me is the mention of Sam Cooke. Sam Cooke’s voice is uninhibited life: joyous, relentless, kind, and powerful. And in the midst of this terrible experience Amy Schumer endured and makes it a point to remember, she’s found this wonderful appreciation for something beautiful. It’s curious, and makes me stop to think.
Now, I know the Sam Cooke thing isn’t exactly what she’s getting at, but in a sense it is: how much do we let the end result of our experiences tarnish the entire thing?
Semi recently, I dated a girl who could fall under the unicorn category – she existed only off in the distance, and every time we got closer she suddenly vanished. And then a bizarre chain of events unlinked from the ether and we were together.
One night, we’re laying around in my room. Music’s playing because I don’t have a TV, and it’s mostly white noise; unintended soundtrack to calm conversation. WinAmp is on shuffle and Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” comes on. We both stop what we’re saying to listen. Unicorn suggests something: “maybe this could be our song.” And I wince, just a little.
You may have noticed I’ve been talking about Unicorn in the past tense. Things didn’t work out. We had an end only fitting for the way our history had compiled itself to that point; it was awkward, turbulent, insistent. The facts of the matter – to me, at least – seem simple: the place she was in terms of the relationship is a place I’d already been, and it was a long time ago. So once it was there again, it was like I’d already been there…because I had been. And like anything else, you can only do something for the first time once.
The wince was a reaction because the statement rang premature to me. We hadn’t been together very long, and we were different as much as we were the same when we initially met five years ago. It sounded like ringing the bell for excellent service at Arby’s when you walk in instead of when you walk out. My response to Unicorn’s suggestion was something like “I wouldn’t mind that.”
It was a bullshit response, because I didn’t know how to navigate it. Part of the reason we split is because we were so notably in different places, and she (to me, at least) didn’t seem to comprehend it wasn’t going to be the same experience for me as it was for her at the point we were at. Which, really, is a good reason to not be with someone, but that doesn’t exactly ameliorate the negativity at such a juncture.
The truth is I wouldn’t mind that being a song to represent a relationship I’m in. In fact, I’ve thought about it a bunch ever since I first figured out in middle school who sings it. But that’s the kind of thing that ought to happen organically in a relationship. Its gravity has such pull. I’m all for picking moments and assessing value of things…but I’m not alright with manufacturing them.
So, long story long, I haven’t really listened to Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” very much, and when I’ve heard it I react poorly. I don’t become emotional; rather, I become recessed. I tune out something that, for years, I held near and dear for reasons similar to Amy Schumer’s discovered love of Sam Cooke: something uninhibited, joyous, relentless, kind, and powerful, because of how the gravity of the moment with Unicorn was misappropriated. But I read Amy Schumer’s speech and wonder, “Can that song still be mine, despite that inappropriate ours?"
I don’t know the answer. Part of me feels resigned to part of Newton’s first law – a body in motion stays in motion. But there’s that other part, about that body staying in motion unless an external force acts upon it. So I’m trying to work it out, and Amy Schumer’s speech gives me hope that it can.