The Case for Drunk Texting Mom

by Matthew J.X. Malady

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, critic and columnist Richard Lawson tells us more about the horrors of accidentally sending the wrong text message to your mom.

Cool beans. Sent my mom a text about Fire Island plans that was meant for a friend. So I’m committing seppuku now

— Richard Lawson (@rilaws) June 17, 2014

Richard! So what happened here?

I was coming home from a staff drinks kind of a thing and was juggling several text message conversations, one with my mom who just visited me and my sister in New York, and another with my editor, who had snapped a picture of me at the drinks thing. I was joking with my editor that I looked fat in the picture and texted “I need to lose 30 pounds before Fire Island,” because we’d been talking about my going there with some friends for the first time this August. I am nervous about going because it seems like a very scary place where I will feel gross and old and ugly, and that had been a topic of conversation at this work thing.

So I guess I wasn’t really discussing plans, as my tweet said, so much as I was joking about fears. Anyway, it got sent to my mom by accident because I was ordering a slice of pizza on my way home (so much for losing 30 pounds) and was distracted. I quickly wrote back “Hah, that was meant for a friend, sorry.” She wrote back “30 pounds is too much!” and I replied “Just a joke.” My mom and I don’t have the kind of relationship where we talk about things in that kind of jokey tone, so it was strange and embarrassing, there in the pizza parlor.

So what was the fallout?

There wasn’t really any fallout. It actually turned into an interesting conversation with my mom, over text. My uncle, the brother she was closest to, was gay, and he and his partner had a house on Fire Island in the ’70s and ’80s, before he and basically everyone he knew died of AIDS, and so my mom has a certain nostalgia for the place. She reminded me that I went there as a baby and that my sister, a toddler at the time, was fascinated by the drag queens she met. At one point my mom texted, “There used to be a tea dance, but I don’t know if they still do that,” and I thought about everything I’ve heard about the “teas” at the Pines, and it was strange that my mom was at least dimly aware of what goes on at them. I said, “From what I’ve heard, they very much do exist,” and my mom said she would try to find out where exactly my uncle’s house was, and then the conversation just sort of petered out. I’m not completely, technically “out” to my mom, so this felt like an interesting, accidental inch forward. Scary and weird and definitely a little embarrassing, but also good? It’s good to act like a human being with your parents, I guess. Because we are all human beings.

Lesson learned (if any)?

The practical lesson is don’t text while a little tipsy and ordering pizza. The more abstract lesson might be that my mom is more aware of the world than I give her credit for.

Just one more thing

I’m wondering as I do this if my mom will somehow see it. My aunt somehow found and read a Tumblr post I wrote recently about a trip I took, and she told my mom about it, and that’s terrifying because in the post I talked about boys and cigarettes and wine, and that is not stuff we talk about at all. (Unless she’s accusing me of smoking, which I always deny.) So what if she sees this? What would happen? I hope she wouldn’t feel made fun of. Mum, if you’re reading this, I am not making fun of you. It was just funny and embarrassing that I accidentally text messaged you about feeling insecure about going to an island full of gay men, on a Monday night in June, when you’d taken the train home to Boston that morning, having spent all weekend with me as I tried to present a tidy version of my life to you. That’s all.

Matthew J.X. Malady is a writer and editor in New York.