Mother, Can You Not?

Mother, Can You Not?

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Based on the wildly popular Instagram account @CrazyJewishMom, Kate Siegel's essay collection about life with the woman who redefined the term "helicopter mom."
There is nothing more wonderful than a mother’s love. There is also nothing more annoying. Who else can proudly insist that you’re perfect while simultaneously making you question every career, fashion, and relationship decision you have ever made?
No one understands the delicate mother-daughter dynamic better than Kate Siegel—her own mother drove her so crazy that she decided to broadcast their hilarious conversations on Instagram. Soon, hundreds of thousands of people were following their daily text exchanges, eager to see what outrageous thing Kate’s mom would do next. Now, in Mother, Can You NOT?, Kate pays tribute to the woman who invented the concept of drone parenting. 

From embarrassing moments (like crashing Kate's gynecological exams) to outrageous stories (like the time she made Kate steal a cat from the pound) to hilarious celebrations (including but not limited to parties for Kate's menstrual cycles), Mother, Can you NOT? lovingly lampoons the lengths to which our mothers will go to better our lives (even if it feels like they’re ruining them in the process).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780735205659
Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/05/2016
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 5.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

KATE SIEGEL is a writer and a social media guru who started the hit Instagram account @CrazyJewishMom. She has been featured on BuzzFeed, Elite Daily, The Huffington Post,Cosmo,,, in People Magazine, and on Nightline and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. She previously served as an associate producer for Condé Nast Entertainment, overseeing digital video for Teen Vogue, Bon Appétit, The New Yorker Festival, Condé Nast Traveler, and Self. Prior to joining Condé Nast, Kate studied English, creative writing, and theater at Princeton University.

Read an Excerpt

It’s Kate Elinore Friedman-Siegel, Bitch

Here are a few bullet points from my mother’s highly detailed vision of how my life should look:

• Career: Rich entertainment attorney with a degree from Harvard Law.

• Procreation: Two to four “grandspawn” to leave in her care, freeing me up to HAVE IT ALL! (She’s fine with a sperm donor.)

• Love: Marry Mark Zuckerberg or Oprah Winfrey.

Judging by this, I’m a huge disappointment with my creative writing aspirations, empty womb, and failure to even meet, let alone marry, Mark or Oprah. Fortunately, my mother recognizes that her meticulously constructed idea of my ideal life is not necessarily what I want or even biologically realistic. For instance, while I’m sure Oprah Winfrey is a lovely woman, I have never looked at a clitoris and thought, Yep. This is for me.

Like all good parents, my mother ultimately supports my dreams. Unlike most parents, she will do everything short of murdering someone to make sure they come true. And, honestly? Capital offenses might be on the table, given the right circumstance. If you come out of Kim Friedman’s uterus, you’d better be absolutely positive that whatever dream you share with her is something you actually want.

When I was a teenager, what I wanted was to be a pop star. On reflection, pop stardom was probably not a good fit for someone whose idea of a good time was attending AP English class and writing Law & Order: SVU fan fiction. Nonetheless, I penned and recorded two (truly terrible) songs on my computer, and I was convinced I would be the next Britney Spears. An actual lyric I wrote: “If I was the sun, you would be the moon.” Subjunctive grammatical error aside, I think we can all agree that this was some pretty groundbreaking songwriting.

Thank God YouTube hadn’t taken off yet, because I most definitely would have uploaded those shameful songs to the Internet. Just think, I could have been the first Rebecca “Friday” Black! Though my song probably would have been called “Monday” and celebrated the end of the weekend and my excitement about going to AP US History class. Because all the greatest pop songs are inspired by Franco-American relations in the post–WWII era.

So yeah, my pop-star fantasy was a fairly aggressive delusion. Though I could definitely sing the crap out of a show tune, I couldn’t really read music, and I danced like a newborn calf trying to stand for the first time. My signature move was “The Sprinkler,” choreography that can literally be done while seated, but I wasn’t about to let a pesky little thing like lack of talent get in my way! Neither was my mother, so Project Pop Star was born . . .

Two weeks into my “recording career,” I came home from school one night and found her in the living room, dancing around with enthusiasm.

