My journey through social media with my mother in tow
My friend Jon recently bought a new car. It’s not a new used car like the kind my brother-in-law Earl buys, if it’s American. Jon’s car is brand new and is Japanese and is the kind of car I’d buy if I had a job.
On Facebook he posted a picture of himself with it, smiling from ear to ear. I read through the congratulatory comments. When Jon asked what he should call the thing one friend responded, “Mine!” I laughed and wished I had thought of that one.
It’s been a long time since I’ve purchased a car, new or otherwise. The last time I did I too posted a photo of myself standing proudly next to it. The comments came in. They said things like, “Nice wheels!” and from my friend Phil, “Hope to get a ride while it still has that new car smell!”
My mom’s post was after Phil’s. She wrote, “This is why you have money problems.” My friends fell silent. I didn’t respond to her. I hoped she had said her piece and was gone. But she hadn’t and she wasn't. She was just getting started.
“Maybe if you spent that kind of energy trying to find a better job your life wouldn’t be such a mess,” she wrote. I gave her comment a laughing emoji, just to try and lighten things up a bit and hopefully convince my friends that she was having fun with me.
“Are those sport wheels?” she asked. “Added extravagance! And you can’t take your mother to lunch every once in a while?” I gave her comment another laughing emoji and crossed my fingers that she was finished. But she went on.
“My 2004 Camry runs just great, and I bought it used!” she boasted. I took her bait. “Yea, but running to the WaWa for a sandwich every few days doesn’t exactly put on the miles, mom.” As soon as I posted it I regretted engaging with her.
She snapped back at me. “Well, maybe the WaWa is the only thing a lonely old woman has to look forward to, especially since her children never come around.” This comment drew my sister out of the shadows. I knew she was there, watching from the cyber-bushes. The little green light next to her name on my Facebook sidebar had been on the whole time.
“I’ll come down tomorrow and take you to lunch,” Jan said. “Sorry, I’ve been busy with work. Traveling, but I brought you a few things from California.”
“That’s fine,” my mother replied to her. “But can we pick up my stomach medicine on the way? I need to get my stomach medicine and God knows I can’t ask your brother to do it for me, even though he apparently has a nice new car with sport wheels.”
“No problem,” my sister replied. I felt her smugness through the pixels on my screen. Now they were using my comment stream as an open firing range, me being the target.
“Do you remember when Winslow wet his pants in the backseat of your fathers car?” my mother posted. I sat up and reached for the phone.
“Which time?” my sister replied.
“Ha! Nice one,” my mom posted. “Although I think you’re right, he did have a problem with that and I remember your father saying he could smell pee whenever he ran the heater. That’s why he sold the car in the summer you know.”
I stumbled through my phone, trying to speed dial my mother, something I’ve done over a million times but this time I couldn’t make it work. I felt like the panicked maiden in a horror movie who’s unable to get the car started.
My mom posted again, “I remember your brother being out with the neighborhood kids and always peeing himself. There’d he be with a big wet patch down the front of him. Oh, the battles I’d have trying to get him to come in for a change of clothes.”
“LOL” My sister replied. She added a laughing/crying emoji then signed off. I watched her little green light go out. She knew she’d stirred the pot. Mission accomplished.
Growing up we were a house with no secrets. Going to the store for diarrhea medicine meant a full explanation to the clerk and anyone else within earshot as to why we were there. “Has a case of the Virginia Quick Step,” my mom once said, hitching a thumb in my direction and addressing everyone around us. I was home from college and had gone to a friend’s house the night before and had eaten generously from a plate of fried oysters that were being passed around.
“Went right through him,” she added, looking around at her audience. I watched the checkout girl crinkle her nose.
My mom kept posting. “I’m thinking about the thing that happened to you last year at the parade. Seriously Winslow, not many grown men soil themselves in public.” I hurriedly deleted that comment but like a relentless agitator she came right back.
“I’m almost thirty years older than you and I have to be honest, I can’t think of anyone who I know who’s done something like that. Maybe you DO have a problem. I’m just concerned is all.” Again I was quick to press delete, hoping I’d gotten to it quick enough. My eyes floated over to the sidebar. I saw green lights next all my friend’s names. Someone must have sent out a text message. My mother had attracted a full house.
“Then there was that party,” she posted. “You were a teenager then. Dropped off at the top of our driveway and someone had made a diaper for you out of a trash bag. There you came, waddling down toward the house. God what a mess that was. Taught you about drinking though. That’s why your father didn’t say a word. He said you’d taught yourself that lesson.” I was on the delete button like a sniper with his finger on the trigger.
I finally got through to her. “Aw come off it!” she barked into the phone, laughing the whole thing off and swearing that no one read any of it. If she was standing next to me she would have given me one of her punches to the arm, as if to say I have no sense of humor. She was wrong about no one reading her comments. Later that afternoon my friend Jason texted me a GIFF of a soft serve ice cream machine in action. I knew what he was getting at. I took down the photo of me with my new car and washed my Facebook page of any references to it.
Last year I bought one of those Dyson V8 vacuum cleaners. I find the thing addictive. Drop a crumb - I’m there with it. To be funny I posted a picture of me with it, saying I had a new best friend. And there she was, as if she’d been waiting years for another opportunity.
“Well, at least you have one friend,” my mother posted.
As for Jon, I hope he’s enjoying his new car and is getting the comments he deserves. I’ve learned to practice caution when posting big life moments on social media. Like a person with PTSD I can’t help but feel that a shoe will drop if I open any doors. Because, you never know with my mother, she might be standing behind one of them, waiting to let the world in.