I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Mother Can you NOT? (And you thought your mom was nuts...) by Kate Siegel

Kate Siegel is the creator of the Instagram sensation @CrazyJewishMom. It started off simple enough. She just began taking pictures of the crazy texts that took place between herself and her mother, director  Kim Fieldman, and post them on Instagram. Soon enough it took off and she found herself on all the talk shows and being interviewed for various web-news organizations such as The Huffington Post. While this was going on she was working at various magazines. She quit to write this book and do the account full time. Her big dream was always to be a writer anyway and her mother raised her to take risks.

Kate and her mother have what maybe some would say is a very unusually close relationship. She herself calls her mother a stalker. Her mother knows EVERYTHING, because she generally tells her everything (although when she gets older in college sometimes the details get fuzzy or glossed over) and her mother tells her EVERYTHING. And there is nothing Kim Friedman would not do to help her daughter fulfill her dreams, which means Kate learned early on to be careful in what she told her mother what she wanted to do, like when she told her she wanted to be a singer (which she was terrible at) and her mother made a hilarious attempt to have a photo shoot set up that goes horribly wrong. Her mother's dream is of a college degree, a career, marriage to the perfect person, and grandspawn someday, just like any Jewish mother (or any mother for that matter). She just has her own way of going about it throughout the book.

Her mother had given her a vague idea of sex when she was eight, due to a scare at camp. Later when it came time to REALLY tell her she used some weird book to do it that had "Seuss-esque illustrations, and it included the phrase 'This fits here!' I remember screaming 'WHAT! That is DISGUSTING!' Then I shouted across the house to my father and made him join in on the fun. When he opened the door, I shoved in his face a page depicting a cheerful pink man mounting a fuchsia woman.... 'Dad, do you know about this?!' 'I...well...uh' 'Oh my God!!! I am NEVER EVER EVER...doing that!...'Ewwwww, does that mean you peed in Mom to get me?!' 'Well, uh, not exactly,' My dad looked down at his shoes. 'How does that even work? Do you move around?' I conducted an unbridled, Guantanamo-like interrogation, referencing the diagrams that displayed colorful stick figures having sex in every position under the sun. It was the Kama Seusstra. My parents answered all my questions patiently, and then I asked this: 'Well, which position did you guys use to make me?' So "the talk" was going well for my parents!"

She promised she would not tell any of the other kids at school anything she had learned, as her parents explained that each parent wants to tell their kid in their own way at their own time. But with so much information in her head she felt she would burst, so she told her best friend whose mother called her mother and Kate was given the kiss of death from a parent: I am so disappointed in you. It turns out the girl's mother told her daughter that Kate was a liar and and an evil girl and to not be friends with her anymore. She also told the other mothers that Kate was a sexual sicko so no one would be friends with her. This was a grave mistake on her part as it made Kim get involved.  You just do not mess with a mother bear and her cub. Kate says she did always wonder if the girl ever did find out about the whole sex and facts of life thing.  Kate, herself, was a late bloomer and did not have her first period until she was fourteen. When she did she was at school and she called her mother who gave her a light "slap" on the face, as is the Jewish custom known as "The Menstrual Slap" which is supposed to be "a woman's warning to guard her gates against premarital sex" or a reminder that "a woman's life is filled with pain."  She then yelled "MAZEL TOV!" and told her she would pick her up after school. Kate spent some time at the CVS store being embarrassed as her mother asked the MALE clerk what tampon was best. When she got home her dad had decorated the house with crimson balloons, panty liners, a Midol basket, and streamers. It was a "period party" that her mother had likely been planning for years. Her dad (the cook of the family) made clams in red sauce and red velvet cake. They put on a CD with songs centered on "girl power" and while she was embarrassed at first to find out that her dad knew, she had the time of her life that night.

The only thing her mother possibly loves more that her is her pets. I believe right now she has four dogs, two cats, and some fish. When her beloved cat Snowflake died suddenly, her mother had some kind of breakdown. She jumped into the small cat grave and decided there was no way any animal of hers would be put in the cold earth. So her mantel over the fireplace is almost filled with urns. After a respectable grieving period, Kate's dad thought it would be a good idea to help her mom by taking her to the shelter and get another cat.  Her mother's response? "So if you die, I should just go out the next day, find another husband, and pretend you never existed?" Still, they managed to drag her there and a brusque woman named Pat showed them the animals. Suddenly, Kate spotted Snowflake's twin. However, Pat informed them firmly that the cat was not up for adoption because it was too sick and that they were going to put it down. Now, Kim is a bulldozer of a person and she wanted this cat, so she exploded in a rage at Pat and went completely off on her threatening to call news stations and protest. Then when this didn't work, she did a 180 and began sniffling and acting all meek and began bawling on Pat's chest. This made Pat uncomfortable enough to leave, which was Kim's plan all along. She got the cat and placed it in Kate's messenger bag and they sneaked it out of there to a chorus of dog's barking.

Kim could wrangle people into doing things they did not plan on doing. "My mother could convince a sorority girl to eat gluten. Mel Gibson to get circumcised. Bill Cosby to undergo voluntary chemical castration." She says she has thought about starting a support group for her "victims".  A prime example of this was when Hurricane Sandy hit and Kate's dad came to pick her up at her place in New York, because she had no running water or electricity. While they were driving back listening to the radio, they heard Kim pleading for help for her pets. It seems that she when she had gone out to get pet food and tried to come back, there were barriers up preventing her from going back home which was now an evacuation zone. She gave out her personal number, called Governor Chris Christie a "cat killer" and asked if this went on for two weeks would he be able to go without food? When Kate calls her she shouts on the radio "DOES CHRIS CHRISTIE WANT TO KILL MY DAUGHTER TOO?" Kate and her father are trying to talk her down before she gets arrested again (she has a long history of getting arrested for protesting going back decades and includes breaking into the Pentagon).  Her mother clicks off to take another call and when she comes back it turns out that poor Lenny, the fireman, has been caught in her web. He probably offered to do something simple and now has found himself sneaking her across the border to her house to rescue her pets.  She also cannot resist doing anything to help someone that needs it--even perfect strangers. As a matter of fact, the world is her best friend (unless you cross her or her family). 

I'd love to tell you about the numerous stories of her mother looking for a man for her, advising her on relationships, the Princeton Rabbi's magical powers, and her overprotective need to keep her safe that leads to an incident with the TSA.  But then you would have nothing to look forward to! This book is just flat out, laugh-yourself-off-the-couch funny. Few women have this kind of relationship with their mothers. I have no relationship with mine and I'm jealous of hers, even if her mom does embarrass the devil out of her to the point that I know I would want a huge hole to swallow me up. This is the kind of relationship that should be celebrated. Not every mother-daughter relationship is made to be this way and some of us may be glad of it. But it is so much fun to read about the ones that are.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mother-Can-You-Kate-Siegel/dp/1101907045/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1465408267&sr=1-1&keywords=mother+can+you+not+by+kate+siegel

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