My mother and I have had a fight over something on Facebook.
Alright, so here’s what happened: Sister 3 posted a picture of a television in the fitting room at Nordstrom. I, being the oldest and longest gainfully employed sister, commented: “What the h are you doing in a Nordstrom? I’ve had a job for 19 years, I still can’t go into a Nordstrom.” A cousin and an aunt piled on, chiding my college-aged sister even though we all knew she wasn’t actually shopping at Nordstrom, which she clarified when she said her friend was trying on a dress. I stopped teasing her because I know she gets a little sensitive about being the youngest and having been given more than the older kids got when we were her age by virtue of the fact that my parents had finally reached a comfortable financial standing and there were must-haves that didn’t exist when I was a kid. But my cousin sort of kept poking at her, which happens when you’re part of a big Irish family.
And then… my mother commented.
Her side’s German.
You need to know something about my mother and Facebook: wherever this woman goes, conversations die. People are just commenting along, having a good time, being blithely humorous or perhaps vaguely inappropriate and then BOOM. My mother takes a joke literally and ruins it, or decides to argue a point, or gets defensive about something that isn’t about her, but makes her feel targeted nonetheless (comments or jokes about brunettes, Germans, Catholics, short people, etc). She gets kinda hostile. It makes people uncomfortable. Like, I’ve gotten phone calls. “Did I make your mom mad?”
Or sometimes she tries to be funny. My mother really isn’t very funny. The Germans are not a funny people, commonly. But you can’t point that out to her because she gets all snippy about how eeevverybody likes the Irish better. She resents it.
Anyway, the point is, she comments on Facebook and everything grinds to a halt.
Most of the time I don’t comment after my mother because she’ll take anything I say as either an argument or an attempted public upstaging. Neither of which it would be, because I learned somewhere around 17 years ago not to do anything that could even seem like that. But that’s how she takes it anyway, so I usually debate: If I don’t reply, will she feel ignored? If I do, will she get mad? I wind up typing something out, re-reading it, thinking about it, trying to find words in it to which she might take offense, re-writing it, repeating this process twice and then just skipping it altogether. Phone conversations are carefully considered, too, but it’s a little easier that way because there’s the benefit of inflection, redirection and distraction. The down side is that it’s instantaneous; there’s less time for editing.
I’m not kidding; this is how I talk to my mother.
On my sister’s Facebook page, under the picture from the Nordstrom fitting room, after I’d made my comment and my aunt and cousin had followed, my mother posted a snarky sentence, passive-agressively reprimanding her sister-in-law and myself. Lest you think I might be oversensitive, I offer as proof the fact that my aunt texted me: “Did you see what your mother said on FB?” But could I say anything back? Nooooo. And neither could my aunt. My 47-year-old aunt.
This is the problem with parents being on Facebook. Aside from the fact that you constantly have to edit yourself because “my mother is going to see this,” they have so much power to just jab at you, poke you, infer meaning where it is not implied, and yes, reprimand you publicly. They can do all that plenty in the confines of a home filled with maybe 30 people at a holiday gathering and you might be able to respond, but in black and white on the internet, you can’t say anything back without creating even more of an awkward situation in front of whoever is reading it.
Social networking should not, by and large, be a mother-daughter meeting ground. It winds up just another forum for judgment and awkwardness. Oh, moms, don’t deny it. Moms judge kids on everything they say, particularly in a public forum. Moms are ashamed or embarrassed when kids of any age say something moms don’t like. It’s just a reflex or something. Moms judge, and they check up. I’m pretty sure that’s the whole purpose of mothers “friending” their children.
Or is that just my mom?
And it’s not like you can not friend your parents when you learn that they’re on Facebook. They’re going to request your friendship, and you have to accept. You can’t not accept. And if they don’t request your friendship, they’re clearly waiting for you to request theirs, because now you know they’re on Facebook and if you don’t request their friendship they’ll take it as yet another way that you never call and you never write.
And you sure as hell can’t defriend them unless you’re just shutting down the whole operation.
I wanted to defriend my mother when we had this run-in. Her snarky comment bothered me– enough that I felt I needed to address it rather than let it go as I normally do. So rather than reply to her in front of everybody, I sent her a private message telling her I was concerned and didn’t feel that the reprimand was necessary, since sisters just tease sisters as part of the deal.
I got a nasty reply.
I tried again, respectfully. And got another nasty reply.
A wise person might leave it alone at this point, but I was hurt by her approach and wanted to make that point. Still respectfully. (So many drafts.)
The reply was less nasty but largely dismissive. And then I let it go. It’s been years since my mother and I had a real argument like this one because I mostly just let things go, and I’m sure she’d say the same. Thanks to Facebook, we have a new platform on which to dance around each other.
And I still don’t know what a college kid is doing trying on a dress at Nordstrom, but whatever. I have seriously bought one item of clothing at a Nordstrom, it was a black dress, it was way too expensive but it looked good and I told myself that it I just wore it to every party, event, funeral and wedding for five years, it would pay for itself.
I’m four years in.