In This Issue

Odd Mom Speaks Out

by Jill Kargman Photographed by ODD MOM OUT -- "Wheels Up" Episode 101 -- Pictured: (l-r) -- (Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Bravo)
Thursday, October 1, 2015

Jill Kargman on exactly how much of her hit Bravo TV show is biographical

They were preened packs of high-heel-wearing Bugaboo pushers crossing Fifth Avenue in stilettos. They were the mommy clique who “all bonded in Lamaze” or prego yoga or while ordering custom crib linens and bumpers. They were chatting about what time was “wheels up” for NetJets to Aspen and how “the traffic is a bitch to Teterboro.”

I was nine months pregnant in 99-degree weather. My swollen feet were the size of the Intrepid, with pigs-in-blanket toes shoved into tragic flip-flops. My skinny single friends were all having sexy, balmy summers, dancing on tables at Sunset Beach at Shelter Island in the Hamptons, or at Bungalow 8 in New York City. I was a beached whale, except all alone without the crowd of Greenpeace supporters whom beached whales usually garner.

They asked when I was scheduling an elective C-section. Uh . . . what? Three other knocked-up ladies confronted me in a semicircle when they heard about my barbaric plan to give birth via vag like a coconut-cracking savage. “You absolutely must get a Cesarean. It’s all planned and you get a blowout and mani and it’s just slice ’n’ dice!” Often giving birth, like everything else on the Upper East Side, is a matter of “staffing up” and getting the “right” people, process and look. After all, you want to look fierce in that postsurgery Instagram.

“Believe me,” said another leaning in, conspiratorially. “Your husband will thank you for going C. Mine sure did,” followed by a my-vagina-is-tighter-than-yours-you-debased-mammal wink. Newsflash: peer pressure works. I immediately inquired with my gyno, who shut the discussion down right away, saying she only did emergency C-sections, unlike some of her colleagues, the “society” OBs who would literally cut around a Duke basketball game or a trip to Eden Roc. I told her some women I knew reacted as if delivering through the birth canal was like standing in a forest and shitting out your baby like a caveperson. My gyno laughed and told me to get used to hearing many opinions about pretty much everything from now on for the next 20 years.

She was right. People hated the name Sadie and thought it was “too old lady” (I prefer “Ellis Island chic”). People told me how to nurse, how to swaddle, how to babyproof, how to get my baby walking earlier, how to guarantee a Mozart, an Einstein, the works. I also was depressed because after years of being told I was smart, I felt like a complete pointy-capped dunce. Not all women have this, but I certainly was a victim of what I call “placenta brain.” I would literally walk into a room and forget what I went in for, like my great-grandma. I was crying during Volvo commercials. When the one with the mom who turns on the ass warmer for her ice-skater daughter who fell on the rink came on, it was Niagara Falls.

When Sadie began walking, I signed up for a baby activity class, not knowing a soul. When I first wheeled in with my shitty stroller, I felt like it was middle school all over again, with people looking each other over, and worse, looking each other’s kids over. I smiled and was friendly but felt oddly shy, even though I’m the least shy person on the planet. But I didn’t have a wingman and clearly didn’t have all the proper gear or lingo or locavore seed-to-anus organic baby snacks.

The teacher came in and sat down cross-legged and asked everyone to sit in a circle. Sadie was running around and I patted the floor next to me and said, “Sadie, sweetie, can you come sit down Indian-style?”

Vinyl record scratch. It wasn’t even crickets: it was gasps.

My eyes met two HORRFIED-looking ladies who were whispering while looking at me. “What?” I asked, nervous.

“Um, no, it’s fine, I mean, it’s just—no one says Indian-style

anymore. You’re supposed to say crisscross applesauce.”


This sounds melodramatic, but because of A) extreme sleep deprivation, and B) the Godfather day of my period, which made my bedsheets look like the flag of Japan, I was fighting back tears. I smiled and did the class with a lump in my throat, but inside I wanted to scream and cry. FUCKING CRISSCROSS APPLESAUCE?! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?! I hated these people. They all dressed the same, with white skinny jeans and Tory Burch Reva logo flats and gourmonster baby food and boring conversations about the help (their staff, not the book.) I loathed moms. I was an outcast. What to do?

Well, the answer was: write about it. My husband encouraged me to jot down the ridic encounters I regaled him with, and I started adding little entries for my book, which became Momzillas, a story about a loner mom in New York City. It wound up being published in 14 languages, and I still get ecstatic when new moms email me, saying how they felt understood through the travails of “Hannah,” who was basically me but by way of a red state, to further heighten the alienation I already felt, despite being a New York native. NBC bought the book and I was euphoric—hopefully I could bring this world to television in a way that would lend comfort to women who also felt the same way.

Two more nuggets followed, Ivy and Fletch, and I was lambasted after both births because I didn’t nurse. I hated breastfeeding. I nursed Sadie and it killed, complete with bleeding nips, so I threw in the burp cloth after I almost burned down the house sterilizing the Frankenstein pump in a boiled-down pot of water—all three kids are fine, by the way. One lunatic even grabbed my boob on Park Avenue.

“How is the nursing coming?” she asked.

“Oh, I’m bottle-feeding, actually,” I said. She looked at me the way a 93-year-old looks at an ATM.

Her response: “Shame on you.”

Normally I would have a million retorts from “It’s really none of your goddamn business” to “Stop about the immunities—it’s not like I’m living in the fucking Congo!” but instead I muttered something about different strokes, turned around the corner onto 74th Street and burst into tears. There’s something so weirdo and entitled about people who just barrel in with their two cents. I wanted to build a fortress around my family out of all the piles of copper people chucked my way and shield ourselves from the white noise of every idiot who considered herself an expert.

