TRANSCRIPT One Bad Mother Ep. 352: Can I Pet Your Dog? No! Plus, Author Bess Kalb on Writing in Her Grandmother’s Voice

Biz is joined by guest co-host Renee Culvert from the podcast, Can I Pet Your Dog? How does COVID-19 affect how we interact with other people’s animals? What does it look like to have a dog during this time? Plus, Biz feels normal, we miss Theresa, and we talk with Bess Kalb about her new book, Nobody Will Tell You This But Me. 

Podcast: One Bad Mother

Episode number: 352

Guests: Bess Kalb

Transcript

biz ellis

Hi. I’m Biz.

theresa thorn

And I’m Theresa.

biz

Due to the pandemic, we bring you One Bad Mother straight from our homes—including such interruptions as: children! Animal noises! And more! So let’s all get a little closer while we have to be so far apart. And remember—we are doing a good job.

music

“Summoning the Rawk” by Kevin MacLeod. Driving electric guitar and heavy drums. [Continues through dialogue.]

biz

This week on One Bad Mother—can I pet your dog? No! Plus, Biz feels normal; Renee Culvert joins as guest host, and we talk to Bess Kalb about her new book Nobody Will Tell You This But Me.

crosstalk

Biz Ellis and Renee Culvert: Wooooo! [Biz laughs. Biz and Renee repeatedly affirm each other as they discuss their respective weeks.]

crosstalk

Renee: Feels pretty good! It feels like maybe we nailed it! [Laughs.] Biz: I think we nailed it! I think we did alright!

biz

Renee?

renee

Biz.

biz

Thank you so much for joining us!

renee

Always my greatest honor. I play it cool and I would like you to make sure that your listeners are like, she does! She plays it real cool.

crosstalk

Renee: But, uh, inside. Biz: She is cool.

renee

Over the moon! I just—I love you so much. I love your show so much. I, uh—and now am meeting coworkers who are just like, that show got me through, like, all of the first years of my kids. [Biz laughs.] My buddy, uh, Julie Booth was—she—every time I talk to her she’s like—how are the girls? Uh—[Laughs.] [Biz laughs.] [Through laughter] So—

crosstalk

Renee: You’ve given me, like—cred! [Laughs.] Biz: We’re all losing our mind! That’s how we are! [Laughs.]

biz

Yup. So—in fact, I think Theresa may be broken a little bit and that’s totally fair.

renee

Yeah.

biz

I look forward to just the… cycle of us all breaking and then kind of getting back together and then breaking again. [Renee laughs.] So I would like to—obviously—start with a special shoutout to Theresa.

renee

Yes.

biz

Theresa—as I have said in a text to you just this week, I would come to Hell with you if they would let me. You are doing a very good job. Also, Renee, what we’ve been doing during the… pandemic podcast era—

renee

Right.

biz

—is taking a moment at the beginning before checking in to just say… thank you to everybody out there. I—I now think pretty much everybody in the world is very essential and I’d like to hug all of them?

crosstalk

Renee: [Through laughter] Yes. Exactly. Exactly. Biz: As much as possible?

biz

It’s like—hello! I don’t know who you are but I would like to just touch you. And thank you. So thank you to everybody in the medical industry. All the first responders. All the people staying home. All the people at the grocery stores and delivering the food and driving the food and the restaurants that are still open and doing takeout. I cannot say enough. Look, look, look for local small businesses. Y’know. I needed to get some learning supplies today—

renee

Yes!

biz

‘Cause apparently I’ll be teaching the children forever. [Renee laughs.] Uh, and—instead of going to a large ordering facility to order it—

renee

Right.

biz

I took the extra five fucking minutes and looked for a local education store in the Pasadena area. So that—that’s—it’s that—we can do this.

crosstalk

Renee: Yes. We can. We can! Biz: We can. We can!

renee

Or if you’re having a week where you can’t do it? That’s fine.

crosstalk

Renee: That’s fine! On the weeks that you can? Do what you can to support those small businesses? The weeks that you can’t? It’s fine! Everything’s fine. Biz: Exactly! Yes! That’s right! Just—

biz

Join all of us under the couch. [Laughs.] [Renee laughs.] Will—will Instacart bring it to me under the couch?

renee

[Through laughter] Maybe. Please?

crosstalk

Renee: Is that an option? I’m gonna find it! [Laughs.] Biz: Maybe! I don’t know!

biz

Let me see if, uh, they added that yet. They can bring it to me in three to four weeks.

renee

Perfect! [Laughs.]

biz

Uh—[Laughs.]

renee

Great! That’s exactly when I need it! [Laughs.]

biz

[Through laughter] That’s right. That’s when I will need it. Renee? Renee, I’m so excited you’re here. I have—I just can’t wait to talk to you about dog-related pandemic things. But before we get anywhere near it—how—how are you? Why don’t you tell us, like, who’s in your house right now? And how you’re doing?

renee

I would love nothing more. I also feel like I cut you off a little bit on the thank-you. So I—

crosstalk

Renee: Yes. Thank you. Thank you to—everybody who’s essential. I agree with you completely. Biz: No! Nope. Thank you! We are thanking. Yeah.

renee

Yeah, y’know? It’s good, but I think good has a new definition these days. So “good” comparatively is— [Biz laughs.] Is—[Laughs.]

biz

On a scale—

renee

[Through laughter] Is how things are. So it is, uh, it’s me and my roommate, who I also work with. Uh, we both work at a podcast network. So it’s been fine that we’re both—we’re—obviously, we’re working from home, but we’re both still working and figuring out the technology that is, y’know, remote podcasting these days. But everything’s been good. Challenges have been, uh, boy, that dog of mine would love to chime in. Love to say a few words— [Biz laughs.] —on every podcast we record! Every single one! Mine! Hers! The neighbor’s! Everybody! He’s just like—I gotta few things to say! [Biz laughs.] [Through laughter] So it’s been a bit of a—a challenge. And then—well, obviously, we can get into it, but the thing that I didn’t anticipate—I anticipated figuring out this new normal. What I didn’t anticipate was—what I figure out? Is only gonna last for so long. And then you gotta figure out a new solution. Once people get bored. Once things fall out. Once—whatever your solution initially was is no longer working.

biz

You have children. [Laughs.] [Renee laughs.]

renee

Or I just have me—who’s very immature—and a dog who’s [through laughter] wild. [Biz laughs.] It could be those two things. [Laughs.]

biz

We are gonna finally prove with this—what is this? Third or fourth episode of you cohosting—that animals and children are exactly alike. [Laughs.]

renee

Essentially the same thing. Yes. Uh, how dare I. ‘Cause I gotta say—like, that—any time I do start to get, like, oh, god. I think of parents. I just… ‘cause I remember babysitting… and thinking, like, I’m at a—I’m at a wall. Thank god they are coming home at 11. Or whenever. And like— [Biz laughs.] You don’t get to say you’re at a wall now! Like, I don’t—I don’t know how you guys are doing it. I am… I think, like, you are the essential worker that I wanna thank and be, like, you are my hero. I don’t know how you’re doing it. I am so impressed.

biz

It’s—it’s—there may be— [Renee laughs.] Uh, wine involved or medication or staying with therapy or yelling into the void.

renee

[Through laughter] Right. Yes. [Laughs.]

biz

But—like you said, we’re all figuring it out! I just wish someone would take me for walksies! [Renee laughs.] That’s all. [Laughs.]

renee

Yeah! Exactly!

biz

I think I wanna walksie.

renee

It would be nice. How are you doing? How was this week? I guess, how are you doing as a whole.

biz

As a whole, I’m like a bruised fruit. But. [Laughs.]

crosstalk

Renee: [Through laughter] Buddy. Biz: But I will say—

biz

I was gonna say that this past week—like, leading up to today, which is Monday—I am kind of unsettled by how normal I am starting to feel. Like, y’know. I—we’ve talked about how adaptive we are as a species and all that, but I’m like… wow. This past week wasn’t as horrible by 4 or 5 PM because I am so used to… this is what it is now? I still refuse to let myself think about how long this is gonna go? Because that really—

renee

You can’t. It’s—

crosstalk

Renee: It’ll shut you down so fast. Yeah. Yeah. Biz: Makes me lose my mind. Yeah! Yeah.

biz

I’m just like—what? Summer? [Laughs.]

renee

Uh-huh. Yes. [Laughs.]

biz

That’s—no. Yeah. That’s horrible. And so… yeah! This past week I was just like… yeah! No. This is our routine and I get up and, y’know, Stefan goes in here and then I’m with the kids. [Blah, blah, blah style noises.] Dadudeheheh. And… I don’t know if that’s better. I mean, it’s nice to not… be crying as much.

renee

Sure. Yeah.

biz

But. [Renee laughs.] I also… don’t want this to be… normal.

renee

Agreed. Yeah.

crosstalk

Biz: So. Y’know. Yeah! I mean— Renee: Couldn’t agree more. Yes. And—

biz

So that’s—that’s what that is.

renee

I guess—forgive me for making you repeat what your listeners already know. But are you still doing distant learning right now?

