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Judy Gold can go from zero to 140 decibels in less time than it takes to jerk a phone away from your ear. Here's how I found out. Judy is walking into her New York City apartment after being away for several days, describing her collaboration with Kate Moira Ryan, coauthor of her new book: "Kate came at it from a very historical angle, and it was so interesting to have someone else look at my life through their own perspective because My fucking cat just fucking...oh, my God, I fucking hate him! The fucking garbage pail is on the floor with fucking chewed-up Q-tips all over the place. Anyway, continue."
It's the way she was raised. Her mother routinely leaves her hysterical phone messages--"Why haven't you called in 10 minutes? Are you dead?"--always signing off with a nonchalant "So long." In her book Gold chronicles these inherited irrational neuroses, along with some nuggets of Judaic wisdom and stories from more than 50 other Jewish mothers, many culled from her hit off-Broadway show of the same name.
Why are the Jews so funny? For me it was a coping mechanism. I was a six-foot-tall gay 13-year-old. And humor is how we communicated in my family. We couldn't talk about anything substantive, but we could tell a joke.
As you get older, do you see yourself becoming more like your mother? Oh, great, I'm going to kill myself after this interview. Absolutely. I've picked up a lot of her habits. The other day I said to Henry [in wounded yenta voice], "I hope you treat your friends and teachers better than you treat me." I thought, Oh, my God. I'm Ruth Gold Jr.
You and your ex, Wendy, share custody. Yeah, and we live in the same building.
So they can just go down to her place whenever they want? Well, there are boundaries. It's about half the time at my place and half at hers. It's just so much easier, especially when you forgot the soccer shirt at her place and you don't have to get in a cab and go across to town to get it.
Raised with two Jewish mothers, do your kids have twice the guilt? Well, Wendy's only half Jewish, so we lucked out there. But we parent so differently. She's the disciplinarian, the drill sergeant. I'm more like, "Oh, you peed all over the floor? OK. I'll scream, but you're not going to get in trouble."
Speaking of guilt, you've been to a lot of therapy. Yeah, and now I'm dating a therapist. Henry said to Wendy, "Isn't it great that Mommy's dating a therapist? Now she can have therapy whenever she wants it."
I've been reading about these young Orthodox Jews coming out of the closet and not giving up on their faith. Pretty amazing. I know. But I understand that. See, here's what I think: People always say, "You're gay, you're gay, you're gay." That's not who I am. That's part of who I am. It's how I think. It's a way of life. And I think it's the same for every religion. If you grew up Catholic or Protestant and it's a positive thing in your life, you don't want to give that up. And who's to say you should have to?
I'm going to throw a few hypothetical traumatic scenarios at you, and you tell me the best Jewish food to combat each with. Ready? Brilliant. Ready.
A really bad breakup. I'm going with brisket.
Turning 40. Bagels, lox, whitefish, and herring.
Mom is coming to visit for a week. Chicken soup with arsenic in it.
Death in the family. Oh, that is so deli. That's turkey, pastrami, corned beef, coleslaw, and Dr. Brown's black cherry soda.
You sound so sure of that one, like it's in the Torah. It is. When I think of death, I think of corned beef and potato salad.