Keeping up with the Joneses? Or the Sharmas ? Or the Guptas? Been there, done that. And discarded it as a notion of no value. But life knows when you are sitting back, fully satisfied with all that it has sent your way, complacent in your loose Fabindia salwar-kameez when most of your over-40 generation is trying to pour themselves into slim-fit jeans and tight dresses. It then sends you a googly – a grown-up son and Facebook.
Last week, I got hit upon by a stranger on Facebook. Don’t look at me like that. It happens to me. Don’t ask me why. I myself would like to know. And it happens despite the fact that a lot of my personal details, including photos and most of the bulges, are out there on record. And I don’t dye my hair. Worse, this is not the first time it has happened to me. Years ago, I learnt the absolute wisdom of changing my FB settings to receive friend requests from only friends of friends.
But this request was from a friend of a very dear friend of mine, so I hit Accept immediately. Then the young man told he could tell me more about me than I had ever known myself. Really?! I sent a quick message to the mutual friend and got back an immediate reply. ‘No idea who he is. Must have accepted by mistake.’ By that time, my new FB friend was asking about my hobbies, interests, errr… passions. Dear FB God, if you must send such ‘things’ my way, please teach them better pick-up lines?
I did some quick thinking. That’s a rare event for me, as the son will tell you. In his more magnanimous moments, he says, ‘You and Dad are so joined at the hip, you have to ask each other before you take your next breath.’ I refuse to tell you what he says in his less magnanimous moments because it could be interpreted as parental abuse, and not the more popular version of it. And, despite all his lawyerly condescension, like a good mother, I love the son. He looks like me, for God’s sake!
Well, I actually unfriended my ham-handed FB admirer without consulting my husband, right there, on the spot. Next step was to send an email to the son and the husband, crowing over my feat of independent thinking. The husband predictably and immediately sent a ‘Well done!’ in reply. I have a theory that the husband has a stock set of email replies that he reserves for me, rather like those pre-formatted SMSes you found on your mobile before Swype.
Six hours later – didn’t you know lawyers talk in terms of billable hours? – came the son’s reply. ‘You are a textbook example of how not to behave on Facebook,’ he said ponderously.
I was crushed. I rang him up, billable hours be damned. ‘Mum,’ he said with exaggerated patience. ‘You do not befriend any and everyone who sends you a friend request on FB.’
My defence was ready. Oh come on, you don’t want to hear it again, do you? But back to the Sharmas and the Guptas. I find I have successfully suppressed any desire to be one up on my contemporaries. But the son’s generation is another matter.
The son was not always like this. Six years ago, he was quite enthusiastic about introducing me to Facebook. He even befriended me.
The fun started when, some months later, I found out how to update my personal details and marked ‘Married’ against my status. I was immediately flooded with congratulatory messages. Ditto for the exasperated son, who did not think being congratulated on his parents getting married nineteen years after he was born worth the effort of replying. It was definitely worth the effort to tell me off, however.
Soon after, the nephew came visiting. He had just turned 18 and was hoovering down liquor like a new dust bag. The husband and I, responsible people that we are, told him no hard liquor and plied him instead with all the liqueurs we had in the house. The husband having sworn off ‘rotting fruit’, it was left to me address his avuncular concerns by matching the nephew drink for drink so that we would know how much was too much. The match finished 17:20 in my favour, I am pleased to add, but not before much merriment had been had and many photos clicked.
The next day, the son called us from Bangalore. ‘Have you seen his FB post?’ he shrieked at me. ‘How could you?’
I was speechless. This from the boy who had, just two weeks ago, confessed to having lost two whole days because his breakfast on Saturday morning was beef fry with coconut and a bottle of tequila with more than a dozen beer chasers.
I found out six months later that that was the day he unfriended me on FB. Yes, it took me that long to find out. And it was a shock. Not least because I didn’t know till then you could ‘unfriend’ people on FB.
The husband and I were headed to the UK three years later, when, in a rare moment of filial love, the son reinstated my status as his FB friend, but only after extracting a slew of promises. I would not comment on any of his posts. I would not send friend requests to any of his friends, especially girlfriends. ‘What if they send me a friend request?’ I wailed. Quite a few of them did, I was considered such a riot act. ‘Ask me first,’ he said, his mouth set in a straight line. It was tough, but I was pathetically grateful to be allowed back into his world and look at photos of his college revelry, especially the one of him wearing pink chaddis on his head.
I kept on the straight and narrow for three whole years. No easy feat, let me tell you, so it was not surprising when meltdown finally happened. At Christmas, we invited some friends over. One of them was a friend of the son. One of the group was camera-happy and took photos, which she then kamikazed on FB – where else? I genuinely thought it a pity the son’s friend would never get to see those photos, so I tagged her in them.
All hell broke loose. ‘Mum!’ thundered the son when he got home from work. ‘What have you been up to?’ I will not go into details of that conversation lest one of you call the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Parents. Let me just explain that neither he nor his friend took kindly to being romantically linked with each other in the barrage of comments that ensued from that simple act of tagging some group photos.
Three days later, the son smiled at me. ‘Mum,’ he said benignly. ‘Guess what? Both Amma and Ammi have joined FB!’ I fell into a dead faint.
That’s the problem with having a lawyer in the family. They get to make the concluding remarks. Always.