Jenny Mollen’s new book “Live Fast, Die Hot” proves that you can be crazy, hot, and vulnerable and not end up dead.
by Danny McCarthy
Jenny Mollen’s book of humorous essays, Live Fast, Die Hot, reads like an extended love letter from a hyperactive, hormone-addled teenage youth. The recipient of the letter: basically everyone Jenny comes into contact with. Manhattanite mothers on the playground. The liaison connecting Jenny to the isolated Atlas Mountain weavers of her Beni Ourain rug. Her drug dealer. But most importantly, as it becomes more evident in the latter half of the book, the recipient is Sid, Jenny’s two-year-old son.
In nine semi-independent, semi-chronological essays, Jenny explores the truth behind an age-old lie: You may be an adult, but that doesn’t mean you have your shit together.
Jenny decidedly does not have her shit together. In her second chapter, Jenny’s new night nurse describes her as the “least prepared parent she’d ever worked with.” In another, Jenny starts stalking her New York City neighbor to get them to stop smoking on their terrace, because the smoke blows towards her baby’s nursery.
Jenny’s antics are misguided attempts to make everyone like her, holdovers from lackadaisical parents—in one essay, Jenny steals the favorite toy of her mother’s prized dog Rocky because she’s jealous of the attention he’s getting. The current running underneath that manic desire to woo everyone is a softer desire to be liked. While going on Tinder to try and find other mommy friends, Jenny stops her husband, Jason Biggs, from helping her.
“It still irks me when I am brushed to the side as people clamor to talk to him,” Jenny writes. “This is why I didn’t want Jason making a Tinder profile. Because I knew if he did, he’d probably have more mom friends than me.” Jenny blunts the anxiety with humor, like when she stoppers that insecure moment by saying, “Unlike my goal of dying with more Twitter followers than Jason, having more mom friends was something within my reach.”
That vulnerability cuts the more outrageous stories, and carries the book. In a flatter essay, Jenny hates her husband’s dog—a holdover from his life before her—and manages to eventually pawn him off onto an Instagram friend. We forgive her more narcissistic moments because we’ve seen the good.
It doesn’t become entirely clear what the book is about until the last chapter. Jenny is deep in the Peruvian jungle, hallucinogenic tea coursing through her. Drawn to the jungle with the promise of enlightenment and an appearance on her friend’s Netflix documentary, Jenny goes on the trip to drink ayahuasca.
After drinking the tea, shitting and vomiting herself dry, Jenny sees a vision of her and Sid, doing a synchronized ice-dancing routine. And after looking into Sid’s eyes, she is overcome with emotion. She realizes, “‘He loves me,” I wept, like I was a contestant who’d just been proposed to on The Bachelor. He already loves me. Because I’m his mom and I’ll always be his mom.’”
Every psychotic thing—stalking her neighbors to get them to stop smoking; traveling to the Atlas Mountains to prove she could be independent; meeting weird, cold Manhattan moms so that Sid wouldn’t be excluded in preschool—becomes elucidated as Jenny’s attempts to combat her “feelings of unworthiness.” Her frenetic love for her son is her wanting to impress him. Jenny might be obsessed with getting everyone to love her, but she’s not a total megalomaniac. Hopefully.