crosstalk

Renee: Or what does it look like for you? Biz: Yeah. So we’ve been…

biz

—at home with the children— [Renee laughs.] I think over—well over 40 days. Because I started the Bop-It videos around 37 days ago. [Laughs.] 38 days ago, apparently?

renee

Would that I had power in this town ‘cause I would give you your own TV show.

crosstalk

Renee: I would watch it— Biz: Thank you. Thank you. [Laughs.]

renee

—all the livelong day. [Laughs.]

biz

Thank you. I. Y’know. They’d said that a crisis would really bring out my best— [Renee laughs.] —and my true talents. Um…

renee

And they were right!

biz

What are you doing with your alone time, Biz? [Renee laughs.] So we’ve been… yeah. Learning from home for a while. Stefan’s been working from home the whole time. And… like, I—no one can see me, but I just like have a thumb, like, hitched over my shoulder as if it’s like—they’re all there. They’re all—

crosstalk

Biz: They’re all just—the other—there. Renee: Doing it. Over there. Yeah.

biz

And we’re—like—the lucky thing is that we like each other? And so like all of us—like, I actually like the kids and I like Stefan. So that—that helps. And… three cats. Help.

renee

[Through laughter] Yes.

biz

So they are thrilled. [Laughs.]

renee

Have to be over the moon! Right? Just—all the pets that they could possibly want! Yeah.

biz

Exactly. I’m like, come to me, cats! [Renee laughs.] Lay on me! Which—we will use to just segue right on in.

renee

Right on in!

biz

To what we are gonna talk about today, which I’m really—again—only gonna describe as… can I pet your dog? NO!

biz

Banjo strums; cheerful banjo music continues through dialogue.

theresa

Please—take a moment to remember: If you’re friends of the hosts of One Bad Mother, you should assume that when we talk about other moms, we’re talking about you.

biz

If you are married to the host of One Bad Mother, we definitely are talking about you.

theresa

Nothing we say constitutes professional parenting advice.

biz

Biz and Theresa’s children are brilliant, lovely, and exceedingly extraordinary.

theresa

Nothing said on this podcast about them implies otherwise. [Banjo music fades out.] [Biz and Renee repeatedly affirm each other as they discuss the weekly topic.]

biz

Renee!

renee

Yes.

biz

Can I Pet Your Dog? is the name of your podcast. That I adore. And I—it is… it’s been a journey of dogs? And petting them. And choosing to have dogs in your life and all of this stuff. And… the whole premise to me of the name—it—I mean, it’s all about—you go out and you wanna pet other people’s dogs! And I have willfully chosen not to pay attention to any, like, coronavirus in pets. Right? Like, I just—

renee

No. We don’t—

crosstalk

Renee: Mm-mm. You think we don’t have the bandwidth for how long this is gonna go? We sure as shit don’t have the bandwidth for animals! Biz: I don’t wanna know. I know. Yeah. I just was like—[Laughs.]

biz

Like, sorry, tigers in that zoo! [Renee laughs.] I’m—y’know. I can relate! With tigers that have the coronavirus. But what is like—just—give me… a day… in the life of, like, having a dog… ‘cause they gotta go outside. And I’m just gonna make one more joke that I thought was funny and that was that, like, I feel… grass is greener style. [Renee laughs.] It would be better to have a dog because I feel like it would give me more permission to go on walks?

renee

Yes.

biz

Because it would be like—oh, they have a dog! That—that person needs to be out walking that dog. And when you go take your like—six-year-old out— [Renee laughs.] —or your kids out, it’s like—[gasping]. Why are you taking those children outside?!

renee

Of course! Yeah! Yeah! I, um—

biz

So that’s—yeah.

renee

—couldn’t agree—well, and part of me wants to like try to be like, no, it’s not as great as you think. It is. It’s, uh— [Biz laughs.] [Through laughter] Amazing. In that—so to review, I have a three-and-a-half-year-old pit-bull. Mixed with something that has boundless energy. On his terms. So I was already walking him, like, in the morning and the evening and then his schedule was either a Wag! Walker would come walk him while I was at work or every-other day he would go to dog park daycare.

biz

Oh, that’s right! You have no daycare or walkers now!

renee

Right! No daycare. No dog parks. No parks. Just… nothing. So we have walking. Is our option. And this little kiddo loves to run. Uh, he’s true and loyal to his DNA, which has taught him that he must catch every squirrel that crosses his path. So it’s an adventure. Uh, I guess—[Laughs.] [Biz laughs.] The first part is the good element of—again, my, um, my roommate is an audio engineer. Does not have a pet. And I think her record at this point is seven days without leaving the house? Just because work keeps her in? She doesn’t need to go. It’s just, uh, but I think like that does what it does to everybody psychologically? So it is! So it’s nice to be—‘cause I can’t promise you I would go out that much without a reason to have to go. ‘Cause I think once you’re in the zone of it or the depression hits, uh, it’s just—it’s hard to be like, oh, I would feel better if I went outside! [Laughs.] [Biz laughs.]

biz

I know that will fix a lotta stuff. [Renee laughs.]

renee

[Through laughter] Right! Yes! Exactly! Would that we just did what would be helpful. It’s, uh, it’s so hard to do that. So that element is good. He definitely loves to run, so our little workaround with that is there is a—like—but I can’t take him to the park ‘cause the parks are closed. So there is a school parking lot that is gated on one side? So we’ll go—we go first thing—like, 6AM.

biz

Ain’t nobody at school.

renee

Right. [Biz laughs.] Exactly. [Makes finger-kissing smacking noise.] Mwah! What a dream. What a dream for me; what a nightmare for you. [Laughs.]

biz

[Through laughter] I know. [Laughs.] Dogs are gonna learn now! It’s like—y’know. [Renee laughs.] It’s like Planet of the Apes! But like—the animals have all gone and taken over the school and are learning!

renee

Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. Um—[Laughs.] [Biz laughs.] So that is where the evolution of like solutions and then fails and the solutions and fails has happened. So I took him—I was able to take him off the leash, let him run around the school parking lot at 6:30 in the morning. The first thing that happened is that it’s right next to an apartment complex so we gotta keep it quiet. So we [inaudible] be quiet about it. [Biz laughs.] Then I get him a tennis ball and I was throwing it but I, uh, just horrific as far as, uh, hand-eye coordination throwing skills. So then I got a—so he was upset that I wasn’t throwing it far enough. Then we gotta chuck it. Then he was upset that I was throwing it too far and he got exhausted and hid himself and the ball into a bush and I couldn’t get him out for five minutes. [Laughs.] [Biz laughs.] Then—so I got my system in place. Things are going well. And then one morning, another family was in my school parking lot. And I didn’t know I was capable of experiencing such rage! Uh, so— [Laughs.] [Biz laughs.] [Through laughter] So upset! So angry! Loudly told the dog, “Well I guess you can’t play today.” [Biz laughs.] Uh— [Laughs.] Which is— [Through laughter] Which is insane! Just absolutely crazy. And then—like, I walked around. And the dog’s, like, trying to like go into the parking lot—‘cause that’s our plan! So then I was like, I’m being—I’m being unreasonable. So then I went and I like talked to the family—I’m like, I am so sorry. Is there any way that we could, like, share the parking lot with—and they were like, yes, of course! And I was like, but don’t worry. We’re gonna stay out of your way. Guess how long it took for Tugboat to be just immediately in those kids’ faces?

biz

Oh, like, less than a second.

renee

Yep! Mm-hm! Yep.

crosstalk

Renee: And the kids also—so—and—all of the—just petting the dog. Going crazy. Biz: Less than a second. Yeah. The kids are like—ahh! Gonna rub myself all over you! [Laughs.]

renee

And all the adults in slow-mo, like, dooon’tttt peeetttt the doooogggg! [Laughs.] [Biz laughs.] Just— [Laughs.]

crosstalk

Renee: Uh, a true nightmare. [Laughs.] Biz: Don’t pet my dog!

biz

Is the new name of the show.

renee

Exactly. Exactly. So that was kind of a long answer to, like, finding various solutions that are sort-of working. For the most part, he’s doing such a good job. He’s really, um, I’m proud of him for putting up with it. There’s been a few days where I have been a bit needy. Uh, and I can feel him, like, race for another pet! Yeah. Okay. Here we go. Just like— [Biz laughs.] Just putting up with me. So that’s been an ebb and flow. And then—yeah! As far as the dog—like, I’m proud of my little neighborhood! Like, everybody just kind of gets it. They’re like—like, they’ll wave to him. They’ll say hi, but they’re—they’re, for the most part, doing a really good job. There’s like, one neighbor who’s just like, it’s fine. I’m like, is it? I just—just—you can’t. Please stop. [Laughs.]

biz

Is it fine? Yeah. I’m not sure!

renee

Yeah. So that’s kind of been how it’s been. I, uh, I am finding various solutions as it goes. Overall, I am so grateful for this dog. But there’s definitely been a few, y’know, 6 AM mornings where I was like—but we could maybe sleep in? And he’s like, nah.

crosstalk

Biz: Oh, yeah. See—see— Renee: Nah. Nah. We’re getting up.

biz

Here we are. Here’s our checklist of… things that are very similar.

renee

Let’s hear it.

