Oh, goody the Mommy Wars are back on! Where do I enlist, and are my fatigues issued at Nordstrom? I’m joining the ranks because -thanks to Katie Roiphe’s recent article in the Financial Times which concerned citizens are spreading around the interwebs- this time we aren’t fighting about something trivial like every mother’s unique relationship with the issue of working outside of the home, or the right to breastfeed in public. Nope, Private Roiphe assures us that the threat at hand is of vital, global significance. It’s…gird your loins here…our Facebook profile photos. I know! I know. This is too big to ignore. I’ll let you have a moment to give yourself a buzzcut and change into your camo momjeans so you can join me on the front lines. Thank you in advance for your service.
Ready, Sarge? Hut, two three four…
In her article ‘Disappearing Mothers’, Private Roiphe expresses concern that women whose Facebook profile photo shows an image of her child(ren) instead of herself, demonstrate to the world that they have forsaken their own identities in favor of the identities of their offspring, or of motherhood itself. She further extrapolates from this compelling profile photo data that, as a culture of parents, many of us are overly devoted to our kids and that we give them too much control over their worlds, and our lives. Private Roiphe has identified a clear and present danger here, and she should probably be awarded a medal or a cookie. After all, we all know that if kids are given too much control and end up running the show entirely, before we know it they’ll mandate that everybody walk around without pants all day long and use Trick-or-Treating as our primary source of nourishment. Private Roiphe, you are a true patriot and you are also the bee’s knees. But if I may speak out of turn Ma’am, I would like to point out that the Facebook profile identity crisis clearly reaches beyond moms who, during a moment of weakness, upload a cute photo of their kid riding the family dog like a horse and use it as a profile photo. Let’s broaden the battlefield and target some other unwitting enemy combatants with our sniper fire. After all, it’s just too easy to join the battalions that spend their time and energy judging how other parents raise their kids or prioritize their lives. That’s like shooting nursing ducks in a bounce-house, and we can do better than that, Private. Sack up, brave soldier, and let’s get to the honest and important work of drawing sweeping conclusions based on minimal evidence. Tell you what: I’ll start with some of my own Facebook friends, because judging by their profile photos these people clearly have some problems. Ready, aim…
*To my friend who is a gifted craftsman and an avid musician and cyclist, and who also holds a Doctorate degree but whose profile photo is a sketch of a chicken: I worry that if I invited you to a dinner party at my home, while I tried to keep up my end of the conversation by tirelessly imparting truly profound wisdom about what I pack for my kids’ lunches (right, Private Roiphe?), you would spend the whole time talking about how juicy your thighs are, and how moist and supple your breast can be when prepared just so. It would be disastrous. And that fiancé of yours, the one who travels to Haiti in order to provide medical care for children in need, besides being a beautiful soul who is devoted to her family and her work? Her profile photo is of Alice from ‘Through the Looking Glass’, so I can only assume that if she were at the same dinner party she’d sit around waiting for my cat to smile, then try to walk through the door of my daughter’s dollhouse. How embarrassing.
*To my kind, brilliant and hilarious friend from grad school, whose profile photo shows the Notre Dame clover: Listen, I am really concerned about you. When we knew each other before, like when we got together last week, you were a fun-loving, motivated and accomplished woman who had started her own tutoring business in San Francisco, and used any extra income and materials to offer free services to at-risk children in the city. Now I’m left to believe that you’re hiding behind your alma mater, or more likely that you identify yourself as a green, Catholic weed who may bring good luck but also lives in Indiana, even in the wintertime. What a waste.
*To one of my oldest and dearest friends, who has been like a sister to me through the best of times and the worst of times for almost 30 years, whose profile photo is of a peaceful sea turtle: Get your act together, girl. You are a devoted wife and public school science teacher in one of the most challenging districts in the U.S., and you have more talents and graduate degrees than you can shake a stick at. Your generosity of spirit is astounding, and you are a gift to everyone who is lucky enough to have you in their lives, but you ain’t no damn turtle.
*To my Facebook friend who I don’t know very well in real life, but who seems interesting and cool and also has many close friends and a deep love of music: Your profile photo is of a fish (maybe that’s spelled with a ‘Ph’?), which explains a lot about why we haven’t hung out much together. Because you live in the ocean.
*To my Facebook friend whose profile photo is the cover of her amazing, bestselling book: Come on. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, woman. Don’t let that book define who you are. Sure, it represents the fruit of your sweat, tears, love and devotion and it’s consumed nearly all of your time and every single ounce of your energy over the last few years because it’s something that you have committed to bringing to life, nourishing and helping to achieve its full potential. It’s clearly a tremendous source of pride and joy for you, and I feel you, sister, honestly I do. But between you and me, showcasing that singular aspect of your life in your profile photo – even though it’s of paramount importance and yadayadayada – makes you look like a hot mess of a one trick pony. (Except for the obvious fact that most one-trick ponies don’t have a gaggle of tricks up their sleeve like you do, including being a popular columnist, blossoming TV personality and loving mom who somehow still summons the time and kindness to offer encouragement, guidance and support to some random nobody in central VA who’s just trying to get started and find direction in this crazy writing biz.)
I could go on, because obviously my Facebook friends have some awesomely messed up identities.
Point is, I think we all know that it’s impossible to get (or portray!) a well-rounded picture of a person based on random findings from their Facebook profile – let alone one photo from it. For that reason, Private Roiphe and any followers who are nodding their heads in unison with her to demonstrate their judgment (I mean “concern”), I implore you to pretty please, for the love of all things Cyber, lighten up. This is Facebook, not real life. And if you have the two mixed up, I have a message that I urgently need to write on your timeline: Turn off your computer. Put your smartphone down, and walk outside your front door. Keep walking until you run smack into a real, living, breathing human being. Talk to him. Hug him. Suck on his toes, I don’t care. Just interact face to face. Or don’t walk out of your door; instead, grab your partner and explore your offscreen “like” buttons – if you’re picking up what I’m putting down. Whatever you do, just LOG OFF. But before you do, please click on my Facebook profile photo and leave a comment telling me how cute my kids are.