some thoughts on hallmark holidays
If you’ve ever known me for any amount of time, there’s a good chance–at some point or another–I’ve told you to call your mother. Sometimes, it might’ve been a gentle reminder. Other times, I might have yelled. But you heard it–loud and clear–because every day of my life…I am reminded that I can’t. And every day of my life, I see people forgetting–knowing they, too,–one day–won’t be able to. And that they’re so oblivious to it.
Being a motherless daughter has been one of the most heartbreaking, profoundly isolating, yet meaning-driven journeys I’ve walked. I would wish it on absolutely no one, but I am–at the same time–immensely grateful for its lessons. But I’m always trying to spare others from the pain I’ve been through. It’s one of the ways I’m like my own mother.
I take it as a point of pride that many of my exes are now closer to their parents because of me being a pain in the ass. Because of their witnessing of the shit I go through every day.
So, it’s ironic that a call to “Call Your Mother” pissed me off to the point that I posted about it on Instagram. (Scroll down if you’d like to see the post–all the way down–there should be a link. It’s the one with the text).
Most of us who have lost our mothers don’t talk about it, but I’m gonna. I think I have before. As a group, we often don’t say anything–we just endure it–because we don’t want anyone to think we hate mothers. But I’m going to talk about it because I can. I’m in a good place in my grief. I’ve walked through the fire and found myself on the other side–a place where such shit doesn’t send me into a week-long depression about the loss I’ve suffered. It took me a long time.
But for years, for weeks before the holiday, Mother’s Day was this shitshow for me that I intensely dreaded. It would start, sometimes, in January. One email, then a dozen, then actual hundreds the week of. It did not matter how much I unsubscribed. And if I managed to dodge the emails, it’d be on Facebook in banner ads or on Comcast commercials as I streamed TV shows. There was just no escaping it. And not just hey–get ready and say Happy Mama’s Day–but these forceful, annoying messages telling me to REMEMBER my mother. And then I’d remember how I could not go a single day without remembering her…everything about her. Without remembering all the shit and suffering she endured. The shit and suffering I endured. Without remembering all the time I’d spent missing her. To this day, I think of my mother every day. There isn’t even one day that goes by. There’s not one day that goes by when I don’t remember all of it. When there isn’t a reminder that I no longer remember her voice. And that really fucking sucks.
So, for someone who called her mother and talked to her all day, every single day of the life I shared with her–this particular call to action stung and–even moreso–pissed me off.
Because I remember when such things literally pulled me right back to despair–even during years where I finally felt like the grief wouldn’t paralyze me. Mother’s Day became this thing–this dreaded bullshit thing–just like the anniversaries of her illness and death. Mere dates on calendars to everyone except me. But a stinging day of pain that I just never wanted to face. That these companies forced me to face without my permission–to make a buck.
I remember those days so vividly, and I am so so so thankful I don’t live there anymore. But I know many who do still. And as someone who has fought to get somewhere else, I’m going to fight for them–to make their shit easier. To let them know I see it. That it’s bullshit. That I was bothered by it, too. That it’s insensitive. That they’re not alone.
If you work in marketing, please consider that your email campaigns and messages are seen by real people, coping with really painful things. They want to be happy on this day. Many of them probably pretend they are. They love mothers. They wish all of them well. But they will eternally miss their mothers, and your insensitive bullshit makes it harder for them to be okay. So stop it. Consider that your words–as crappy and unimaginative as they are–affect other people and you should be more calculating in your messages to exploit people out of their money.
I’ve long had little respect for marketers for this reason, but every year, I’m flabberghasted by the new lows I witness. This one was minor in comparison to many I’ve seen, but just as we need journalists to do better–just as we call on leaders in all walks of life to be better at what they do–all of us who use words need to be just as cognizant of our impact. It’s why I write, so it’s totally bizarre that this seems lost on this industry that’s so full of shit, all too often.