“You are not going to believe what I pulled off.”

“I mean, are you going to tell me?” Teenage sass for days!

She rolled her eyes and stood up, too thrilled to be annoyed with me. “I just got off the phone with Atticus Clark-Williamson.” She paused dramatically and waited for me to hug her or at least well up with tears of sweet gratitude.

“. . . Okay, who’s that?”

She threw her hands up in the air. “Honestly, Kate, you say you want to be a musician and you know nothing about the recording industry! Atticus is the rock star photographer to the gods!” Not true. “My friend Amy told me that he’s photographed everyone! Paul McCartney, Christina Aguilera, Bruce Springsteen! AND he has friends at all the major record labels.” Very not true. “And you’re not going to believe this. He’s agreed to do a photo shoot for you this weekend for a fraction of his usual rate!” This part, sadly, was true. “This could be it, Kate! If he likes your music and your look . . . he knows EVERYONE! This is your shot!”

While Atticus Clark-Williamson (actual name: Jerry Fleischman) was in fact a professional photographer, a more realistic résumé might have read: “Once assisted a ‘rock-star photographer to the gods’ on one photo shoot where Lindsay Lohan was supposed to show up but then didn’t, because she had been hospitalized for ‘exhaustion.’ ”

“Wait, a photo shoot? For what?”

“For your demo cover!”

“But I don’t even have a real demo yet. I still need more songs . . .”

That didn’t seem to concern her. My mother and Atticus had already planned an elaborate shoot in downtown Los Angeles. “It’s going to be fabulous. Atticus is right . . . he’s so right! You need a look that will stand out from all the bubblegum crap that’s out there now. He’s going to get this gritty, edgy, dangerous downtown-looking vibe. I’m so excited.”

Things that are wrong with this idea:

1. My songs were about as edgy as a lemonade stand in a gated suburban community. And frankly, that’s what I was going for. I wanted to be Britney Spears, not Courtney Love.

2. At that time, parts of downtown Los Angeles were extremely dangerous.

That said, what teenage girl doesn’t want to spend a glamorous day prancing around in front of a camera? I gladly went with it. I imagined wind machines and makeup artists touching up my lipstick between pictures: “Kate, you’re a natural! Kate, you’re gorgeous! Move over, Beyoncé, here comes Kate Elinore Friedman-Siegel!”

When photo-shoot day arrived, my mother woke me with a remarkable amount of enthusiasm for 6 a.m. “Get up! Get up! Get up! It’s rock star girl diva day!” Catching her excitement, I threw off my duvet cover and “Sprinkler’d” over to the chair where she had laid out the final four outfits for the photo shoot.

“I really think I nailed the DANGER look, don’t you?”

One of the outfits included a Juicy Couture zip-up tracksuit. No, no, she had not nailed the danger look. We fussed with my hair and makeup, and by the time we left the house, I was feeling good, like Brad Pitt Third Wife Material good.

We met the photographer in a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot, right off the I-10 freeway. He was wearing carefully ripped jeans, a leather vest with no shirt, and beaded bracelets on both arms. He leaned against his vintage Ford Bronco, posing. His hair was artfully swept to one side with enough product to preserve his look in the event of a nuclear blast.

“Oh, there he is! Michael, pull over!” My dad, who had agreed to chauffeur us around all day, obeyed, tucking the car into the spot next to the Bronco.

My mother leapt out of the car, arms wide. “Atticus! So fabulous to meet you! We’re so excited about today.”

“Cool. Where’s Kate?”

“SPAWN! Get out here!” She waved at me to hurry, and I opened the back door of my dad’s car, tottering out on the highest heels I had ever worn. Atticus immediately started snapping photos of me with the Nikon camera dangling from his right hand.

“Um, hi. I’m Kate . . . oh shoot, are you starting? I wasn’t ready.” I’ve always wanted to see how those first photos came out—I still had several of my mother’s hot-pink rollers in my hair, so I’m sure they were excellent.

“Do you want art or do you want Britney Spears?” I mean, I definitely wanted to be Britney Spears, but it seemed like that wasn’t the response Atticus was looking for.

