If you’ve been following the Instagram sensation Crazy Jewish Mom, you’re probably feeling an array of emotions–both nodding in silent understanding and recoiling in horror a little. You also probably feel like you’re actually BFFs with the woman behind the Instagram account, 27-year-old Kate Siegel.
For those not familiar, Crazy Jewish Mom is an Instagram account where Siegel simply posts the texts her mom, Kim Friedman, sends her–which are usually about using Spanx, dating Ivy League men, and gynecologist appointments.
CJM became so wildly popular after Buzzfeed blogged about the account that it now has more than 800,000 followers–and Siegel even wrote a book about it, called “Mother, Can You Not?” which was published by Crown Archetype this month.
Whether or not Siegel’s mom resembles your own at all, reading through their text messages is definitely intriguing, which is why I was thrilled to be able to talk with Kate on how this all came to be.
Kate, what inspired you to create the Crazy Jewish Mom Instagram/persona? How does your mom feel about it?
Well, I’ve been screen-shotting the insane things she texts me for years! But the whole project was actually sparked at a bachelorette party for a friend. My mother was very anxious because I was (in her words) the last single girl standing. I was receiving some hilarious texts from my mother, so I read one aloud, and all girls at the bachelorette thought it was hysterical! It was sort of this “aha!” moment.
When you’re so close to something, sometimes you need another set of eyes to make you realize how outrageous it is! After that, I started sharing the texts on Instagram. My mom loves it! She thinks it’s all fantastic advice, so she’s happy for anyone to read it.
How was writing your book “Mother Can You Not?” different than the social media aspect of the project?
It was entirely different! The process of writing these stories was so much fun for me. On Instagram, you only see a tiny part of our relationship, so the book was a fantastic opportunity to share some of the INSANE adventures we’ve gotten into over the years!
Plus, I think there’s this misconception on Instagram about my mother being this backwards, old-fashioned woman, when in fact she is a raging feminist. I think her feminism really comes through in the book, and that was something that was very important for me when I was writing it.
Like, when my mom would go into a job interview with a chauvinistic man she knew would never hire her, because she was a woman, she would whip out a giant fleshy dildo and say, “Listen, I know you won’t hire me, because I don’t have a penis, so I brought one!” And then slam that dildo down onto her prospective employer’s desk. I think the book provides context to understand her sense of humor.
What was your favorite children’s book or young adult novel growing up?
I was, and am obsessed, with Harlan Coben’s writing. My mom gave me “Tell No One” when I was in high school, and I have been hooked on his writing ever since. It has actually been kind of incredible. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of his latest book (which is amazing), and we’ve struck up a bit of a rapport on social media. He even posted a photo of my book on Instagram which actually made me cry.
When I was very little my mother read to me constantly. I probably listened to the entirety of Shakespeare’s canon twice while I was in utero.
In terms of humor, I just think David Sedaris is wonderful. I read and re-read his books and his essays, hoping that someday I might write a book half as good. I just love his work. No matter how many times I’ve read a story, I still find myself laughing out loud. Now Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Mindy Kaling’s books are very inspiring for me.
What TV show have you binge watched?
Most recently? “House of Cards.” I like television too much to let a backlog of episodes build up on my shows, so the answer to that question will almost always be a Netflix show!
What’s your weirdest family tradition?
I’m actually not sure if this is weird, but during Hanukkah my parents play Hot and Cold with the presents. Is that normal?
Also, my mother has her own personal tradition: Whenever James Brown’s “I Feel Good” comes on the radio, she WILL drop everything, climb up on the nearest table, and dance for an extended period of time. I guess that’s more of a life rule than a tradition though.
Least favorite Jewish phrase:
I know how to say it, but I can’t write it. It’s Yiddish, and it’s the saying my dad uses whenever my mom and I are being annoying.
“Serial.” Actually, this should be my binge watching/listening answer. I had it on my to do list, and I listened to the entire first season and caught up with season two in a day, recently. I know, I’m late to the party.
What’s your least favorite children’s movie?
“Bambi.” I cry during State Farm commercials, so this movie did not go well for me.
What’s the last thing you do at night?
Read or watch old episodes of “The Office.” Oh, and check my phone.