Rachel Ament and her friends often shared humorous anecdotes about their lives that were variations on a theme: their overprotective, worrying Jewish moms who smothered them with love.
“My mom is probably every Jewish stereotype scrunched into one,” Ament says. “At the root of all these stereotypical, worrying, overprotective moms, is love.”
The Washington, D.C.-based freelance writer and social media writer for Capital One decided that it would be fun to invite Jewish women writers she admires — mostly bloggers, standup comics and actors — to contribute stories about their mothers for an anthology.
The result, “The Jewish Daughter Diaries: True Stories of Being Loved Too Much by Our Moms,” was released this week, just in time for Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 11.
The book features 27 essays: The youngest contributor is writer and BuzzFeed senior editor Lauren Yapalater, 24; the oldest is standup comedian Wendy Liebman, 53.
Ament contacted about 40 writers, but not everyone signed on. Actress Mayim Bialik of “The Big Bang Theory” said yes. So did Jena Friedman, a producer with “The Daily Show,” and Deb Margolin, a playwright and actor. Comedian Sarah Silverman and essayist Sloane Cosley said “no” — too busy, their publicists said.
Many of the essays focus on dating and their mothers’ strong desire to see them married. That includes Ament’s chapter, “Seth Cohen Is the One for You.”
Ament was in second grade, she writes, when her mother “would point out different snot-drenched boys in the carpool lane at my school, insisting that they were meant for me.” No matter that at the time, Ament believed boys had cooties and that by the time she liked boys, they were “rarely of the Semitic kind.” That didn’t stop her mom from declaring that the fictional Seth Cohen from the TV series “The O.C.” would be her match.
Yet after meeting a Jewish guy at a “Matzo Ball” dance who was ready on a first date to bring her home to meet his mother, Ament texted her mother to say she was ready to meet Seth. “I figured that even fictional characters from Fox TV programs would be more promising than the eligible young men you meet at the Matzo Ball,” she writes.
Among Ament’s favorite essays is one by Lauren Greenberg, who wrote for Whitney Cummings’s “Love You, Mean It” E! TV show. When Greenberg turned 30, her mother created a JDate profile for her.
“Why would I want to date some guy who hung around to talk to a girl’s mother?” Greenberg writes. “Like, I’d be all, ‘Glad you and my mom hit it off. Let’s make out!’ Ew. No. Ew.”
Greenberg didn’t follow up with any of the men her mother prescreened, although she concedes that it is “something I now regret. My mother put a lot of effort into screening potential sons-in-law and all I did was roll my eyes at her.”
She figures she might have a second chance. “Maybe this year, she’ll send a video to ABC, explaining why I would be the next ‘Bachelorette,’ ” she writes.
Ament doesn’t worry about perpetuating stereotypes with her book. “I don’t think as a culture we should ever be scared to talk about ourselves, to talk about our identity, but I do think we should be careful about how we talk about it, and talk about it in a very full, multidimensional way,” she says.
While Jewish mothers in the past were often ridiculed and demonized, Ament says the writers in her book portray their moms “in a very loving, heartfelt, affectionate way.”
Not all the essays focus on mothers. Sometimes it’s a grandmother, such as blogger Almie Rose’s 5-foot-1, feisty Oma, a Holocaust survivor and “slip of a thing” who was “bawdy, blunt” and sarcastic.
“But on the opposite side of that fire and sarcasm was a fierce love for her children and grandchildren,” Rose writes. “Oma’s love was immense and unconditional.”
Kerry Cohen, a child of bitter divorce, looked to her grandmother as a model for relationships. She “could teach me things when it came to men,” writes Cohen, whose books include “Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity.”
“It wasn’t just because she’d been married for fifty-seven years to a man who adored her until the end. It’s that her standards were so much higher than mine.”
“The Jewish Daughter Diaries: True Stories of Being Loved Too Much by Our Moms” by Rachel Ament (208 pages, Sourcebook, $14.99)