“Oh no, it’s just that I didn’t realize we were going already. I wasn’t ready, so I didn’t smile or pose or anything.”

“Art can’t be posed. I want you raw. I want to feel your emotion!”

“In front of Dunkin’ Donuts?”

Atticus sighed. I clearly didn’t get it. “Listen, let’s just go to the first location. I’m already exhausted. I was up all night shooting at the Roxy.” He started toward the door of his truck. “You guys follow in your car.”

My mother and I got back into the Volvo with my dad, and she started in on me: “Kate, enough with the attitude. If he tells you to do something, you do it! Did you not hear that?! He was shooting at the Roxy!! You need to impress him!” She was drunk on Atticus’s Kool-Aid.

“I just didn’t know we were starting! I’m sorry! I’ll do whatever he wants when we get there!”

My dad followed as Atticus weaved through traffic for fifteen minutes and finally turned onto a narrow, deserted alley in downtown LA. Our caravan pulled up next to an abandoned pickup truck that was decaying against a backdrop of empty warehouses on one side and crumbling apartment buildings on the other. As my dad parked behind Atticus’s car, I turned to my mother.

“Wait . . . here?! This is the location?”

“Oh relax, you’re fine. I have my pepper spray.” She hopped out of the car to stand next to Atticus, who was already pretentiously framing the shot with his hands. Atticus pried open the front door of the discarded truck. He didn’t even look at me.

“You. In the truck. Now.”

I paused, staring at the rusted heap of metal. There were plants growing on the dashboard and a few shards of broken glass from the shattered windshield in the front seat. WHERE WERE THE WIND MACHINES? THE MAKEUP ARTISTS?! Hell, I’d have settled for a little Febreze at that point. I glanced up at my mom.

“Um, in the car? It looks kind of dangerous, and it’s all rusty . . .” Atticus gave me a look with more disdain than I imagined possible for a human face.

“Is this going to be a problem? I don’t know, I’ve shot with top models, tons of stars, in far worse places than this!”

“You have your tetanus shot—get in there!” My mother glared at me, wiping shards of glass to the floor.

I quickly checked the backseat for dead bodies and then obeyed, carefully avoiding the broken glass, as my mom raved about my music to Atticus.

“It really is amazing, her songwriting. You know, it’s too funny, we happen to have a CD with a couple of her songs in the car with us! They’re very rough, of course. She just recorded them on her laptop, but you can really hear the raw talent.”

“I need silence while I’m working.” Atticus held up a hand. My mother nodded, and whispered, “Perhaps later!”

He started snapping photos of me as I sat awkwardly in the truck, trying to avoid any number of the biohazards surrounding me.

“No. Don’t smile. No! Why are you looking at the camera? FEEL YOUR SURROUNDINGS!” I gave a small eye roll, and my mother shot me a look that would have terrified Ted Bundy. Atticus threw up his hands in frustration.

“No, no, this just isn’t working. Look at her! She’s posing!”

First, I was under the impression that posing is what a person was meant to do in front of a camera. Ironically though, I was not posing at all! I was contorting my body in whatever position seemed least likely to result in a shard of glass severing a major artery. My mother jumped in, trying to salvage the situation.

“Well, maybe we should try some pictures in the alley, with a little movement. I know Kate is much more natural when she’s walking . . . and dancing.” Oh dear God, don’t make me dance. Something told me Atticus wouldn’t appreciate watching me get jiggy with it. He waved a dismissive arm, signaling that we should try it.

“You know what? Let’s put on one of Kate’s songs, so she can have a little mood music.”

“Fine, let’s try something.” Atticus shrugged.

“Michael! Turn on the CD player! Loud!” my mom shouted over her shoulder to my father, who was sitting in the car reading an old issue of Boat Trader.

And so there we were, in the middle of an alley in the most dangerous part of downtown Los Angeles, blasting my terrible pop songs at an earsplitting volume. My mother was staring intently at Atticus, trying to gauge his reaction to my music, as he snapped photos.

“Keep walking . . . now turn away from the camera and walk back. Come on! My God, stop posing! Pretend we’re in a fantasy . . . what’s your fantasy?” By that point, the only thing I was fantasizing about was punching him in the nuts.