biz

One, I would also like to sleep in.  [Renee laughs.] And children don’t let you do that. There’s also the—you’re not doing it right. This is very similar. Hiding in a bush. [Renee laughs.] Similar. Back in the olden days when we could be in public, it might be in a—like, a rack of clothes. At like a department store. [Renee laughs.] That’s a great—that’s a great place to hide. [Adopts thick Southern accent.] Back when I was a child in the time before—y’know, that was where we used to get our clothes! At a store! And saw people! But now we just—don’t even wear clothes anymore ‘cause we don’t go outside. The dogs wear clothes now. [Renee laughs.] [Regular voice] But I think—I also think there’s gotta be, like, a level of anxiety and stress, as well. Like, I… we’ve got the cats. Steve, Onion, and Bee. I switched to like an online delivery service a while ago for some stuff? And then I was like—and I will take 32 boxes. I didn’t do 32 boxes, guys. [Renee laughs.] I did 2! 200 lbs, it feels like, boxes of cat litter. Um, and—and I was like, I’ll just make that, y’know, a monthly occurrence! And then I was like, whoa, it’s too much cat litter! [Laughs.] I don’t have any place for all this cat litter!

crosstalk

Biz: I was like—I don’t— Renee: [inaudible] overestimated. Yeah.

biz

I don’t order things well. Like I don’t check sizes. The dry food came and it was one of those, like… 60-lb bags of dry? I was like—ho ho! Holy shit!

renee

Yeah. I’ve done the opposite. I was like, great, we’re good to go for the next three months! And it was an 8-lb bag. I was like, ugh. We’re good to go for Friday. Yeah. [Laughs.]

biz

Yeah. For Friday. For a day.

renee

So tough. Yeah.

biz

But like have you had… yeah! What’s the word on the street with dogs? [Laughs.]

renee

[Laughs.] You know, it’s— [Laughs.] [Conspiratorially] What are people saying? Give me the inside dish—what are they saying?

biz

Yeah! Give me the inside dump!

renee

Um, no. I think for the most part it is testament of how much easier it is to have a pet than a kid, based off all the shelters being empty.

biz

Mmm.

renee

Everyone has sprinted to go get an animal. I think mainly because… like, like in your family everybody likes each other but you’re still gonna have, like, grumpy days. And upset days. And just—I don’t wannu! And like, the worst this one has done is hide in a bush because he didn’t wanna play fetch anymore. Like, it’s just so easy. And they’re just so loyal and they’re so sweet. But there’s also, like—there’s some downsides to this, too! ‘Cause Tag and I are spending every single waking moment together. Uh, he’s getting so protective. To the point where he barked at the roommate once! Uh, not in a like—vicious way. But just in a—I’m in charge! I’m second-in-command here!

biz

Oh. Interesting.

renee

Type of a—a deal. So there’s also some… curious fallout of what’s gonna happen if life goes back to kind of the way we had it with our pets. Will they all have, like, separation anxiety now? I dunno.

biz

Well not just separation anxiety, but like, my big fear—as I compare my second child to your dog—uh— [Renee laughs.] Is— [Laughs.] Just so everybody—I think I told this story to begin with, but, like, long before I had children and people would like—bring children to the office to like introduce their babies? And they were, like, babies! I was like, you just pet ‘em and talk to them like dogs. [Laughs.]

crosstalk

Biz: Right? I don’t wanna just be like—who is a baby?! Who is a baby?! Renee: That’s pretty much the same thing. That’s pretty much the gist. Yeah. [Laughs.]

biz

Rubba-rubba back! Anyway. That’s how I talk to animals. So I’m okay— [Laughs.] Comparing my child to your dog.

renee

I, uh, feel like in this time we need to be angry at somebody? So I’m happy to provide that for your listeners. Be angry at me, who’s trying to compare kids and dogs right now. [Laughs.] [Biz laughs.]

biz

So I—Ellis… he’s… he loves his mother.

renee

Yes. Yes. As he should. Yes. With good reason.

biz

It’s a little more than he should. But--

renee

A little much. Yeah. Okay.

biz

That—every week that passes gets stronger. And stronger. And like… needs to physically be on me and in contact with me all the time, as well as like… like when we started, like, weekends would be like—Stefan would just like step in and like take the lead on like doing stuff so that I could just like disappear for a while? But now… that’s really hard? Like now… like, Ellis will be like, y’know, I’m not getting enough Mama time! [Renee laughs.] And I’m like, holy shit! [Laughs.] I just spend all week long together!

crosstalk

Renee: We’ve logged 18 hours today! [Laughs.] Yes! Biz: We have logged—I know! I know!

biz

It’s only 10AM! Right? Like, so—um. And I think about… like, the strides he had made with kindergarten. I mean, he was always good at school. But like, in particular this year there had been some big strides of like… in the morning, not wanting me to be the one that plays with him on the playground at the school. But like occasionally he might go off with a friend. And they come—and I would be like, wooo! Quick! Do I get to talk to another adult?! [Renee laughs.] Right? And then immediately he would come back. But there is a aspect of socialization that’s like really important. And my mom’s dog… he, y’know—hard life before she got him. He is incredibly loyal to my mother. He does not like children. Or really anybody, even my father. Even after all these years. [Laughs.] [Renee laughs.] Y’know? And so… mama’s fine with that ‘cause there are no—I mean, like… she doesn’t need the dog to be—she’s not taking the dog to dog parks. Right? Like this is a dog that’s going around the neighborhood and hanging out with her. And so I do wonder—when this is over—like, I expect kids to have some issues when they go back out. Some push and some shove and some crying—like, stuff that would have naturally worked its way out with a full year of kinder; a full year of first. Things like that. But now… uhhhh. Won’t be.

renee

Yeah. [Laughs.]

biz

But I think about dogs! Like, dogs, I feel like… I feel like it’s almost worse. It’s really—isn’t it really hard to, like, re-socialize—

renee

Definitely.

biz

—a dog?

renee

Yeah. Well, and I’m—my hope is… what was unthinkable getting into this is—what do you mean, the dog parks are closed? What do you mean, the parks are closed? What?! But he’s adapted. And he’s okay. I mean—listen. We’re hiding in a bush every now and again. But beyond that, for the most part, life is okay and there’s a few disappointments here and there but he’s happy with it. So my hope is—it will—we’re gonna hit some… some significant, uh… [Biz laughs.] —socialization issues? [Laughs.] But ultimately if that becomes the pattern again then he will adapt. Again. On the way. Back out.

crosstalk

Renee: But I’m not looking forward to it. Biz: Yeah. That’s like my therapist keeps telling me. [Laughs.] [Renee laughs.]

biz

My therapist keeps saying, look, the groundwork is there. It will eventually kick back in. Right? But I—yeah. I would hope so! Because I would think—that would be a really tough day back at the dog park if dogs were like… growling at other people? Because the natural instinct is—can I pet your dog? Y’know? And then… the dogs—yeah. Dogs just might be more… on edge or less—more protective.

renee

Right.

biz

Of their owner?

renee

Yeah.

biz

Which is—oh, poor babies! Are you not—are you not providing enough FaceTimes or Zooms for your dog? [Renee laughs.]

crosstalk

Renee: I’m apparently not! I gotta get that scheduled! I gotta do— Biz: Do dogs have—at-home learning? [Laughs.]

renee

That’s certainly happened—I’m sure you’ve been part of this, too. Those Zoom hangouts that we’re all exhausted from. Like, the social ones? ‘Cause you’re already on it all the time [though laughter] because work—okay, we gotta Zoom!

biz

Somebody Zoom with me! No, I’m just kidding. [Laughs.]

renee

I’m gonna find you on Friday. We’re gonna Zoom. It’s gonna be great. Um— [Laughs.] But like everybody like holding their dog up trying to get—and the dog, like, they don’t recognize screens! They don’t—I’m sure there’s some very gifted dogs who see a screen. Mine is not one of those. So. [Laughs.] [Biz laughs.]

biz

It’s not the cats looking at cats looking at cats looking at cats on the—yeah. No. My cats don’t care about screens. But I will say—unfair, uh, so I’ll give the animals a shoutout. The first, like… week of online learning Zooms—especially with the pre-teen set—was just everybody grabbing their animals to show each other? Not— [Renee laughs.] —for the benefit of the animals but like—“And this is my dog! This is my cat!” And like— [Renee laughs.] All you see are just like—ugh. I’m just like, I am ready to hear the screams of a thousand children as they get the shit scratched and bit out of them. [Renee laughs.] But these are all very nice animals. But like—I just am like… you poor, poor animals. [Laughs.]

renee

Yeah. Yeah! [Laughs.]

biz

[Through laughter] I’m just like, what the fuck?

renee

Exactly! Well, and that’s sort of the—with the Tugboat bracing for himself. Like, it is—it has been weird to process that like… animals have good and bad days too! There’s days where he is a Velcro puppy and I can’t get him off me. And then there’s days where he’s like, I’m good, man. And please read the room. Please read the room. [Through laughter] I don’t—I do not want a pet right now. So. [Laughs.] [Biz laughs.]

biz

We call that in my house—I’m wearing a hat. Do you see the hat?