There was the mom who told me she thought it was “wildly inappropriate” that I brought my 12-year old to a movie about a transgender woman. I told her it was really just about love and being yourself. I got a snort and an eye roll in reply. There was a girl who teased Sadie for not having a country house or stables, and her mother emailed me furious after Sadie replied, “I don’t care, I hate horses anyway.” There are mommy jihads over the dumbest shit. It never ends. I mine material every day.

Those early years are not a distant memory, and I wanted to explore that blurry time further, and fan the haze away with laughter and observations. The tweens wanting to dress like hookers, children’s Tourette’s-esque lack of an edit button (“Mom, why is your butt so jiggly?”), plus the sugar wars, the cupcake hate mail pushing for healthier snacks, the nursing Nazis, the organic brigade, the whole spectrum of Type A mom world. Now I get to lampoon it all in Odd Mom Out, a half-hour comedy. Internally called “Larry David in Upper East Side Mom World,” our show, Bravo’s first scripted comedy, is a satirical peek into the over-the-top world of glamorous “stay-at-home” moms who don’t even stay at home but just go to luncheons and dress for each other while half of Manila is in their penthouses with their four children (BTW, four is the new three). There are the types who use charitable causes to promote themselves socially, the accessories “designers” who all buy from each other’s trunk shows in hotel suites to distract their egos from hedge-fund husbands shtupping the secretary, the lavish benefits and the OTT toddler birthday party circuit with engraved invitations.

My mother used to joke, “A socialite is the opposite of a social heavy,” mentioning women who would “go to the opening of an envelope.” She had obligations for my dad’s job but was always making our dinners herself. I remember her standing in a pink and white ballgown with red oven mitts, taking our lamb chops out of the oven. She would always rather be home in her pajamas with us.

I, on the other hand, needed a goddamn break. I felt like the hours between five and seven p.m. made me want to Yahoo! “How+To+Rope+A+Noose,” and I would’ve loved to be going to some bash. But while the rest of the world was at happy hour I was losing m’shit in Crappy Hour. I would crack open the Pinot Noir at 4:59 and . . . well, I know this sounds alcoholicky, but I couldn’t’ve gotten through those years without my vino. I rarely even poured a second glass, but I practically shook as I removed the cork until I could guzzle that first one. Granted, I was never passed out on the floor with an empty bottle, but my mom was way calmer and less frazzled somehow, even sans Pinot. These days I have friends who are always up for a Tots ’n’ Tonic kiddie dinner for the small fry and Bellinis for us, but I didn’t have that in the lonely diaper days when I craved that kind of company the most.

Years passed. Momzillas never got made, and I realized from watching network television that even if it had, it never would’ve had the chutzpah and soul I’d’ve wanted. I wound up writing my first essay collection called Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut, which is the first nonfiction book I did, and it really crystalized what would become the vice of the TV show I wanted to make. When I met with the fabulous Andy Cohen and the goddess Lara Spotts at Bravo, we were exploring ideas beyond anything reality, which I was not open to. I could never tolerate a camera up my sphincter or peeking into my marriage and kids’ lives—I wanted to write. I sent them both Momzillas and Nut and asked if, gee, since Universal owns NBC and Bravo, couldn’t they just kinda reach over and take my book back and make that? I’ve since learned a lot about corporate red tape and alas, it just doesn’t work like that. But Lara and our two first exec producers, Daniel Rosenberg and Tim Piper of Piro, honed the concept of both books mating. The baby that resulted was Odd Mom Out, with the birth midwives Julie Rottenberg and Elisa Zuritsky. Award-winning Sex and the City scribes, they were my dream partners in this endeavor. Our minds instantly clicked, and we made the show we wanted to make.

My hope for Odd Mom Out is to make people—not just moms!—guffaw by holding up a mirror to one contingent of the mom population, the epicenter for extreme parenting, where toddlers learn Mandarin ’cause their Goldman Sachs daddies say it’s “the wave of the future” and people hire different consultants for walking, talking, peeing, pooing and proper pencil grip. Most people in America are keeping up with the Joneses, but New Yorkers are keeping up with the Rockefellers. And we can’t! Because even wealthy people here can feel middle class compared to the excess of recent economic booms—there were often north of twenty Escalades at a time outside a school near me—with a drop-off and pickup fashion show worthy of a catwalk. Yes, I dress up compared to most people in America every day because I wear skirts or dresses and heels instead of pants and sneakers. (But in fairness, stilettos feel like sneakers to me, like those Easy Spirit commercials with nuns playing basketball.) Nevertheless, at preschool in my all-black Club Monaco threads and Trash & Vaudeville motorcycle jacket I often felt like everyone else was so perfectly preened and polished that the dismissal catwalk there was sponsored by Mercedes Benz.

My daughter Ivy once asked me, “Mom, why are you the only mom at school without red bottoms on your shoes?” I didn’t know whether to be proud she was observant or

horrified that she somehow gleaned Louboutins status by osmosis. But whether it’s winning hockey tournaments or a making the cheerleading squad, the yardstick from state to state may shift, but the stress of fierce competition doesn’t. When Momzillas came out I was amazed how many letters I got from Midwestern, Southern and Pacific Northwest states saying that despite the change of metropolitan scenery and shifting metric of aspiration, it was the same exact thing. Mothers-in-law from hell are the rule and not the exception, social climbers abound and money talks. Odd Mom Out IS relatable, and hopefully people will see that the outside judgmental forces can just vanish if you flush them out of your consciousness, grab your kiddies, blare some Hedwig and dance on top of all those unsolicited opinions.



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