If I owe you a response, I’m sorry. I’ve been avoiding my email.
And not for the usual reasons – dreading bills that need paying, meetings that need scheduling, egos that need massaging. It’s because every day for over a month, my inbox has reminded me that my mom is dead.
The emails started in March, around the anniversary of my mother’s death nine years ago, their subject lines inescapable:.
“Trust us: Mom will love this”.
“Celebrate every kind of mom”.
“Gift mom a little me-time”.
“Only the best for Mom!”.
The subject lines have become increasingly desperate as Sunday nears, screaming “Last chance!” As shipping windows close. A few months ago, I bought a dress on clearance from Anthropologie. Now they send me advertisements with a subject line like, “Your love for mom never ends (but up to 30% OFF does!)”.
My love for Mom will never end, and seemingly neither will the Mother’s Day sales pitches.
Since my mom died in the spring of 2014, I’ve learned to wrap myself in a protective cocoon from the anniversary of her death until Mother’s Day is safely in another year’s rearview mirror. I stop reading books and watching movies about mothers and daughters (once I slipped and watched “Terms of Endearment” – never again). In the days leading up to Mother’s Day, I delete the Instagram app off my phone to spare myself the brunch photos and glowing odes to my friends’ hale and hearty mothers, older than mine ever was or will be.
If that all sounds a bit extreme, well, it’s complicated, as relationships with mom tend to be. Mine died after 20 years of suffering from a neurodegenerative disease, an extremely rare Huntington’s disease-like syndrome that robbed her of mind and body until it killed her in a grueling monthlong hospital stay. The good memories ended long before her suffering did.
But it doesn’t take a rare genetic disorder to make a person feel conflicted about Mother’s Day. A lot of people never had mothers. A lot of people have bad mothers, judging by the sales of Jennette McCurdy’s bestselling memoir last year, “I’m Glad My Mom Died,” about the abuse the former Nickelodeon child actress suffered under her stage mom. (By the time my mom died, I was glad of it too, if only for the suffering to stop.) It’s not all flowers, heart-shaped jewelry and decorative candles for many of us.
‘I’m Glad My Mom Died’:How Jennette McCurdy escaped her narcissistic mother’s ‘excruciating’ abuse.
And while it’s easy enough to delete Instagram off your phone for a couple of days, avoiding email for over a month is less feasible.
Somewhere along the way, so gradually I didn’t notice it was happening, our inboxes transformed from proper mailboxes, full of missives and correspondences that kept us connected and informed, into a digital PennySaver, a virtual mall populated by every store you’ve ever shopped at online, waving sales banners at you. Now, because I treated myself to some fancy pencils once, a stationery store is pitching notepads and desk caddies for my dead mom. Because I’ve exercised on a Peloton, I’m being pitched high-rise leggings made of fiber from recycled plastic bottles for my dead mom. Because I’ve been to a baseball game, the Arizona Diamondbacks want to make sure I know I can take my dead mom to a baseball game on Mother’s Day and get her a T-shirt. (My mother would have hated all of these things.).
I’ve been speed-running my inbox, scrolling new arrivals quickly, like running across a bed of hot coals.
More:Why that sudden ‘Succession’ death may have felt like real trauma.
Until one Mother’s Day email caught my attention in a good way. Parachute, a bedding store from which I’d once purchased a pillow, offered me an off-ramp. “We know that Mother’s Day can be a sensitive time for many of us,” the email reads. “If you prefer to not receive emails about this holiday, you can opt out here. You’ll still be kept up to date on everything else cozy, no worries.”.
I clicked the link to opt out. The Mother’s Day emails stopped. Now there’s one fewer hot coal I have to run across.
Look, I get it. There’s money to be made and capitalism isn’t kind. Mother’s Day, like Christmas, is a business, and what’s a few trampled feelings when there are candles to sell? The glowing Instagram tributes are marketing too, selling each other the happy fantasy of perfect families and uncomplicated love when the reality is messy and fraught.
Maybe it’s not such a bad business tactic, though, for companies to remember that when they’re inundating us with ads. One company out of dozens offered me a small act of marketing grace I won’t forget the next time I need to buy a pillow.
Trauma isn’t just psychological.It can impact your body too.