crosstalk

Renee: I like it! You gotta leave me alone. Biz: If I am wearing the hat—do not—

biz

You know there’s a hat. [Renee laughs.] You know what you’re about to walk into. ‘Cause there’s a hat.

crosstalk

Renee: That’s perfect! I will, uh— Biz: You choose. You choose!

renee

I’ll, uh, pull Tug aside later and I’ll explain that to him. So okay. There’s a hat. Uh—

biz

There’s a hat. [Renee laughs.] It’s a dog hat. It’s a—yeah. How—how much longer is it until you just start dressing the dog up?

renee

Oh, oh, oh. Whoa. Weeks ago. Weeks ago! [Laughs.] [Biz laughs.] Biz, please. How much longer. What’s wrong with you? [Laughs.] We—because—uh, MaxFunDrive got postponed. Uh, but I got the little, like—we had t-shirts to promote it. So I, uh, I just immediately put Tug in one of the shirts. [Laughs.] [Biz laughs.] You understand! You get it! I was like, well, it’s for him later. It’ll be fine. Uh—

biz

It’ll be fine.

renee

Yeah.

biz

Don’t get that shirt dirty, Tug! [Laughs.] [Renee laughs.] Well, I am happy that once again— [Laughs.] [Renee laughs.] We’ve dismissed the feelings of both pet owners and—definitely not gonna say children-owners. [Renee laughs.] People who have kids in their house! In one fell swoop. But as always, I have enjoyed it immensely. And I look forward to the day—very soon!—where I can pet… your dog.

music

“Ones and Zeroes” by “Awesome.” Steady, driving electric guitar with drum and woodwinds. [Music fades out.]

biz

One Bad Mother is brought to you in part by Story Time Chess. Yes! I—you—all of us—are looking for something to do that is also educational and possibly helps develop a lifelong skill! Introducing? Story Time Chess at home. A teach-it-yourself, digital lesson book that uses fun, engaging stories with interesting, diverse characters to make chess super accessible for kids as young as three! [Laughs.] It’s taught in schools around the world. Now, for the first time ever, anyone can use it at home! Even if you don’t know how to play. You can access lessons online but teach your kids on a real board! Kids never have to see a screen except to check out the fun illustrations. For a limited time, One Bad Mother listeners can get 30% off their first monthly or annual payment by going to Home.StoryTimeChess.com and entering code “bad mother.” Make the right move! Head to Home.StoryTimeChess.com today and enter coupon code “bad mother” at checkout. [Music finishes.]

theresa

Hey, you know what it’s time for! This week’s genius and fails! This is the part of the show where we share our genius moment of the week, as well as our failures, and feel better about ourselves by hearing yours. You can share some of your own by calling 206-350-9485. That’s 206-350-9485.

biz

Genius fail time, Renee! Genius me!

clip

[Dramatic, swelling music in background.] Biz: Wow! Oh my God! Oh my God! I saw what you did! Oh my God! I’m paying attention! Wow! You, mom, are a genius. Oh my God, that’s fucking genius! [Biz and Renee repeatedly affirm each other as they discuss their respective genius moments of the week.]

renee

Genius. I would love to. Um, now it is not a consistent genius, but it is an occasional genius. So we have tried everything—so with Tugboat, we’re going on a thousand walks a day. Uh, also because nobody’s driving, we have infested with squirrels. Squirrels as far as the eye can see! Um, and that is Tugboat’s number one enemy. And it isn’t, uh, like, oh, I’d like to get him. It is, uh, I am amazed my arms are still attached. [Biz laughs.] Type of a, like, lunge to go to the squirrel. So the genius is—if I see the squirrel first. [Laughs.] Then— [Biz laughs.] And it’s far enough away, then I—weirdly, of all the things we’ve tried, the thing that works best is to talk to him. And just be like—I get it, buddy! I know! He’s allowed to be here, too! It’s okay! It’s okay! And just like—it’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay. The whole time? Then he’ll whine and whimper a little bit? But because we’re talking about it, it works? So I guess the— [Laughs.] Genius is use your words— [Biz laughs.] —and— [Laughs.] talk. You don’t need to get that squirrel has been the most, uh, effective thing. And again, it’s not 100% consistent but it’s the most consistently-effective thing we’ve done so far.

biz

Good. I gotta say—you’re doing such a great job.

renee

Thank you. [Laughs.]  

biz

And if you ever find kids in your house, you’re gonna do a great job with them! [Laughs.]

crosstalk

Biz: [High-pitched screaming] ‘Cause you just treat ‘em like a dog! Renee: Thank you so much.

biz

Anyway. [Renee laughs.] Alright. I’m gonna go—my genius, I’m gonna—I’m gonna go to the Bop-It. ‘K?

renee

Let’s hear it! Yeah! Yeah!

biz

The Bop-It just started out as, like, haha! I’m just gonna… I thought it was funny ‘cause we hadn’t pulled the Bop-It out in a while and Ellis had found it and I was, uh, communicating with a friend who’s in Virginia and… the music for Bop-It really moves me, guys. I enjoy it immensely. And— [Renee laughs.] —it was kind of cracking me up… that I was like, Bop-It-ing it and I was like—to my friend—I’m gonna send you a video of me playing Bop-It. Because that is—we’ve known each other for a very long time. And I just thought that’d be fun. And… I make the video and decide—I’m just—not only am I gonna send it to her, I’m just gonna post it! Online!

renee

Perfect!

biz

And then it seemed like an obvious choice to do it the next day. And the next day. And— [Renee laughs.] It brings me… great joy. That it is bringing… so many people… the joy. It has brought out a lot of people that I haven’t spoken to [though laughter] in years on Facebook. Who are like—heyyyy! Y’know. Same old Biz! Or whatever. But like—that has been… fun. And it’s—y’know, it’s not challenging. It’s not like I’m trying to write a play every day! I’m just… playing… the asshole version of Bop-It. ‘Cause it’s a real jerk. So— [Renee laughs.] We have the jerk version of Bop-It. Anyway, so that’s been… kind of a fun escape every day.

caller

[Answering machine beeps.] Hi! This is a genius. I am… one month postpartum and I had the great idea—this is the double genius. In December, I knew I had a baby on the way. For Christmas I asked for an espresso machine so that I wouldn’t be making a daily trip to Starbucks with a newborn! Come to find out—we’d all be in quarantine anyway? So I, um, thought that was a great genius. But I was starting to run out of coffee and then I realized—you can get ground coffee from Starbucks and then pick it up through the drive-thru. So now I don’t have to go to the store and pick up ground coffee and I’m still saving money and I’m still staying home! It’s great! Have a great day, everyone! You’re doing a great job! Bye! [Biz laughs.]

biz

You are a genius! You are a genius before the whole covid virus pandemic trapped in homes forever. You, like, were—it was like a genius prophecy. Is what it was.

renee

Well, and a string of geniuses! ‘Cause also go through the drive-thru to get the—I didn’t even know that! That’s so smart! To get your beans through the drive-thru!

biz

That’s—it’s really smart. I know. You are doing… such a good job! And you order that espresso machine in December ‘cause you cannot get one now!

crosstalk

Renee: Oh, you sure can’t. Oh, you absolutely cannot! [Laughs.] Biz: You cannot get an espresso machine now! [Laughs.]

biz

Failures.

clip

[Dramatic orchestral music plays in the background.] Theresa: [In a voice akin to the Wicked Witch of the West] Fail. Fail. Fail. FAIL! [Timpani with foot pedal engaged for humorous effect.] Biz: [Calmly] You suck! [Biz and Renee repeatedly affirm each other as they discuss their respective failures of the week.]

biz

Fail me, Renee!

renee

Yeah. Oh. I’d love nothing more! [Biz laughs.] And which to choose. Which of the many to choose? [Laughs.] I think—so—or this was early on. In that… I think we were all, like, our lofty goals of what we’re gonna do to keep our dogs, uh, occupied and not get bored. So this online tutorial was just like, here’s how to play a game with your dog! And it’s basically that old-school game of three cups. One ball is underneath the cups and then you move the cups around a little bit. So, uh— [Biz laughs.] It was great. He’s gonna love it. It’s gonna be great. So [though laughter] I—so I do it the first time and I’m moving it and I’m going it—and my showmanship is just off the charts and just great and I was like, maybe I should change my career! [Biz laughs.] Uh, and then I look up and the dog’s not in the room at all anymore. [Biz laughs.] [Through laughter] Just has left. Has completely left the room. And then I like got him back and I was like, no, buddy, I think you’re gonna like this! So I like made sure he saw the ball and I like put it under the cup and I like put the cup on top of it and before I could go into my presentation again, he just took the cup and ran. So… maybe not the best idea to play the cup game with my dog. Epic fail, twice.

biz

Yeah. That is—well, and it’s an emotional fail, too, ‘cause you tried really hard. You were putting on a show— [Renee laughs.] —to, like, just—there was no gratitude.

renee

Right. Thank you.

biz

Which is always disappointing. I love the idea that you—that dog owners—I don’t know why I didn’t think of this! Are going online looking—the same way that like parents are! [Renee laughs.] How do I entertain—

crosstalk

Biz: —this other living thing in my house? Renee: What do I do? How do I—

renee

—keep him not bored? Yeah.

