Kelly Oxford is anything but subtle. At 17, she made her way to L.A. just to stalk Leonardo DiCaprio. She once accused a blind man of having sight—during a stint as a therapy assistant. Her hilarious, uncensored Twitter account has cult status, with over 490,000 followers (including several celebrities such as Jessica Alba, Seth Rogen and Jimmy Kimmel) hanging on her every tweet. And Hollywood studios are snapping up her scripts as fast as she can write them. So it's no surprise that Oxford's new book of autobiographical essays, Everything Is Perfect When You're a Liar, is a riot. In it, the 35-year-old mom gives fans old and new exactly what they want: a look at Mrs. Oxford's life thus far without the 140-word count. We recently talked to the Canada native and L.A. transplant about being a working mom, keeping her 14-year relationship alive and well and having to explain to her daughter that she once had sex in a park.
Have you ever had to explain your writing to your kids ... such as that amazing scene in the chapter, How I Met Your Father, where you have sex with your now-husband for the first time in a park? Which, by the way, almost had me peeing my pants.
I think when they're old enough (daughter Salinger is 11, son Henry is 9, and youngest daughter Beatrix is 4) obviously I'll let them read it, but I haven't had to explain any of that to them yet. My daughter (Salinger) is just at the age now where I'm going to have to be very frank and very straight-forward with her about sex. And she's not going to want to hear about it from me because it's an uncomfortable subject … you don't want to hear about it from your mom! But who else do you want your kid to hear it from? You want them to hear all this information from you.
There's so much access to all this material about sex online. And even PG-13 movies talk about sex. You don't want to act like "I can't talk to them about this" because somebody else is going to, so why not hear about how your mom and dad had sex in a park? People DO do that. She can be like "Look, my mom and dad had sex in a park and they're still together 14 years later." She'll know that if you have dirty sex with someone you love in a park you don't have to feel shameful about it. You know your parents did it, and they survived it and had a family.
While some women struggle with the work and motherhood balance, do you find you're able to use it to your advantage since your kids give you so many funny things to write about?
I've been writing so long and I've been a mom for 11 years, so the whole mom thing isn't new to me … I'm good at tuning them out when I need to. But it's great that I get to spend time with them because I get to share all the funny things they say and sort of add that to my menagerie of insane family stories. There are so many people that write about families—whether it's on a sitcom or a movie—that are at work all day and don't actually get to hang out with their families as much as they want to, because they're a great source of material. I get to do that because I don't have a nanny and I'm actually with them all the time, so I kind of have a jump on that.
Is there anything you won't write about your kids or that you try to stay away from?
My audience has grown around the things that I do share, which are the comedic moments within the family. So I really don't shy away from those things at all. I try not to share too much because I do want there to be some surprises when one of my pilots finally does [get made into a television show] or a movie … I want to still have that material and those jokes. But that's not to say I haven't put some of the things I've written in screenplays or in my book on Twitter. People will read my book and say, "She tweeted that!" because, yeah, I was writing in my book that day and wanted to see if it was as funny as I thought it was. And [if the reaction is good], I'll be like "Oh, ok! It is as funny as I thought it was." Now I've got more steam to keep writing my book. It's almost like some weird inception sort of thing.
Oftentimes, people—particularly women—have their own internal time tables: By X age I want to have accomplished this. Did you ever feel that sort of pressure?
No. Nothing like that. I think I'm really fortunate … I never felt pressure. I had Sal when I was 23, and I never thought "This is too young to be doing this" or "I should have a career first." I was in a great relationship and we were definitely not well off, but we could have a baby and that was fun and I felt trust in that. I have always followed what worked for my husband and I. If I wanted to do it I would do it.
Even when I was a kid I never followed any certain rules. You can tell from the book, when I was a teenager I wasn't going to university, I was going to L.A. to [try to] date Leonardo DiCaprio. That was more fun. That's always been the way I saw life. Just doing whatever's in your heart and whatever excites you. It isn't a fatalistic thing, like "I only have one life and I don't want to waste it and I don't want to have any regrets." It's just sort of more of a selfish thing, like "Why can't I do whatever I want? Why would anybody tell me no?" If I don't feel like going to university and becoming a doctor, then I'm not going to do that.
