Anyone who watches Keeping Up with the Kardashians knows how livid Kris Jenner is about the content of Caitlyn Jenner’s new memoir, The Secrets of My Life. After reading an advance copy of the book, Kris fumed that “Basically, the only nice thing [Caitlyn] could say was that I was great socially at a party one time.” She went on to say that she’s never been more angry and disappointed in someone’s behavior as she is in Caitlyn. (Kim is pretty pissed off, too.) Kris is exaggerating a little — Caitlyn does pay her compliments, albeit some backhanded ones — but she has every right to be upset.
Kris was always going to have an issue with Caitlyn’s memoir, because the two of them disagree on who knew what, and when, about Caitlyn’s gender identity and eventual transition. Kris says she knew nothing, Caitlyn says Kris knew everything, and I’m not interested in trying to figure out where the truth actually lies. There’s no way to do so. Regardless, the glaring truth about Secrets is that it’s on the whole a doggedly positive book — and yet the majority of its overtly negative parts are specifically directed toward Kris and the Kardashian side of the family. Caitlyn has a right to tell the story that she feels is honest, but she had to know that doing so would cause potentially irreparable damage to her relationships.
Caitlyn takes casual shots at Kris throughout all of the chapters in which she’s featured. According to Caitlyn, it’s Kris’s fault that Caitlyn and her sister Pam were estranged for almost 20 years (because Kris didn’t invite Pam to a party). Caitlyn blames Kris for bringing them into their “ultimately horrifying” friendship with O.J. and Nicole Brown Simpson. She discusses “never seeing a dime of” the money the family made for Keeping Up with the Kardashians and repeatedly laments not having access to her own finances. (No mention of ever, like, just asking for it.) Kris is praised for bringing Caitlyn closer to the Jenner children, but then criticized when the relationships grew distant again. Kris is controlling. Kris is more interested in business than carpooling her children to school. She yells. Apparently she’s not even “the one who came up with the idea” for KUWTK— the implication being that she’s a liar.
The insults don’t stop with Kris. At one point, Caitlyn refers to Kendall as “the most down-to-earth of the K girls,” which reads like shade to all of her sisters. Caitlyn claims that she herself is not as frivolous a person as Keeping up with the Kardashians is a show, which is a particularly confusing claim since she continues to regularly appear on KUWTK(and because I Am Cait, while very important, had moments of deep frivolity, too). But most hurtful is Caitlyn’s explanation for why she didn’t involve the Kardashian side of the family, including Kendall and Kylie, in the 20/20 interview in which she came out.
They were slighted on purpose because of research showing that anytime a Kardashian is on television, many in the public tend to think it is a publicity stunt to make money. I love my kids, and the last thing on Earth I ever want to do is somehow think I am rejecting them. But because of the research, I needed to build a wall and distance myself for this interview. It was too important. After all of the time it took to get here, I needed to make clear that this is real, this is my life and not some publicity stunt. I couldn’t afford to add any fuel to the rumor that I was only doing it for money. I only had one chance. This had to be about me and only me. If I screwed up, at least it would be on my own terms.
Maybe that research exists, but even if it does, I’m not sure what the benefit is of this drawn-out explanation. Caitlyn may have thought she was providing evidence as to why she chose not to include the Kardashian side of the family, but all she really does here is casually remind her readers that a lot of people think the Kardashians are liars and fame whores, who deceive cameras and audiences for money and attention. Why legitimize that point of view? Caitlyn doesn’t have to lie about why the Kardashians weren’t a part of the special, but she could and should have simply left that paragraph out. It’s not an essential part of her story.
When I was in graduate school (please interpret that as less of a humblebrag and more a sheepish admission that I paid money for someone to teach me to write about feelings), most of my classmates and I were working on personal essays, memoirs, and other non-fiction projects. There was an Anne Lamott quote that many of my classmates were fond of dropping: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” Even if Caitlyn never read that quote, she and co-author Buzz Bissinger clearly subscribed to the same philosophy of memoir writing.
That quote, my classmates, and Caitlyn seem to be unconcerned with the fact that the people who should have (arguably) behaved better still have feelings. Caitlyn’s writing shows little regard for her long-professed desire to have a healthy relationship with Kris for the sake of Kylie and Kendall, and belies her constant assertions that she wants all ten of her kids to be happy. It’s fine for Caitlyn to not care what anyone else thinks — that’s maybe even healthy for her in this chapter of her life. But she can’t go around not caring how anyone else feels without there being interpersonal consequences, something she clearly still fails to understand, as she’s bringing Bissinger on television with her and letting him say Kris is “full of shit.”
No one’s asking Caitlyn to write twenty pages on how great her relationship with Kris was. And no one’s asking her to lie about her past. But in the pages of her memoir, Caitlyn is careless with the emotions of women she claims to love and call family. The question I’m left with after finishing The Secrets of My Life is: Did Caitlyn not realize the book would burn bridges with Kris and the Kardashians, or did she simply choose not to care?