biz

And I—cannot believe somebody’s suggestion… is a ball and cup game. [Laughs.]

renee

Well, but the guy who’s doing it—it was a video and that dog was just like—it’s this one. Yeah.

crosstalk

Renee: Not my dog. Biz: I’ve seen a video of dogs doing yoga!

biz

Uh, and that—not—that—don’t—that’s, like, one dog. Okay.

renee

No. I don’t care for it. What is your fail, Biz?

biz

Bop-It? [Laughs.] [Renee laughs.]

renee

How?

crosstalk

Renee: Explain yourself. Biz: We are at 37 days in, guys. [Renee laughs.]

biz

I’m like—I don’t know what the fuck I’m supposed to do for Bop-It now! Like, is it… like… is this supposed to be funny? Is this supposed to be like a challenge? Like, I just kinda want to go to bed—[yelling] everybody get together and get ready to film it! Stefan, you can’t go for a walk until we’ve filmed it! [Renee laughs.] Like, we certainly can’t do it during the day. It has to be at the end of the day when we’re finally thinking of it again. And then I’m like… alright. Is this—do I just try and go for like, a record? Or is it… like, do I need to do vignettes? And then I’m like—there’s just—I’m enjoying doing them! It’s just that every once in a while, I don’t wanna do it!

crosstalk

Renee: Yeah! That’s fair! Biz: But I’ve made the commitment!

biz

And I… I feel… I am a—I am the type of person to commit. Once committed. And there are a lot of other things that I am letting… fall down the crapper these days. For some reason, this isn’t it. When this is the one that really should be the first one to go!

renee

Disagree.

biz

But it—it definitely… it’s… inching closer and closer to work? [Laughs.]

renee

Yeah. Oh. Yeah. Yeah. I hate it when that happens. Right.

biz

Which fall—which would—to me—falls into a fail category. It’s sort of like, you start doing something new with your kid or your dog—like, a funny voice—and then… they’ll only eat with that funny voice. [Renee laughs.] So like, that is… that is—I—I—you—my audience is my child and I’m just trying to get you to eat your fucking peas. [Laughs.] [Renee laughs.]

crosstalk

Biz: Every night now for the rest of my life. [Laughs.] Renee: That’s it. That’s all I’m trying to do. Right. Right!

caller

[Answering machine beeps.] Hi, Biz and Theresa! This is a fail. Um, basically, what’s the one thing they tell you not to do during a pandemic other than, you know, go out and interact with people? Uh, don’t cut your bangs! Except that’s what I did. Um, they were driving me crazy and… I decided I could do it? I—I don’t know why. The only other time I’ve tried to do it, uh, I messed it up and I cried. [Renee laughs.] So that happened again this time. Um—my bangs are very short. [Biz laughs.] And crooked! [Renee laughs.] And basically… I am not a hairdresser! I don’t know why I think I am. But, um, I cut my bangs anyway! So I suck. You guys are doing a great job. Thanks for the show!

biz

This is—this is why, like… Little House on the Prairie and like, any of those like period pieces back when times were hard and—and people didn’t have barbershops or whatever. None of them had bangs! They allll had hair just like down to their ass. Like, they just never—there were never bangs. And like, bangs, clearly, have become a luxury.

renee

Right.

biz

Of— [Laughs.] Of our society. [Both laugh.] And like—I am sorry that you did that. And I understand it!

renee

Oh, I was cutting my bangs like that all the time! Without a pandemic to blame! It’s happened to me so many times! But I think—as we were talking about earlier, like, it is impossible to think that this could go on longer? Uh, weirdly, it’s stuff like that—have I been helping myself to all the food? Mm-hm.

biz

Oh, yeah!

renee

But when they’re like, hey, this could go on forever, something that makes me feel better is just like, well, my bangs’ll grow out. And I might have time to get healthy again! Like— [Laughs.]

crosstalk

Renee: It’s just—all these problems I’ve created for myself I still have time to fix! [Laughs.] Biz: [Laughs.] Yeah! No one will know! [Laughs.] That’s right!

biz

No one gets to see these horrible mistakes except possibly at your business’s Zoom meeting. Uh—at which point in time—just put up an old picture. Of yourself. [Renee laughs.] As opposed to… that. Uh, a live picture. Uh, yeah. Yeah. I’m sorry. That’s—

renee

It’s—it’s fine. Yeah.

biz

You—you’re doing a [though laughter] horrible, horrible job. [Renee laughs.] And we can see it.

renee

Yeah. [Laughs.] [Biz laughs.] Yeah. It’s right in front of all of us. Yes.

music

“Mom Song” by Adira Amram. Mellow piano music with lyrics. You are the greatest mom I’ve ever known. I love you, I love you. When I have a problem, I call you on the phone. I love you, I love you. [Music fades out.]

music

Jazzy piano music plays in background.

biz

One Bad Mother is supported in part by StoryWorth. Finding the perfect present for mom is tough, especially if you don’t have the luxury of celebrating Mother’s Day together in person. I have been using StoryWorth with my family for years now. Because there is nothing more important to me than collecting the family stories, as well as just learning about my parents! Things that I didn’t already know. Every week, StoryWorth emails your family member different story prompts; questions you never thought to ask, like—what have been some of your life’s greatest surprises? What’s the riskiest thing you’ve ever done? Or—what was your first concert? [Laughs.] After one year, StoryWorth will compile every answered question and photo you chose to include into a beautiful keepsake book that your family can treasure forever. Give your mom the most meaningful gift this year with StoryWorth! Get started right away without the need for shipping by going to StoryWorth.com/badmother. You’ll get $10 off your first purchase! That’s StoryWorth.com/badmother for $10 off!

biz

Hey, Theresa! Let’s call someone today!

music

Upbeat guitar with choral voices.

biz

This week, we are talking to Bess Kalb. Who is an Emmy-nominated writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live! She also writes for the New Yorker’s Daily Shouts. She received a WGA award in 2016. She wrote for Emmy Awards in 2012 and 2016 and for the Academy Awards in 2017 and 2018. She is the author of a new book called—Nobody Will Tell You This But Me. Welcome, Bess!

bess kalb

Thank you for having me! It’s great to be here.

biz

Thank you for joining us! Uh, so for our listeners, uh, we are all on a Zoom right now. And so I’m actually getting to, uh, look at the lovely Bess. And it’s really fun. I feel like just derailing and being like, it’s another person I can talk to! [Laughs.] Before we get into the book, tell us—who lives in your house?

bess

So in my house… we have… my… husband, Charlie. My son, uh, who is eight months old. Two cats. Bear and Al. And… as of this week, we are co-quarantining with my parents! Tom and Robin! [Laughs.] [Biz laughs wildly and at length.]

biz

Sorry! Sorry.

bess

Thank you! Yes. No. That’s—that’s what I did at first but it’s not what I’m doing now. And we’re also doing this in an unorthodox way—we’re not living under the same roof all of the time? My parents moved from New York to Los Angeles a few months ago after my son was born. So we are now—this is incredibly Jewish. We’re now neighbors. They live… like, a two-minute drive away. And so we’re in this kind of, like, exclusive relationship where we only see them and they only see us.

biz

Wow.

bess

And we—like, we all have the same, like, food supply. None of us are leaving the house. It’s delivery—food—delivery groceries only. I don’t know if this is necessarily CDC recommended? [Biz laughs.]

biz

I am laughing because… I went mad years ago? And… I—I just… there are so many layers to why this is just an interesting situation. You are finding yourself in! So with that said—I’m gonna ask you—how are ya? How are you doing? [Laughs.]

bess

I am… um… here? I’m—how I’m doing is—is really… in the moment. I think I’m just in full survival mode. Which is—you can only be aware of your immediate surroundings. Your immediate needs. And… anything after that is too much to handle. For any person. And, like, a very grounding, weird, way of—of—like, anchoring into like a zen way of being? [Biz laughs.] Which is not my natural—I’m an anxious Jew? That’s not my— [Biz laughs.] —natural default? Is having this baby! Around constantly. Who doesn’t know what’s happening and is only dealing with his immediate needs! So it’s like—yeah!

biz

Which is a lot of needs!

crosstalk

Biz: It turns out. Bess: Yeah. It’s a lot of needs. Yeah.

biz

Turns out there’s a lot of needs! We described, uh, having infants in our house on this show, uh, as being in a forest. And… Theresa’s forests were always really lovely places that were like bright and the light was coming through at like, just the right time. Like, it was gorgeous. My forests… were nightmares. [Bess laughs.] Like, where nightmares were born. Yeah! I—so—regardless of whatever forest you are in right now? You’re doing a very good job.

bess

[Through laughter] Thank you.

biz

‘Cause it’s a— [Laughs.] You’re welcome to just—we could just not do an interview and if you just wanted to cry for like 20 minutes? That would be… probably the most normal interview we’ve ever had! So—

bess

That’s great! We could just do like a group cry. Everyone listening can cry. We can cry. It’ll just be a collective, solitary cry! [Laughs.] [Biz laughs.]

