(This article first appeared in the July 12, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)
Things are getting “crazy Jewish” at the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton this Friday. Kate Siegel and her mother, Kim Friedman, are the social media sensational mother-daughter team, with over 814,000 followers on Instagram, behind @CrazyJewishMom. They will be discussing Siegel’s latest New York Times bestseller Mother, Can You Not? along with the struggles of having a real-life helicopter mom always on the hunt for a future husband for her daughter. I caught up with the very funny, and very real, duo.
Kate, quitting your job at a large company to go out on your own must have been extremely nerve-wracking — leaving behind benefits and a steady paycheck. What made you so ambitious to take that step?
Kim: Don’t remind me! 401K! Benefits! It kills me!
Kate: Well, the moment I knew I had to quit was when I peed my Spanx. I was so sleep-deprived between my job and Instagram and trying to put together a coherent book proposal, that one highly groggy morning I forgot to pull my pants down in the bathroom on the way to work. It was getting to a point where everything was suffering, and I knew if I didn’t go all in on writing I would always regret it. Plus, the digital side of my business was ramping up at that point, so I hoped I’d be able to make it work.
Kim: Health insurance!
What’s your advice to others anxious to do the same but too timid to make the leap?
Kim: Don’t! Keep your day job!
Kate: In a way, I agree with my mom. I think you have to be very careful. Unless there is a concrete opportunity you’re leaping for, I don’t think it’s smart to just jump first and ask questions later.
Let’s be honest. Is mother always right?
Name an embarrassing moment between you two that was face-to-face. Has she chased boys away, accidentally asked the wrong person for his number in front of you, things like that?
Kate: The first time I went to the gynecologist, my mother tried to force me to sing for my doctor.
Kim: The doctor’s husband was a big Broadway producer. And Kate had just written a musical! We would be Hamilton right now if you had done it.
What’s been some of the criticisms you’ve received over the social media accounts and the upcoming book?
Kate: On social, you get this very limited view of my mom, and she sometimes comes off as being this backwards, anti-feminist woman, when in reality that couldn’t be further from the truth. She’s actually a raging feminist. In addition to being a mom, she’s an accomplished television director: “Star Trek,” “Beverly Hills 90210,” nominated for an Emmy for “LA Law.” And she was working at a time when there were very few women working as directors. She really blazed the trail for every young woman working in media today, myself included.
She has always and will always nag me, but she nags me toward the things that I want. I happen to be a heterosexual woman who wants to get married and have children. So it was important for me in writing my book to have the feminist side of my mom come through; it’s so central to who she is as a human, and I’m pleased with how that side of her is represented.
What’s your typical Instagram demographic?
Kim: Yes, very few penises show up to our events.
Kate: But it’s not just Jewish. One of the most comments I see is — Crazy Jewish Mom? This could be crazy Asian mom. Italian mom. Indian mom. Insert whatever mom. I think there’s something universal about the push-pull of the mother-daughter relationship.
Growing up, before boys got into the picture, what did your mother nag you about?
Kim: Boys? She wasn’t allowed to LOOK at boys in high school.
Kate: Yeah, the focus was getting into college. The mantra was always, forget boys. Study, get into an Ivy League, and be a self-sufficient woman. Never depend on a man.
What’s in the works? What’s next? Do you think you’ll ever get a 401K/full-time/big-company gig again?
Kim: From your lips to God’s ears.
Kate: Who knows? We’re working on a lot of really exciting things right now. We recently started an advice column called @AskMomAndSpawn on crazyjewishmom.com, and that has been very fun. Also, I’m working on a scripted adaptation for television and a few other traditional media projects as well!
Kim, what’s a definite “swipe no” and a reason to “swipe yes?”
Kim: No mirror pix. Yes, picture with mom.
Have people ever compared you to Patti Stanger, from Millionaire Matchmaker?
Kim: She’s fabulous. I’d love to be.
What would be your single rule all single ladies should live by? Aside from the famed “no ring on the finger, you must not linger.”
Kim: Talk to people! Don’t be afraid. Go up to the guy or girl and say “hi.” What’s the worst that can happen? They aren’t interested? They tell you to go away? Guess what, you won’t die from that. There’s no talking to strangers jail.
I’m a 28-year-old single woman living and working on Long Island. What is your advice to me? How do I find my husband?
Kim: See above. And go places where the guys you want to meet are. You like sports? Save up and get good seats at a baseball game.
Nicknames for each other?
Kate: She calls me spawn.
Kim: When you’ve been sliced open like a ripe mango to give a person life, you get to call them whatever you want.
Kate: Probably fair.