Just before my first IUI, I read Baby, Mix Me a Drink by Lisa Brown and thought: “Okay. People like me have kids now. I can do this.” Well, now a lot more people like me have kids, and they’re writing even funnier books. I’m talking about Let’s Panic About Babies!, written by Alice Bradley (of Finslippy) and Eden M. Kennedy (of yogabeans! and Fussy).
Full of helpful phrases like “Pregnancy is a strange and bloated time, but more importantly, it’s a time when every single one of your decisions will leave an indelible and unmistakable imprint on your baby FOREVER,” it’s the kind of thing you should read on the toilet, given what's happened to your pelvic floor lately.
I sat down with Kennedy and basically spent the whole interview gushing about how funny she is, and then asking a few questions.
How did you funny power-bloggers become friends?
Well, Alice and I met on the Internet -- she found my blog first and emailed me in 2003 or 2004. We kinda hit it off, even though we were 3,000 miles apart [Bradley lives in Brooklyn, Kennedy in Southern California]. Then, when the first BlogHer conference rolled around, we met in real life and continued to hit it off.
And that led to the book?
Well, one theme of Alice’s existence is how much she hates parenting books. She was always more ambitious in her writing career than I was, but I guess she figured she’d get more done quickly with a partner, so she asked me to write with her.
She had this idea for a fake parenting book, and when we bounced stuff off of each other, we realized we had to pretend to be The Authorities Who Tell You What to Do, but are completely wrong all the time. Once we found that voice, the book seemed to write itself.
When I read it, I thought of Amy Poehler when she did Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update. Not a bimbo, but just a salty woman who does not really care if people think she’s inappropriate.
It wasn’t conscious, but Amy Poehler is on a similar track that can’t help but influence us. We were thinking more about Dr. Leo Spaceman on 30 Rock, that kind of “Science is whatever we want it to be!” attitude. I think we both worship Amy Poehler and also Tina Fey, and we’ve watched Baby Mama thousands of times. The line we try to walk is “comically-just-over-the-top-enough-to-think-you-might-be-serious.”
Speaking of thinking you might be serious … though I love this new trend toward admitting we’re not always the perfect parents, I sometimes wonder if it goes too far. It’s given us Go the F to Sleep, but is that always a good thing?
That’s a really good example. I remember thinking, “This is hilarious. I have totally felt that way.” I love the joke, and I love that Samuel L. Jackson is doing the audio book, and it’s the perfect little package, but it also makes me feel uncomfortable, like it goes too far. You’re talking about your little baby, and in a very few years that baby’s going to read the book and how’s he going to feel?
But at the same time, I hate even going there because that’s always the argument against parent bloggers, that the kid is going to read it and you have to stop. We’ve always pushed back against that -- “you’re not going to shut me up! You’re not going to tell me what to say!” But as with any unpleasant Internet trolling, there’s a tiny 1 percent of truth to it.
I just read an interview with Louis C.K., the amazing comic who has done for fatherhood what this book does for motherhood -- and he now says that some of his more shocking stuff isn’t stuff that he would do now. Not that he regrets it, but that it was a product of being a new dad, and mourning the life he’d lost. Now, he says, he just enjoys them more as people, and his style of joking has changed (but not really softened). Does that resonate?
That’s interesting, because it’s true: your awareness changes. They’re these little lumps, and you’re talking to other people who’ve had the experience with these little lumps. And then they grow up a bit, and you realize they can understand what you’re saying. It’s almost like you’re still a single person in that early-parenthood time, and it takes some time to build that protective psychic space around your kids.
We’ve let the website for Let’s Panic rest for a while, but one of the things we want to do, when we start posting there again soon, is interview Adam Mansbach [the author of Go the F to Sleep] about that. We also want to start a podcast where we can talk about this stuff in an intelligent way instead of the usual Internet style, which is pontificating at length with maybe some angry comments at the bottom.
I’ll listen to that. So this book goes through the baby’s first year?
Yes, and some people are clamoring for a sequel! Which we would like to write! We’re developing a proposal for that, so we can trick our publisher into making it.
Do you think your book appeals just to moms, or dads too?
We were surprised, actually, that Mother’s Day didn’t give us much of a push in terms of our sales -- but we did see a spike just before Father’s Day. That was great, because it means this is something people want to share with the men in their lives. The dads want to read it too. There’s even a chapter devoted to dads, and of course it’s somewhat condescending, as is our way, with advice on how to back-pedal when he has said something stupid.
So valuable! Why do you think there’s this broad appeal?
I don’t know! Maybe because it’s not serious -- instead of being “you have to read this, so you understand what I’m going through,” it’s “hey, here’s something funny to read,” with the subtext being that it’ll give him some insight into your experience. You know, like when Jessica Seinfeld grinds up spinach and puts it inside a cupcake.
Readers, do you like your parenting books served with some funny?