biz

Alright. I wanna talk about something else that you birthed, which I know is always insulting to people who have given birth. That is this book. Uh, I know that bringing a book to life, uh, is really difficult and… I love this book. It—this is—this—has been a delight to read? During… uh, this time. And I don’t ever—I—finding reading time is really hard? With kids? And… again, the book is called Nobody Will Tell You This But Me and I have to be honest—I didn’t know what I was about to read? Yeah. I didn’t—I didn’t know! And so I started reading it and I’m like, what is happening? So—uh—and then once I understood the voice and—and where we were coming from, I—it—I just was like, gobble, gobble, gobble—everybody leave me alone. So you wrote this wonderful book. It’s in the voice of your late grandmother, Barbara—or Bobbie—it’s so funny. And so sweet. And you can feel… the love… of this woman. Like, just—oozing—like, oozing out of the book. And so I wanna—it’s like an oral history of her life. And I wanna ask you—how—why… why did you decide to write this and—in particular—through—through her voice? And… what was this process like? I’m ready to sit here for an hour. [All laugh.]

bess

Well, first of all, thank you for saying that and for—for gobbling it and for—

crosstalk

Biz: I gobbled it! [Laughs.] Bess: —finding the time! Truly!

bess

It’s really hard to find the time to do any—I find my attention span is so shot? And like even—I’ve been watching episodes of 30 Rock while pumping? And I watched the same episode twice? [Laughs.] Two times in a row? [Biz laughs.] And I’m thinking—I was just like—I was like anticipating a joke? And it was like—“What am I, a farmer?” and I was like, wait a minute. The reason I know that joke— [Biz laughs.] —is because I watched this last night. And I have no capacity [though laughter] to do anything. So. I’ve been reading comments on Instagram and Twitter about my book and like—half of them, I’m like, do I believe that any—like—if I can’t do anything—but I found out that people are listening to it on audiobook?

biz

Oh, yes!

bess

Um, which is—which was super good tip for me? Because as soon as people were like, I’m listening to your book on audiobook! I’m enjoying it! And various nice things? I was like—oh, maybe I should start listening to audiobooks! [Biz laughs.] And so— [though laughter] I’ve been doing that! So thanks to readers of my book for letting me know that audiobooks are possible. [Laughs.] I spent like four days recording one and now I’m like, oh! David Sedaris reads his own work! That’s—I’m here to promote David Sedaris’s book. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. [Laughs.] [Biz laughs.]

biz

Which, by the way, is a great book!

crosstalk

Biz: To listen to. On audio! [Laughs.] Bess: It is! It’s what I’m reading! I know—yeah—sorry!

bess

This isn’t, like, the polished author being like, thank you so much. My book is the best. [Laughs.] [Biz laughs.] It’s good! Um, yeah. The, um, the—what it was—so what is—to answer your question, Biz, the—why I decided to write this book is I was in love with my grandma. She was my best friend. This was the person that I actually spoke to on the phone the most. Um, we talked every day as I was driving back from work and like a check-in. And if I didn’t hear from her or she didn’t hear from me we would both panic and call my mom. Um— [Biz laughs.] This is just— [Laughs.] This was one of the strongest relationships I have ever had! Um, she helped raise me. My mom went back to work when I was seven weeks old and so my grandma stepped in and, y’know, and let me hear that for the rest of her life. But— [Laughs.] As you know. [Laughs.] Um, she stepped in and really helped raise me! And we were very enmeshed. Very close. Um, as she got sicker toward the end of her life it was very difficult for me to watch this slipping-away of a loved one and so I started saving her voicemails. I ended up saving—and we’re on Zoom now, so I can show you! I don’t know—this’ll be riveting content for your listeners, but here’s— [Laughs.] [Biz laughs.] Here’s me showing—if you can imagine, here’s me showing my, uh, voicemails!

crosstalk

Bess: Of my grandma! And—yeah! [Inaudible.] Yeah— Biz: Oh, it is! It’s just like, Grandma, Grandma, Grandma. That’s so great!

bess

It’s grandma at her various—like, at Massachusetts and New York. Where she would sort of Jewish-ly snowbird. But the, uh— [Biz laughs.] Yeah! In Florida, obviously. But the… book was a grief exercise for me. It was a personal… way to feel closer to her. And I was not sure that it was anything other than a private… sort of… conjuring to feel close to this woman I loved in the only way I know how, which is writing. I’m a writer by trade. I write in Jimmy Kimmel’s voice when I was a writer on his show, which, um, I should that—I should update my bio. [Biz laughs.] I gave notice at Kimmel three days before quarantine started? [Laughs.]

biz

Oh… my god. That’s—

bess

And so—right.

biz

That’s brilliant.

bess

Well yeah! We didn’t know! And my goodbye party was a Zoom party on April 2nd with [though laughter] all of the writers? Um— [Biz laughs.] Which was honestly the best possible— [Laughs.] But um, but I’m used to—by trade I’m used to writing in the voice of somebody else. I—I don’t write as myself. I write as Jimmy or I write in the voices of various people I’m writing speeches for, and… the voice of my grandma, I realized once I started doing this, is like—oh, this is a character I know. Like, this is one that just… sort of… this is what I—this is—I could do it in my sleep. This is—because she spent her entire life with me talking to me. So I sort of had those 10,000 hours of [though laughter] expertise listening to her.

biz

I have to ask, like—when you are… okay. You’re writing in her voice. She is a real person. She’s not a fictional character. And I would have to imagine… that… also being this person who, like helped raise you and was such a part of your life—was— [Laughs.] Was her voice also like on top of you writing in her voice, like, “Are you sure that’s what you wanna do?” [Bess laughs.] Like, it was her voice? Like—

bess

Oh, yeah. There were layers of—

biz

Yeah! Like, voice layers! [Laughs.]

bess

Yeah. [Laughs.] That’s interesting. I mean, yeah. You’re taking me back to a place where it was the kind of thing where my husband would come into the room where I was writing and be like, nope! And shut the door. [Laughs.] [Biz laughs.] I—I’m like—um, it was the world’s, uh, lamest séance. Uh, but— [Biz laughs.] It was just like me hunched over a laptop being like [makes dramatic crying sounds]. Um— [Laughs.] But yeah! I—I found that I know how to—I almost feel like a fraud as an author. It’s like, I know how to do characters. I write as characters. This is a character who’s also a real person that I can just sort of—I can do. Um, but… having authorial control over her life as the, like… scribe. Basically. [Laughs.] Um… I—like being—I felt like in many ways I was like—being dictated to? I was just writing down her stories the way she told them to me? Um, from memory? But there were definitely moments where it was like… give me a little more credit. [Laughs.] [Biz laughs.]

biz

That’s right! That’s right. I—I’m actually doing this work. Yeah. [Laughs.]

bess

Right. Right. Right. [Laughs.] Yeah.

biz

So—I mean, that’s a pretty impactful relationship… that… during the process of writing is—I—I would imagine is very tangible. Especially while… while grieving. How—how are the other relationships—like, how did writing this book, like, affect the other relationships in your life? Like, with your mother? I mean, there’s a lot of mother—

crosstalk

Biz: There’s mothers going through this book. Yeah! A lot of mothers! Bess: Yeah. There’s a lot of mothers. This is a book about—

bess

This is a book about mothers! This is a matrilineal love story. It’s a book about… a… my great-grandmother, a twelve-year-old who escaped from the shtetl in Belarus. It’s of my grandmother, and of my mother! Her only daughter. And, uh, me! Of course. Um, but… I think—so this is something that female friends of mine have—when I was writing the book and sharing versions of the manuscript with them, that they all related to. Which is, they’re very very lucky to have this in common with me. It’s certainly not universal, but it’s something that I’ve found resonated. Which is—there’s a closeness with a grandmother that sometimes, um, didn’t actually… exist between grandmother and mother. That a grandmother can be closer to the grandchild than they were to their own child. Um, and that’s something that I think comes from the distance of not being the enforcer on the ground and not dealing with the, like—put your jacket on; it’s cold! Like, eat your broccoli! Like, to have that set—that remove from the day-to-day allows for sometimes a closer relationship. I’m so, so lucky that I had that. That my grandma, um… sort of screwed up enough with her own daughter that she got this do-over with her granddaughter. And then as I wrote that out as a book and as a narrative, I felt so bad for my mom! That she didn’t have this relationship with the women that I idolized and loved and cherished. This was someone that she ran away from at 16 years old to go to college! And so… I ended up having this sort of empathy explosion for my mom in two major ways last year. One was in writing the book and seeing her mom through her eyes, and the other was in having a child when I was like… oh my god. This is what you went through. [Laughs.]

biz

Yeah. [Laughs.] Yeah. Oh, yeah. That’s a real pill to swallow.

crosstalk

Biz: I gotta tell ya. That’s like… Bess: Yes. Yes. Or not to swallow—

bess

—in which case you have a child! Yeah!

biz

That’s right, yeah! [Laughs.]

bess

Whoops! [Laughs.]

biz

Yeah! Yeah, exactly! [Laughs.] Shoulda had that conversation! Uh, but no. That’s—that empathy… what a—what an experience! And every year that my kids get older, I… get hit with a new wave of empathy.

bess

Oh, yeah.