A deafening, guttural cry drowned out the sound of the angsty-teen beats blaring out of my dad’s car. I reeled back and stumbled onto a cardboard box. As it turned out, that cardboard box was home to a very angry-looking homeless person. I turned around and came face-to-face with a shirtless, potbellied man, layers of grime smeared across his pale skin and dreadlocks matting his head. There were well-worn track marks on his arms and an unfocused, furious look in his eyes. Apparently he wasn’t a fan of my music. I staggered back, tripping on cans and other refuse in the alley. You know, like Taylor Swift does on her photo shoots.

Meanwhile, Atticus was furiously snapping frame after frame of my terror. My pop song with the lyrics “Stop! Hold on! Chill out! Relax! You need to understand that life’s a pain in the a-ass!” tangled with the homeless man’s raucous bleating. Atticus smiled from behind the camera as I ran.

“Yes! Yes! This is IT! This is what we need. I feel your fear!”

I stumbled a safe distance away, and our new friend was standing motionless, but squawking “WEA-OOOOOOO-AAAAAAAAAHW” every few seconds.

I turned back toward my parents’ car; my mom had already rushed to my side, just out of Atticus’s shot, pepper spray in her hand at the ready.

“You’re doing great, honey.” Atticus was smiling for the first time, and the danger was not imminent, so my mother was not about to mess with that.

Then the homeless man, still bleating, looked directly at me, threw down his pants, and started vigorously masturbating to the beat of my pop song: “No ma-tter what—you try—to do-o-o! Life comes along and makes a fool outta you!”

Now, I should take a moment to point out that this was the first erect penis I had ever seen. Not exactly how I had imagined it happening, or frankly how I pictured it would look. At the time, my fantasy about how this moment would play out involved my history study partner throwing off his glasses and having his way with me on a pile of abandoned Cold War flash cards. So this was different.

At that point, even Atticus’s mouth dropped open, and he lowered the camera to stare. My mother stepped between me and the homeless man, raising the pepper spray. She glanced back toward our dumbfounded photographer.

“What’re you, crazy!? Atticus, get in there and shoot! She looks gorgeous!”

He was frozen, but the residents of the building that faced the alley were accustomed to this man’s behavior. Before Atticus could snap another photo, a torrent of water was hurled over all of us from a balcony above. Soaking wet, I looked up to find a woman holding a bright green bucket.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

