Something disturbing happened to me the other day — I got a friendship request on Facebook.
It was from my mother.
I'm in Los Angeles; she's in the Bay Area. We're on great terms, no issues. But this was different.
She hadn't uploaded a photo to Facebook yet, but as I stared at her six friends, I tried to imagine her seeing my page for the first time, and I wondered if she would notice that I'd just taken the "How Girly Are You?" quiz and scored a zero.
"If your mom is saying 'I want you to be my Facebook friend,' then you know what? Deal with it," my friend on Facebook, and not my life-giver, Heidi Deruiter, said.
Heidi was the first of 20 friends to comment on the status update I'd posted about the quandary I was in. She told me she loved being Facebook friends with her mom and that she'd even helped her mom set up a profile.
"I learned the cutest things about her," Heidi said. "Because she just attacked that profile, filling out her favorite TV shows, her favorite movies — she was like, 'Oh, The Barefoot Contessa!' "
The possibility of finding my mother's Facebook page cute made me uncomfortable.
My friend Sarah said, "It would be one thing if you were, say, like 22, and you didn't want to be friends with your mom on Facebook."
"But at 40?" I said.
To Sarah Cain, I was laboring over a non-issue. And to Nicole Eisenman, who had rejected her father's request, it was no big deal to hit the "ignore" button.
"It's that unrequited love thing," Nicole justified. "You're allowed to ignore your parents."
After cautioning me that if I accepted her friend request, my mother would be able to see all the comments I left on other people's photos, Nicole then changed her mind and posted a comment to Facebook that was fueled by the guilt she suffers over having ignored a cousin.
Nicole suggested I give my mom a trial period and if things started to feel weird, then I could dump her. "All of us will process it together," Nicole said.
I thought about my audience of 500 friends and wondered if my mother's presence would hinder my performance. If there was anyone who would detect inauthenticity in my self-packaging, it would be her. As it was, I'd already deleted several comments from my page, just knowing she was getting closer.
"Well, she's gonna look at it all the time." Dorothy Bourgois suggested I make my mother read my teenage diaries as a way of scaring her out of Facebook friendship, then admitted that she looks at her 16-year-old son's page every day.
"It's horrifying," Dorothy said. "It's the energy I would expend to virtually stalk a boyfriend, I have now put into my son."
The longer I remained confused, the guiltier I felt seeing my mother's friend request lingering in the corner of my page. Sandra Sharpe. Confirm or Ignore. I was veering toward offering her a restricted-access friendship, when she called.
"So how are you today?"
I tried to make small talk, but I couldn't get past the elephant in the room.
"So I noticed you're on Facebook now."
"Oh god, Jimena made me do it!" she said.
Since caving into peer pressure and joining Facebook, my mom had experienced nothing but guilt and anxiety, and she felt accosted by the friend suggestions Facebook was automatically generating out of her address book.
"I had always promised myself I would never be your friend on Facebook, but what happened is that there are all of these faces that are now there and I feel rude not to accept all of them — I don't feel free to say no to anybody. But I don't really want to be your Facebook friend."
In that case, I thought, maybe we could be friends.
"I hope that you do turn me down," my mom said, "No guilt. Noooo guilt."
The next morning, when I clicked on her friend request, I paused before hitting "ignore."
Watching her name vanish from the screen, I felt both courageous and cowardly. But I knew I'd averted disaster. If I had accepted her friend request, my father's couldn't have been far behind.