By Lisa Sugarman
So there’s this viral video going around on social media. Maybe you’ve seen it. My friend Susan actually stopped me in the supermarket last week to tell me about how hysterically she laughed when she watched it for the first time. So of course, I was intrigued.
If you’ve seen it, it’s unforgettable. If you haven’t, you should. Because at the very least, you’ll have a good laugh—the kind that comes straight from the diaphragm.
And while it will resonate more with parents like Sue and me who just sent our first kids off to college, it’s something anyone who’s ever grown up and gone away to school will relate to and appreciate. That’s because it’s just good, clean, humiliate-your-kid-now-that-he’s-in-college kind of humor. And who wouldn’t love that?
Now I don’t want to be a spoiler because I really do want you to see the video for yourself, so let me just tease you a little and give you the gist of what the video is all about. Then you can decide for yourself if it’s worth the four minutes and fifty-two seconds you’ll need to watch it.
It was recorded by this woman—a regular ordinary mom—named Ann Pinto McCarney, who, in an incredibly ballsy move, posted the video to her son’s Facebook page. And considering that as of today, her video had well over one million views, I think it’s safe to assume that she either made, or irreparably broke, her son’s college career. Probably too soon to tell.
In a nutshell, she recorded a message to her son, now a freshman at Gettysburg College, flagrantly calling him out for only calling her once since he left for school a month earlier. But the way she reams him is simply brilliant. Her ultra-passive aggressiveness elevates the video to cult status. She blends the perfect mix of sarcasm and sincerity to create a totally epic public shaming.
Without giving too much away, McCarney admits to being a white-hot mess when her son Liam left for college. Something I can most definitely relate to after having just dropped Riley off at school only a month ago. But when Liam went radio silent, calling only once and giving one-word replies to all her texts, it pretty much threw her over the edge emotionally.
As a result, she resorted to the only kind of leverage any parent really has when we have to fire retaliation rounds at our kids—we publically embarrass them. (Not necessarily in grossly humiliating ways like McCarney chose to do, but in quieter, more subtle ways like singing or dancing in front of large groups of their friends.) Because, quite frankly, the ability to mortify our kids is all most of us have in terms of an arsenal and every once in a while we’ve gotta pull out the big guns. And we do that because, in most cases, it gets our point across. It gives our kids a sudden and jarring smack in the head without getting an actual, physical smack to the head.
Now I’m not going to pretend that I’m unaffected by my daughter being away at school. That I don’t sleep with the ringer on now just on the off chance that she butt-dials me at 1:00 AM and I can hear her voice. Because I do. That my heart doesn’t legitimately skip a few life-sustaining beats whenever her name pops up on my Caller ID. Or that I don’t squeak out an audible sigh when I hear the ping of a new text come in and I see that it’s from her. I do all of those things, including a few others that I’m reluctant to admit to the world at this moment in time. I’m absolutely pathetic, I admit that fully. So I totally get where McCarney was coming from when she flipped a nutty after almost a month of not hearing from him.
See, the truth is, letting our kids go is an amazingly bittersweet experience. We want them to go off and do great things with their life but we’re not fully ready to cut the umbilical cord quite yet. We need to be thrown a tiny, partially chewed-up bone every once in a while just for peace of mind. We need to make sure that A) they haven’t forgotten about us and B) they haven’t forgotten about us. There’s no C.
So at the end of the day, it’s hard for me to judge whether or not I ever would’ve been that bold to post that kind of message on my own kid’s Facebook page. Part of me thinks it’s absolutely brilliant, while another part of me thinks that the mortification factor was just too high. Either way, it was enormously entertaining and definitely worth watching. Then you can judge for yourself if it’s a line you’d ever cross. (Don’t worry, though, Ri, I’m staying firmly on this side of that line. I swear.)
Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.