There's a chapter called Vegas in your book where you talk about getting old and hating it and wanting to "take charge," so you take a trip to Las Vegas to hang out with David Copperfield. Are you someone who feels wiser as you've gotten older, or does the thought depress you?
I feel like you can be reborn so many times in your life. Can you tell I watch Oprah? I think you have rebirths over and over. I watch it with family members, and I watch it with mentors and people I look up to. Every day excites me now as much as it did when I was younger. I just have to remember, and I think a lot of people do, that who we were [when we were younger] is still who we are. The passions you had when you were younger are still in you, even though you may have had to adjust your lifestyle. If you can tap into those passions as often as possible I think that's what keeps everybody young and interesting and creative throughout their life.
In the online world, you can get instant feedback via comments, tweets, etc. on what you're writing. Did you ever adjust what you were putting out there based on people's reactions?
[In the beginning] I found that people weren't as interested in what I was interested in. Like the stupid tweets I would write about watching birds or TV. I'm like, "Well, yeah, obviously I wouldn't write about that [in a book] so it makes sense that people aren't interested in that." But they are interested in my harsher, more critical point of view. OR when I call BS on things. People like that. So I was like "If this is the part of me that people want to hear, then that's what I'm going to give them." But it was never "I'm getting criticized for this so I'm going to stop." If anything, if I get criticized for something it makes me want to fight back. I sort of feel like I have a bit of lawyer in me.
As a writer, do you feel like Twitter has opened a lot of doors for you?
It made my audience grow so much. And it was really cool that I could [tweet and blog] from my own house without stressing out about being edited in any way. I was always just putting out my own material. And having famous people and celebrities [follow me] was such a huge encouragement to keep writing, knowing that I was entertaining the entertainers.
I didn't go to school and I never seriously published anything, so I never got feedback in the form of a check before to keep going. But having all these people in entertainment wanting to call me to talk about writing things for them … I was like "Oh, wow. Now I know what I'm doing is right." At the same time, they were equally as important to me as everybody else that followed me, because the feedback was helping me develop the type of writing style that I knew was working. I needed every single person that was out there to be out there at the same time.
You recently celebrated your 14th anniversary with your husband, James. Do you have any tips for how you keep things fun and new?
We're just really good friends and we have a really similar sense of humor. But we both come to the table with totally different jokes, which I think is really helpful for both of us. Marriage is such a crazy thing. You go through so many moments where you say "Uggggh. Why am I married now?" and then you're like "Well, it would be way more difficult to go through a divorce," and then suddenly the next day you're in love again. A lot of people go into marriage and they think it's going to be something it isn't. They don't realize people evolve, and who you are in your 20s is not really the same person you are in your 40s, so let's just evolve together. You're not going to be in love every day. Sometimes you're not going to want to be together, but suddenly the next week you're more in love with the person.
The title of your book is Everything Is Perfect When You're a Liar. Are there certain people that you think are the most guilty of pretending like everything is perfect?
I think when I do see people with this façade, it's more of a comfort thing. [Women] will tell their closest friends what's really going on, but when they're out in the world and pushing their baby stroller, they're not just going to stop and tell the person next to them "I am so over this baby today. If I could just take one day away from this kid ..." People are not going to say that. They're just going to keep cooing and talking about how great their baby is or how well they sleep through the night and leave all the horrible stuff out. It's such a 1950s homemaker mentality that we're sort of stuck with even though [women] are out there and in the workforce.
It would be great to step up and say, "Hey, I actually like cooking … but it kind of sucks when your baby is kind of boring." It's ridiculous, because everybody knows that babies are boring. We might not have been able to say it before, but it's true. Babies are boring. They just sit there and sleep. They're beautiful and you love them but they're not going to entertain you all day long. They're just time bombs waiting to throw up and crap their pants all day long, and that gets really boring especially to women in our generation who have grown up knowing we can do whatever we want. And then to all of a sudden be sitting there with this thing that just barfs and eats and poops. You're like, "Oh wow. Is this it?" If we can still meld our passions and ourselves with motherhood, then I think that's the trick. I think the more we talk about it the more comfortable we'll feel.