biz

And—and so—and I didn’t have close relationships with my grandparents, but I know my sister did. And… I know that like… that—what a place to be to have, like, this duo—like, this dual empathy experience you’re having… after having very unique relationships yourself with these two women.

bess

Yes.

biz

Has it—yeah! How did writing this and… having a child basically around the same time… and—and then all this time to think about it! [Laughs.] [Bess laughs.] What did you take away from this process besides the empathy? Or was that—I mean, that’s plenty. By the way.

bess

No, I—I—I think I’m still finding out what I’m taking away from it. But I mean, I wrote the… second half of this book pregnant. And so—and I edited the book pregnant. And—in my first trimester, which is a cool time. [Laughs.]

biz

[Sarcastically] Yeah. It’s a great time. It’s a really fun time.

bess

Yeah. You certainly have your wits about you! [Laughs.] I mean…

biz

You feel great.

bess

You feel awesome. You’re up for anything. [Laughs.]

biz

Yeah! People—people could really see and recognize that you’re going through this so they’re—they’re always offering help, y’know?

crosstalk

Bess: Yeah. That’s right. It’s so visible. Biz: Like, they really—

bess

It’s so visible. Right. [Biz laughs.] The, um, the—so I wrote the—the first draft before I was pregnant, but then had a round of notes back from the editor where I was asked to write more. And I ended up doing—I—I ended up getting the notes back on the manuscript and taking a pregnancy test the same week, over—yeah. Right? Leading up to the holidays. Um— [Laughs.] So I wrote the Belarus escape story—the, like, this harrowing shtetl escape that really happened to a twelve-year-old that I come from! While processing that I was pregnant and I will tell you that writing about a steamship voyage—

crosstalk

Bess: [Through laughter] From Europe to the United States with morning sickness was a— Biz: Yeah! With all the vomit. Yeah.

bess

—was an exercise in—I mean, I—honestly, I will hold it over this kid’s life for the rest [though laughter] of his life. [Biz laughs.] If I’m ever late to pick him up from the movies, I’ll just be like, do you know what I had to do while pregnant with you? Um— [Laughs.] [Biz laughs.] Oh, yeah.

biz

But like, that’s—that makes that in particular, like, that makes that scene… particularly poignant. Because it is—this scene of—I guess she’s your great-grandmother. Telling your grandmother—and I love that your grandmother says—I think she was telling me this ‘cause she thought I was gonna die ‘cause she was telling her when your grandmother was very sick. And… trying to figure out how then she felt about telling the story and then—I love that your grandmother was like, “And now it’s my story. And now it’s your mother’s story. And now it’s your story.” Like, I—that—because you guys all are here because she… took this trip and it’s a—it’s a heavy weight to carry?

renee

Oof! [Laughs.]

biz

But I—but I think it’s like… it’s such a—sometimes weights are good.

renee

Totally.

biz

And I—yeah! I just… I’m almost amazed that that was a story you then added in after the first round of edits. ‘Cause I—it’s—it is… it’s such a grounding story!

renee

Yes. It was a story that I alluded to? But, um… my editor was like, we wanna know about Rose. We wanna know more about this. And the things tha ti added in in the second round—this is—were the story of my grandfather and his business and schemes and the story of my great-grandmother. And it really was such a—I think—I think you… put it… that’s exactly how I feel. It’s that we… carry the… scars and sadness and struggles of our ancestors. As women. As mothers. We own their sorrow and their suffering and it comes out in crazy ways. Um— [Biz laughs.] —that are often unpredictable and often not related at all to what actually happened. But I feel like… in researching Tsarist Russia and the Pale of Settlement and… finding letters and congressional testimony about that journey and piecing together, through primary source documents, and, y’know, calling my old college to ask, like, hi! Um, Russian Studies Department, I guess? [Laughs.] [Biz laughs.] Um—that was like—I—I’m—I’ve paid so much money to you guys. Can you help me out? [Laughs.] [Biz laughs.] Is basically what I said. They were like, no, no. It ends when— [though laughter] you just have to keep paying us. Yeah. [Laughs.] Um, but—I was like, but there is a professor who thought I could write it. [Through laughter] And thanks to Ross Cheit.

biz

Okay. You make this book while you also make this baby and—I don’t think anybody was thinking that we would suddenly be… in this very different world that we’re in right now? And I’m wondering—like, I definitely read the book… with a new… lens. ‘Cause I was reading it while in quarantine. With the book being—y’know, coming out; being out with all this—how—yeah! What—what is that like for you? Has it put an additional filter on it?

renee

Yeah! This was—I mean, it’s—I think the time that it came out, I mean, that’s such a—that’s such an important time. Something I’ve been thinking about a lot. That having this book come out during a global crisis is… um… really daunting for me. Because I—I know that it’s coming to people at a time when a lot of people really need a story of comfort and need a story of resilience. And so what I intended to be just, like, enjoy this beach read about my grandma! [Biz laughs.] Who had a lot of wisecracks and some heartfelt lessons and, y’know, it’ll make you cry! It’ll make you laugh. Fine. Now I’m like, oh god! It’s going to people when they’re, like, clinging to… wisdom! And it’s something that makes me feel like… she’s stepping in at a time when exactly I needed her? And now she’s stepping in at a time when lots of people could need her? And need her wisdom? The line in the book that’s the refrain throughout is something that her zayde used to tell her—her grandfather used to tell her—which is: when the earth is cracking behind your feet, you put one foot in front of the other and go forward. And she would say this to me ad nauseum. She would say it so much that she would roll my eyes when she—she would start it and she would be like, Bessie, when the earth is cracking—I’d be like, yeah, yeah, yeah. Put one front in front of the other and go forward. And now I’m like, oh god! The earth— [Biz laughs.] —is cracking behind my feet! It’s what it feels like every day! You read the news; the entire world is going to swallow you up! You just have to keep going forward! You just have to put one foot in front of the other. And… I feel like I’m so glad that I can dispense her—like, I can be the conduit to like dispense her wisdom to so many people. Because it’s advice that has gotten me through trivial things. It’s now advice that is feeling pretty literal. And… so I’m glad that… Bobbie can come in and make people laugh and cheer people up, but—which is a big part of who she was for me. She was the funniest person I knew. Um, but… she can also really be a source of strength. During a time when people really need it.

biz

That… like I said, the lens… that… y’know, I have while reading it—it really is—it’s just like—we don’t—we—we’re—we can’t be close to a lot of our people right now? And… it was like having… y’know, somebody right there with me. And so it’s… and—and she does! She is a wonderful voice to have right now. In your… in my head. I’m sure that she is, but I hope that her voice is still in your head. [Laughs.]

renee

Oh, yeah.

biz

Very loud right now! [Laughs.]

renee

Oh, yeah. [Laughs.] All the time.

biz

And Bess, thank you so much for joining us! And, um—

renee

Oh, thank you!

biz

And you’re doing a wonderful job. And… we will make sure everybody knows where they can get this book!

renee

Yes! Um, you can buy Nobody Will Tell You This But Me and support a local bookstore, um, by Bookshop.org. If you’re going to buy it, I suggest you support an independent local bookstore when you do. They are struggling right now and let’s keep the lights on for those neighborhood jewels.

biz

Absolutely.

music

“Telephone,” by “Awesome.” Down-tempo guitar and falsetto singing. Brainwaves send a message: Pick up the phone (When you, I call) Arm is moving now, no longer stone (When you, I call) Hand reaches out with a will of its own (When you, I call) [Music fades out.]

promo

Music: Fun, cheerful music. Kirk Hamilton: Video games! Jason Schreier: Video games! Maddy Myers: Video games! You like 'em? Jason: Maybe you wish you had more time for them? Kirk: Maybe you wanna know the best ones to play? Jason: Maybe you wanna know what happens to Mario when he dies? [Someone chuckles.] Maddy: In that case, you should check out Triple Click! It's a brand new podcast about video games. Jason: A podcast about video games?! But I don't have time for that! Kirk: Sure you do. Once a week, kick back as three video game experts give you everything from critical takes on the hottest new releases— Jason: —to scoops, interviews, and explanations about how video games work— Maddy: —to fascinating and sometimes weird stories about the games we love. Kirk: Triple Click is hosted by me, Kirk Hamilton. Jason: Me, Jason Schreier. Maddy: And me, Maddy Myers. Kirk: You can find Triple Click wherever you get your podcasts, and listen at MaximumFun.org. Maddy: Bye! [Music finishes.]

promo

Music: Chill elevator-style music. Speaker: Hey, podcast fan! We have a quick favor to ask! We’d like to get a better idea of who you are and what you care about! So. If you have a couple moments to spare, go to MaximumFun.org/adsurvey. There, we’ve got a short, anonymous survey that won’t take any more than ten minutes to fill out. Plus, if you finish it, you’ll get a 10% discount on our merch at the MaxFun store! MaxFun shows have always relied on support from our members and always will. The survey will help keep the few ads we do run relevant and interesting for you! Again, that’s MaximumFun.org/adsurvey—all one word—and thanks for your help! [Music fades out.]

biz

What a delight talking to Bess Kalb! Wasn’t she wonderful?! She was so nice. And her new book—again—is called Nobody Will Tell You This But Me, which I think… segues nicely into… something else no one will tell you but me. And that is… the words that spring forth from a mom having a breakdown.

