I began reading Greek Tragedy a couple of years ago, and while I first thought Stephanie Klein was self-absorbed and someone I would walk away from if I were to meet at a party, I can honestly say I had changed my mind. Her writing changed my mind. That says mountains about someone if they have that capacity in their work. I truly enjoy Stephanie Klein’s writing; I bought her book Straight Up and Dirty. I read her blog daily. I feel genuinely sad when her children are not doing well. I will be one of the first in line to buy her next book, Moose. And would NOT walk away at the opportunity to meet her. Plus, I always felt we were kindred spirits since we share so much: We are both mothers! We are both writers! We share the same first name! Our maiden names rhyme where only the first two letters are different! Kindred souls, I tell ya.
So when I woke this a.m. and saw that she commented on my Bra Nazi post, I thought, “COOL! Stephanie Klein read my blog!”
Then, I read the comment:
SK: 1) Do you think using the genius of Larry David/Jerry Seinfeld and just changing "Soup" to "Bra" is the most clever you can be?
MM: OUCH! She’s right. Unclever! Stolen wit even!
SK: 2) Do you find using the word Nazi as you do in this context trivializes the holocaust?
MM: No, but shouldn't "holocaust" be capital?
SK: These questions might seem bitchy…
MM: Yeah, they kinda are.
SK: They absolutely are not meant to be…
MM: Oddly enough, I do believe her when she says this.
SK: I genuinely want to know what you think. And I ask because these are things I struggle with in my own writing. I ask myself if it's cheating, taking what someone else made funny (a long time ago) and just glomming onto it, and I wonder if it does at this point just trivialize what so many went through.
I had a weight nazi, a bra nazi (actually I called her Mother Russia... so, no, she wasn't a nazi), and I used to live across the street from the real soup nazi.
MM: Wait! Stop! On to more pressing issues! You lived across the street from him? The Soup Nazi! Did you get the crab bisque? Was it really good soup or just OK soup? How was the bread? I wonder if it was hard as a rock? Did you see the actual filming of that Seinfeld episode? Was he as scary in real life as he was on TV?
Stephanie, let me ask you this—the first time you saw the Soup Nazi episode, did you laugh? Or did you feel like Jerry and Larry, who are Jewish, hurt you by trivializing the Holocaust? Honestly, I would really like to know if it made you sad, personally? Or if you felt the need to write to the Seinfeld show and tell them they were trivializing a major historical event that left so many devastated?
I don’t think most people think the way you do. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I just think you’re different. Different is not bad. And that you have more opinions and spend a lot of time thinking. Which again, not bad. Time-consuming yes, but not bad.
SK: Though I do think making references like that, to pop culture, is stealing someone else's funny, or someone else's genius. It's like taking the easy way out... to, for example, describe someone as An Eddie Haskell type. When we reference pop culture icons in our writing (and I am totally guilty of this), I think it's being lazy.
MM: True. There are more clever ways of describing a person, instead of saying Eddie Haskell type. Agreed. But I don’t think I was being lazy. I think I wanted to make an immediate connection with the reader, have them say, “Oh, I totally know what she’s talking about.” I truly don’t think that hard about writing.
I’m thinking about it now though. After I read the comment, I was like, “Hmmm.” She stumped me. I don’t know what to say. Don’t know how to reply.
I think the Soup Nazi is a relatable pop culture reference. I imagined if there were to be a Bra Nazi, she would be like the Soup Nazi. I was using a popular icon to bring familiarity to my writing. I never considered in writing that or showing the clip that I was stealing, perhaps even plagiarizing another’s work or idea.
When I write this blog, I don’t ‘hem-and-haw’ (HATE THAT PHRASE, and now I’m over-thinking it… Should I use it? Can’t I come up with something more clever? Did someone else say ‘hem-and-haw’ in a sitcom and would that be technically stealing someone’s idea or being lazy by choosing this phrase?)
I just don’t think this way. When I write, I’m just filling the page with thoughts in my head, and I try to be true to how I’m feeling, no matter if it makes my mom mad that I’m telling virtual strangers about my Xanax prescription or describing interesting ways to use a shower head. Dear God, I hope no one Googles, “interesting ways to use a shower head.” See, I just wrote that. It’s what came to me.
I think in a round-about way, Stephanie has just called me out as an unclever lazy racist plagiarizer who gloms onto popular culture icons to benefit her writing! All because of my bra-fitting experience! How cool is that? In a strange way, I kinda feel honored by being called out by Stephanie, because despite her comment seeming bitchy, I really don’t think she intended to be; I’d like to believe her, and I completely admire her as a writer.
Some of the things that come out of me, verbal or literal, might not make sense. Some people may think I’m being a word thief. As for the Holocaust, the thought that I might be hurting someone’s feelings or trivializing a major historical event did not even cross my mind. However, now that I’m turning all introspective, I am sitting here wondering, "Was this wrong of me?" I would never in a million years make some obscure joke about people falling from the sky on 9-11, so I can see why she’s asking. I quite possibly turned a major life-altering event into a joke. Certainly, if you know me, you know that was not my intention.
How many readers did I offend by calling the Bra Lady a Bra Nazi? You have to admit, calling her a Bra Nazi has more impact that calling her the Bra Lady. Perhaps I’ve offended her?
I’m thinking about it. Because of my heritage, I probably have relatives who were killed during the Holocaust. I may even have relatives who killed others during the Holocaust. But when I sat down to write my apparently now unoriginal tale of my experience of getting fitted for a new bra, my sole intent – my ONLY intent – was to maybe make a few readers laugh.
And looking back to the original post (which wasn’t so original after all!), I think I probably also owe Fergie an apology. Cuz I stole her shit also.
But you know what? I’m STEPHALICIOUS! So delicious.
S to the T, E P the H the Eee….
Ain’t no other lady stealing words like me!