Advice columnist Dear Prudence recently fielded a question from a blogger whose mother wouldn't stop commenting on her posts:
I write about social issues for a blog aimed at young women (ages 16–25 or so). Unsurprisingly, this subject matter sometimes sparks heated debates in the comments on my posts. Here's the problem: My mom, who has a hard time understanding the concept of "boundaries," has gotten an account on the site and has started showing up in the comments, usually arguing with people who disagree with me. The worst part is, she does this under a username that identifies her AS MY MOTHER.
Moved by her tale of woe, the Cut Chat Room discussed its implications. Are mom comments part of modern life? Are we bad daughters if we block our moms? Are they protecting us, or we protecting them? Join the debate on mommenters, below.
Maureen O'Connor, writer: Did you guys see this Dear Prudence about moms commenting on blogs?
Charlotte Cowles, writer: Woowww. Come to think of it, my mom has not commented in a while.
Maureen: DID YOU WRITE THAT LETTER, CHAR? And/or does your mom read Slate? That could also explain her silence.
Maureen: How did you know it was her?
Charlotte: We lived on Main Street, so it really wasn't a stretch. I emailed her being like MOM and she was so pleased with herself.
Molly Fischer, associate editor: What did she say???
Charlotte: Nothing, really, but now she sticks mostly to commenting on pieces that I e-mail to her.
Molly: Oh, so perhaps she thinks you're complicit.
Charlotte: Like I've opened the door. I don't mind her comments; I actually find them super endearing. It's more that I'm protective of her. My dad sometimes reads negative comments and will be like, "Are you in trouble? People are mad at you!"
Maureen: I hate when people talk about comments that way, because I don't like the assumption that comments are an emotional concern in my life. With parents, it falls into one of those archetypal parent-child dynamics, though. Trying to tell the people who raised you that you really are okay on your own, and tough enough.
Christina Han, beauty editor: At a previous job, I once had a mom call me because her daughter, my intern, had CRAMPS and couldn't come in to work. The mom lived in a different state. I thought it was absurd that this 20-year-old called her mom, gave her mom my cell number. You're a grown-ass woman! If you're getting laid, you're too old to have your mom to call me when you have cramps.
Maureen: As an adult, having your mom fight your battles is the ultimate humiliation. But sometimes moms WANT to fight battles, and then you end up with that dynamic from your tweens, "Mom, don't walk so close to me at the mall."
Stella Bugbee, editorial director: There's a generation gap there, too. We're more indifferent to haters than our mothers are. I actually talk to my kids about dealing with haters. I think the Internet has thickened my skin significantly; my own mom wouldn't have been able to give me the advice I give them. It's usually like, "There will be so many instances that you will displease people, including me, and that's life."
Sally Holmes, producer: But back to this Dear Prudence question. Couldn't you just say, "I know you want to be supportive and I love you for it, Mom, but I'm scared I could get fired"? Because of all people, your mom doesn't want you to get fired, and then when you have no job and no money, have to come live with her again ... unless that's the ultimate goal.
Maureen: The ultimate underminer: a mom who really misses her daughter.
Charlotte: To be fair, I find this blogger's paranoia about being fired over her mom's comments a little silly.
Maureen: At a previous job, one writer had this commenter fan/troll who would praise the writer and attack the writer's editor. They finally investigated ... and discovered it was THE WRITER'S MOM. Was the writer using her mother as a proxy to fight wars, or was the mom just crazy?
Maureen: Either way, the writer didn't get fired.
Molly: I just texted my mom to tell her we were discussing this. She says, "only thing stopping me is wish not to mortify you//" She puncutates everything with slashes. Makes things/ look like poems kind of///
Charlotte: I love that!
Molly: Good work, Mom. A+