These days the bulk of my inbox is filled with newsletters from brands. Sandwiched between their product du jour, they slip in their values and commitment to diversity or visibility.
They spotlight the Korean American manager in accounting because it’s Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month. In June, I meet their gay employee, Bob, in payroll. And in March, I read about how the male CEO of a company has a Ruth Bader Ginsberg pillow in his office, while also learning about a new salad spinner.
Nice to meet you fine folks. Does your product work or not?
But as we approach May 8, I’ve seen a new trend in my inbox. No heartwarming stories about the CMO’s mother and her paella recipe.
Now, some companies are offering subscribers the ability to opt out of their Mother’s Day content because some may find it triggering.
The emails have come from companies such as YogaWorks, OpenTable and Food52, whose rep said, “We received some very moving thank you emails after the fact.”
OpenTable added: “We always aim to be as inclusive as possible, and for many, Mother’s Day is a hard holiday — a fact we’re more cognizant of than ever with so many of us having lost loved ones during COVID.”
A friend told me there was much discussion about allowing users to opt out of Mother’s Day content at her company, with many of the younger folks leading the charge. And I’ve also read a thoughtful and heartbreaking essay celebrating this new function from a woman whose son committed suicide — a compelling case, indeed.
This phenomenon isn’t entirely new or confined to commerce. In recent years I’ve noticed it bubbling up on social media. People who have lost their moms warn others to think of their feelings and maybe temper public celebrations of our own mothers.
I lost my dear father in 2009, and I miss him every day. But please do not make your living, breathing father small to spare my feelings.
After all, Mother’s Day, as commercialized as it has become, is not just a celebration of our individual matriarchs but the universal idea of motherhood, which, aside from running Twitter, has to be the toughest job in the world.
No wonder they chase us with wooden spoons.
Many who urge us to measure parental celebrations online think nothing of celebrating their children in daily social media posts. What about those of us who don’t have kids, but wished that weren’t the case? Lonely hearts do not appreciate your Valentine’s Day gift guide. Surely, Jehovah’s Witnesses find Halloween ads offensive. Some probably are so lonely during Christmas, they want to burn the Neiman Marcus holiday catalog in effigy.
Every Thanksgiving, I say a prayer for Adrian Balboa because her brother Paulie threw the turkey in the alley.
Where do we stop? Life is triggering.
We have more division in our world than a third grade math textbook. But there is one thing we all have in common: a woman who birthed us, whether they are present, deceased, good or bad. Why make her a commercial target?
Singling out this holiday also demotes mamas who are already being muted by many mainstream outlets calling them “birthing bodies,” “uterus owners,” “menstruaters” and “chest feeders.”
Listen, do I really care if you opt out of Mother’s Day content? Nah. Go for it. Especially Joan Crawford’s kids. Businesses have a right to operate as they see fit.
But this practice furthers our society of casual customization where we can build our own coddled worlds with algorithms. We only let pleasurable things in and we can keep the painful things out.
In the end, it only leaves us more sensitive and vulnerable to outside factors we cannot control.
Or, as the great comedian Judy Gold once said in a Vice News special: “You need to learn how to be in this world. The world doesn’t have to adjust for you.”