caller

[Answering machine beeps.] [Tearfully] Thank you for telling me I’m doing a great job. This is a breakdown. A pandemic breakdown. So… um, trying to be responsible and stay away from stores. During this pandemic. And… I need to get some things for my baby. And… I used a very popular ordering service that costs a hefty amount to get free shipping each year. And… I have been locked out of my account. And I have called six times! To get that—into my account! And every time they say someone will contact me within 24-48 hours and no one does. And every time I try to ask—talk to someone else. They say there’s no one else to talk to. They don’t have any supervisors. And there’s nothing that they can do but send this magical form that talks to magical people that can’t be reached. [Someone laughs quietly.] And… I know that they’re just doing their job and following the instructions they’re supposed to follow, but I’m just… losing my mind a little bit because I just wanna order this stuff for my baby! It’s bad enough that I gotta be stuck in the house and… I can’t just run to the store! And now I can’t order the things that we need. So. Thank you for listening. We’re all doing a great job, especially right now. Bye.

biz

Yes… you are.

renee

You really—I have empathy tears. Oh, buddy! I know!

biz

You are doing… yeah. Such a good job. Of course you are going crazy. Of course you are—it is like… the—me—I—the list— [Laughs.] There are two things just off the top of my list that just gives you— [Renee laughs.] —like, full-on crazy permission. One is… there’s a baby in your house. [Laughs.]

renee

Yeah. [Laughs.] Just— [Laughs.]

biz

Bye-bye! You are crazy. And two, there’s a pandemic going on. And that’s making us all insane. And then… like, on the best of days. Dealing with… like… accounts. And, like, this kind of thing that you’re dealing with? Is… the worst. Like, we’ve talked about on the show before, like, this whole notion of like… like, insurance! Okay? Like, insurance and doctor’s appointments and getting people like registered for school and getting, like—all the things you have to fucking register and go online for or you get an email or your account gets locked out or your password no longer works or whatever—it takes… so much effort? And time. To deal with it. And that is not something… that we have. And I just… could go on forever about the garbage notion that suddenly we all have all the time in the world! [Renee laughs.] To like, learn mountain climbing or whatever it is we were gonna do. No! And staying on the phone and trying to figure this out is… maddening. It’s maddening! And—

renee

Especially when there’s no answer! It’s so frustrating! Of just, like, send me to somebody who is actually there! And that person doesn’t exist is the most infuriating thing.

biz

I know! And the—like—the primal instinct of getting food for your kid?

renee

Uh-huh. Yeah. Yes.

biz

Is a powerful one? And I just— [Laughs.] I don’t know why. [Renee laughs.] This is one of those situations in which I like envision my mother like going either Julia Sugarbaker-style off from Designing Women or like—or going like Steel Magnolias-style off on this poor company. You’re being very generous with the people who work there and you are right to do that. You’re doing a remarkable… job. You are a incredible parent and I know that you have found a solution to this. Because you are awesome. You are all awesome. And you are doing… a really good job. Renee?

renee

Yes.

biz

What did we learn today?

renee

Well— [Biz laughs.] All parents are heroes. So—my goodness! [Laughs.]

biz

I was going to go with dogs are like kids! But—

crosstalk

Biz: —that’s also—that’s also good. That’s also good. Renee: Sure! Sure! Or that. Or that! Sure. Uh— [Laughs.]

biz

But I mean—but for real. I—

crosstalk

Biz: —with all, like, flippancy aside. I— Renee: What did we learn? I think—yes.

biz

I do think that like… any—any chance we get to… recognize that there’s always somebody who’s got it harder and there’s always somebody who has got it easier—that like, none of that negates that what each one of us is going through… be it with family members; with children; with pets; with… roommates. Being completely by yourself. Like, all of it? Is worth, like, shouting and yelling about. And like—it all—it all poses a struggle. And I—in all honesty, listening to you talk about the stuff that you’re dealing with? With Tugboat? I… I hear you and see you? And I actually can relate because it is very similar! To like— [Renee laughs.] —the frustration and the concerns and the, like, worries that I have about… y’know, my kids? Y’know? I—I obviously understand the difference between dogs and children. But—

renee

Sure. Of course.

biz

This isn’t about the dogs and children? [Renee laughs.] It’s about you? And—

renee

Thank you. [Laughs.]

biz

—the experience that you’re having? And, uh, yeah! I… I just… it’s really hard for everybody.

renee

Yeah. I do— [Biz laughs.] —agree. And I think you’re right! Like, what did we learn? I guess, for me, it was nice to like hear that, oh, solutions are temporary for everybody! And that is infuriating! But you’re gonna come up with something else. Like, it’s maddening? But also you can handle it. Like— [Laughs.]

biz

Yeah! We always say, like… you get to make a choice. The best choice that you can make. Given the day. And… the next day, you get to make a new choice!

renee

A new choice! Yeah.

biz

If the first one didn’t work out. No one’s keeping a list.

renee

Good.

biz

No one’s actually, like… [Laughs.] [Angrily] You suck for changing your mind on how you wanna do this! [Laughs.] [Renee laughs.] You’re a monster for trying to problem-solve and fix things! So yeah! Like… yeah. I think that’s—

renee

I love it!

biz

That’s fair. Uh—

renee

Incredible. I’m in the best mood. I know that you guys are, uh, going through a living hell, but I had a great time. [Laughs.]

crosstalk

Biz: I know! I—this is— Renee: [Through laughter] This is wonderful. Thank you so much.

biz

This is my special place, Renee. I get to thank you for joining us—

crosstalk

Biz: —in this special place. Renee:  Happily! [Laughs.]

biz

It’s where everything is normal!

renee

Yes!

biz

Um… [Renee laughs.] Everybody? You are doing… a remarkable job. We’ve been here for an absurd amount of time. More time is coming. I really hate that there’s more time coming. But you’re all doing it. You’re all… you’re all waking up. [Laughs.] [Renee laughs.] Going back to sleep. And that— [Laughs.] [Renee laughs.] That’s showing up! In a pandemic, in my opinion. You’re all doing a good job. Let’s… continue to really see each other. And continue to really try and find ways to support each other. Y’know, I—people say you can’t tell if someone’s smiling behind a mask, but I don’t think that’s true! [Renee laughs.] I think you can. It’s in the eyes.

crosstalk

Renee: I think you can tell. I think you can tell. Yeah. Agreed. Biz: I think it’s in the eyes. And—

biz

—we will continue… to do this.

renee

Yes. [Biz laughs.] Because we have to.

biz

Because we— [Renee laughs.] —don’t really have a choice! And that’s okay. What interesting yarns we will spin one day… to our—

renee

Oh, boy.

biz

—our—the younger generations.

renee

Mm-hm.

biz

Theresa? Wherever you are—know you don’t have to fucking listen to this episode. [Laughs.]

renee

[Through laughter] No. Absolutely not. That is the last thing you have to do. [Laughs.]

biz

You are doing… a remarkable job. Renee? You are doing a very good job.

renee

Thank you. And—

biz

You really are!

renee

Biz. You—as you’re giving all these pep talks, I genuinely was like—gosh, she’s phenom—like, I’m gonna use the word ‘phenomenal!’

crosstalk

Biz: Don’t use that word. Renee: You are doing a phenomenal job!

renee

But it’s true! It’s—you’re killing it. I’m so impressed. Great job.

biz

Well, thank you very much. And nobody panic—there will be a Bop-It video—

renee

Yesss!

biz

—forever.

renee

[Through laughter] Perfect. Good.

biz

We will talk to you guys next week.

crosstalk

Biz and Renee: Byeeeee!

caller

“Mama Blues” by Cornbread Ted and the Butterbeans. Strumming acoustic guitar with harmonica and lyrics. I got the lowdown momma blues Got the the lowdown momma blues Gots the lowdown momma blues The lowdown momma blues. Gots the lowdown momma blues Got the lowdown momma blues You know that’s right. [Music fades somewhat, plays in background of dialogue.]

biz

We’d like to thank MaxFun; our producer, Hannah Smith; our husbands, Stefan Lawrence and Jesse Thorn; our perfect children, who provide us with inspiration to say all these horrible things; and of course, you, our listeners. To find out more about the songs you heard on today’s podcast and more about the show, please go to MaximumFun.org/onebadmother. For information about live shows, our book and press, please check out OneBadMotherPodcast.com.

theresa

One Bad Mother is a member of the Maximum Fun family of podcasts. To support the show go to MaximumFun.org/donate. [Music continues for a while before fading out.]

speaker 1

MaximumFun.org.

speaker 2

Comedy and culture.

speaker 3

Artist owned—

speaker 4

—Audience supported.

About the show

One Bad Mother is a comedy podcast hosted by Biz Ellis and Theresa Thorn about motherhood and how unnatural it sometimes is. We aren’t all magical vessels!

Join us every week as we deal with the thrills and embarrassments of motherhood and strive for less judging and more laughing.

Call in your geniuses and fails: 206-350-9485. For booking and guest ideas, please email onebadmother@maximumfun.org. To keep up with One Bad Mother on social media, follow @onebadmothers on Twitter and Instagram.

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