Doree Shafrir and Jessica Grose were just IMing one day about how hilarious the emails their mothers sent them were, when they got the idea to start the blog Postcards From Yo Momma. Their idea quickly took off and since then they've received over 7,000 emails of e-communication from mothers to their adult children. The best ones have been compiled into their new book, Love, Mom: Poignant, Goofy, Brilliant Messages from Home, that we highly recommend as a last minute Mother's Day gift for any of us whose maternal figures will relate to reading our "blobs" and emailing us advice from their AOL accounts.
Doree and Jessica will be at 92Y Tribeca tonight for a funny, free-wheeling discussion moderated by the comedian Catie Lazarus on topics such as "what to do when your mom gets drunk and posts on your Facebook wall." They talked with us about their moms trying to figure out just how a Facebook invitation works, people asking them the secret to a blog's success and how a mom can be transformed back into a teenage girl when she crosses paths with Felicity.
Have the two of your moms met? D: They met at our book party for the first time. We had like forty of the moms from the book at the party. It was really fun. They all started signing each other’s books. They didn’t know each other and just all started talking and having a good time.
Were both of your Moms cool with the book being published, the idea of private conversations now going public on an even larger scale? J: My mom was really tickled by it. She’s still so surprised that it became a phenomenon since she’s not as oriented with the Web as people in our generation. So the the whole thing sort of surprised her, but she’s really proud of it.
Did your moms used to read what you wrote at your former blogs (Gawker and Jezebel, respectively)? Did it ever lead to them developing amusing, unexpected relationships with celebrities you covered there? J: My mom definitely likes to read every one of my little publications. She definitely shared my dislike of Gwyneth Paltrow, so we could bond over that. D: Yeah, she definitely does. But I don’t know if she fully got Gawker. She and my dad both read it and just didn’t get a lot of the references. So I think she just didn’t read it super carefully after a while because she just felt sort of lost. And just the other day my dad asked me, “I read that story you wrote about the girl who was conning people. What did you call her? That was funny that my sixty-something dad was reading about that. He gets the print edition, so he didn’t know about any of the other “buzz.” And yet he still picked that out without me bringing it up.
What did the Hipster Grifter piece demonstrate to you about the way these stories tend to spread throughout the internet? It was a perfect example about the way things spread on the internet. But in a way, so is Postcards from Yo Momma. When it started, we sent out an email to maybe thirty friends and within maybe thirty, we were getting thousands of hits and getting contacted from newspapers that wanted to write about us.
People will ask us, “How do I start a blog that gets a book deal?” I think that the idea has to be there and it has to resonate. A bad idea, no matter how hard you try to market it virally, is not going to take off and stick with people. Likewise with the Hipster Grifter story, people were just fascinated by it from the beginning to light the match to spread it.
J: I think it does really illustrate parents’ relationship with their adult children that hasn’t been explored that much. There’s a lot about motherhood and a lot about being a parent of a child or a teenager, but the bond that grows between a grown child and their parent is very interesting.
And so often that specifically just gets covered as just this generation who won’t grow up, these twixters who won’t leave the nest. Yeah, and I think that idea gets really overblown. There definitely are these moms who write their college papers and do their resumes for them. But just having this close bond and helping them do certain things isn’t necessarily destructive or keeping them from growing up.
Is their a higher percentage of stories about Jewish mothers that have gotten submitted to the blog and ended up in the book? D: We’ve been surprised that a lot of the moms don’t seem Jewish, that we have a really wide range of religions and ethnicities. J: Jewish mothers have definitely not cornered the market on guilt at all.
Have you had any good encounters with moms using slang either inappropriately or just well beyond its actual time in the lexicon? J: My mom learned the word “dissed” in maybe 1995 and uses it egregiously to this day. It always sounds completely alien, like she just slipped a Swedish word into her sentence. D: My mom gets really upset whenever anyone uses the word “ghetto.”
Do you have any favorite “Yo Momma” jokes? D: I don’t actually. Wasn’t there a book of “Yo Momma” jokes? J: There was and it was actually written by a classmate of mine. D: Maybe there’s something about Brown
I was wondering how old the phrase “Yo Momma” is. J: Did you find out? Is there an OED entry? You should definitely investigate that! (Ed. The fascinating Wikipedia entry on “The Dozens” dates it as far back as a boogie-woogie album from 1929!)
Are either of your moms on Facebook? D: Mine is. She’s a teacher so she claims that she just got on because her students were asking her to get on Facebook. But I think that’s just an excuse. She had to call my brother last week have him walk her through how the status updates work and how to leave comments, which I feel like he shouldn’t have done. I invited most of my friends to the 92Y event, so she was invited. And she RSVP’d for it and left a comment, “Can’t wait!” So I called her up (in Massachusetts) and asked, “Are you coming?” And she was like, “No!”
Do you guys have any advice for mama’s boys? J: Don’t overtly take your mother’s side over your girlfriend’s. Although I think I learned that entirely from watching TV, I don’t think I’ve dated a mama’s boy.
Do you guys have any good “only in New York” experiences that your moms have been apart of? J: My parents had come down and we had gone out to dinner in my neighborhood about a year ago. And my mom is aware of the stereotypes about Brooklyn children being spoiled. So we were walking down Smith Street in Carroll Gardens and there was this child brandishing a stick. He was running down the street and wacking every pole with it. And his mother was just following him, saying softly, “Now don’t do that,” not even trying to stop him. My mom couldn’t believe it.
D: I live in Fort Greene and Keri Russell was living around the corner from me. My mom is a huge Keri Russell fan; I think she watched every episode of Felicity. So about a year ago, my parents were visiting and my mom and I went out to walk my dog and there was Keri Russell. My mom went up to her and said, “Hi!” and Keri Russell said hi back. And my mom almost had a heart attack she was so excited. It was like she had seen the president.