It's Kate Elinore Friedman-Siegel, Bitch 17

Because Cancer 33

Green Eggs and Sperm 43

My First Fake ID 55

I Am Woman 65

"Sing Out, Louise!" 77

The Pound Diaries 91

Stalking 101 105

Dr. Who (Ha) 119

Do Not Open Unless You Want to Cry 131

Happy Birthday, Spawn! 145

Keeping Up with the Friedman-Siegels 161

Listen to Your Mother 175

The Castrator 187

Hurricane Kim 201

Rabbi Hunting 215

Buff Boys 229

#Crazy Jewish Mom 241

Acknowledgments 251

Credits 255

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Mother, Can You Not? 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a very good read and I lost more than a little sleep. My biggest problem . . . It was too damn short. I could have continued reading about the funny antics the family gets into. Kate does a great justice to her mother, in the fact that she shows the many ways we all can somehow relate to the fact the love our 'helicopter' mom's are just looking out for us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Truly amazing. A wonderful read that will have you laughing out loud and reminiscing. My mother never publicly discussed my lady parts, but Siegel perfectly captures the complex dynamic of a mother/daughter relationship with humor and grace. Reading this book makes me want to give my Mom a huge hug and thank her for all the embarrassing harassment she 'tortured' me with growing up. True love and devotion. And the @crazyjewishmom account is truly hilarious.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've been following @crazyjewishmom for about a year and every time I see a new post I laugh and tag my friends !! I preordered this book and was so excited to read it ! I finished it within a few hours! It's amazing and to see the relationship they have as mother and daughter is incredible . I only put the book down when it was time to go to sleep. As a new writer she did a great job and I love how they took baby snowflake Jr aka buster home and nursed home and nursed him back to life ! ! There were so many laughs when reading this book. I hope there are more to come and your dad the trouble he gets in with your mom LOL
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Been following her on Instagram and she's funny. Her posts translate well to her writing and she has found her niche.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Truly funny book. Never missed my mother so much. Thank you for the laughter mixed with tears.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved reading this book. I can not wait to see what comes next.
Shawscribbles More than 1 year ago
I've been following crazyjewishmom on Instagram for a while now and it always makes me smile. I love both Kate's mortified reaction to her mom's comments and her mom's awesome off the cuff remarks. So when I saw (on Instagram) that a book was coming out, I put it on my wishlist. And Mother, Can You Not? did not disappoint. It was hilarious. I read this book as a collection of quirky, hilarious stories that never failed to make me grin. For a while it was my companion in the bubble bath. Soon I found myself reading aloud some of the chapters to my own daughter and laughing with her. I even started recounting some of the stories to my girlfriends (who immediately reacted by saying, "Wait, who did this?"). Not only does she have a great sense of humour, Kate Siegel is a gifted writer. Her style is open and honest. I felt like I was listening to one of my girlfriends tell me about her quirky mom. And, of course, I finished the book thinking that these are MY kind of people. But more than that I very much enjoyed Kate's style as a writer. She has the kind of voice that draws the reader in (think Meg Cabot). I hope to see much more from her! Mother, Can You Not? is the perfect book to gift a friend, share with a colleague or just treat yourself to. Highly recommend it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is now my favorite book. It is very well written and it is HILARIOUS. Almost the entire time spent I spent reading this book, I was laughing. I followed their Instagram account (@crazyjewishmom) and saw some of the story develop. I found this story comforting and interesting. I read it over, and over, and over again and I wouldn't want that any other way. I highly recommend this book and Kate Siegel went through so much living through the stories, and the least you should do is buy the book. You won't regret it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this book. If you're looking for an easy, fun, light hearted, laugh until you cry read. This book is for you! I read the entire thing in less than 3-ish hours, and loved every page. My two mistakes were 1. Reading it too quickly, I was so sad when it was over, and 2. Reading it in public (at an airport and on a plane). I found myself laughing out loud again and again, and glancing up to confused stares. There's an Instagram post on @CrazyJewishMom about how Kim was reading the book in public places laughing out loud to encourage book sales... all I can say is she may have been doing it as part of her "drone parenting," but for me it honestly happened. I found myself telling people about the Instagram page, and how they have to follow her account and MUST buy the book. After the chapter about stealing the cat Kim Friedman became my hero, and I'm impressed with Kate Siegel she clearly loves and values both her parents and she took a brave chance quitting her job to follow her dream and tell stories that are so crazy they can only be true! Seriously just buy the book!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've been follow @crazyjewishmom since their article on buzzfeed. Naturally I preordered the book. And I was not disappointment. So funny!! It actually made me yearn for a mother daughter relationship like this. It's wonderful that Kate can see all the love her mom has for her instead of just the crazy lol. My only complaint is that it's so short. We got only a glimpse and a few anecdote. I would love to see more of Kate and Kim. Sequel?!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was literally laughing out loud several times while reading this book! I couldn't put it down. I am an avid follower of @crazyjewishmom on Instagram and love reading the banter between the two. The book was fantastically written and made me want more! I kept wishing for more. I also kept wondering in the back of my head what Kate's father's point of view was on a lot of this...would love to have a sequel with his thoughts added in!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I follow CrazyJewishMom on Instagram and laugh so much so of course, I had to get the book! I loved it and it only took me 2 days to read! I laughed hard throughout the book and really envy their relationship! Mothers and daughters could learn from these two! Awesome read!
LexiConMan More than 1 year ago
One of the FUNNIEST books I've read! I have a sister (and a mother, of course) and the banter between these two makes me homesick! (and a little sick, sick!)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely LOVE this book!! Its so funny and well written! I've been following Kate on Social Media for a while and think she is fantastic!! I will be recommending this book to everyone!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I didnt know what to expect when I purchased it, but it turned out to be a hilarious and easy read. Very relatable for any woman with an overbearing mom.