My father will tell you that if he had a dollar for every time one of his children screamed ‘I hate you!’ at him when they were teenagers, he’d have just enough money to pay the COE of his Mercedes. It’s one of the many jokes he’s told in his life that never quite lands, but that’s never stopped him.
He once made the mistake of showing up at our school to pick us up only to have Michelle scream at him the entire car-ride home. “Why are you always embarrassing me like this?! I hate you!!”
“What is wrong with that girl?” he asked Mother that night, genuinely bewildered.
She rolled her eyes. “She thinks we’re old fuddy-duddies,” she said, fingering her pearl necklace. “She’s ashamed to be seen in public with us. You should just throw her out in the street and disown her.”
That’s how my mother deals with a family crisis — by escalating it with threats of disinheritance.
Of course, the intervening years have softened everyone’s edges and if my sister still hates our parents, she’ll only tell me and our brother, Jack. Or her 150 Instagram followers. One of whom is Mother.
For the longest time, none of us thought she was on social media, but eventually it seemed a little odd to us that she seemed to know, for instance, that Jack had a new tattoo, or that I’d developed a fondness for bulldogs. Then when she casually said, over lunch one day at Les Amis, that she simply didn’t understand why people were still so obsessed with ABBA, Michelle put her fork down and stared.
“Okay, that’s it,” she said in a penetrating whisper. “Are you stalking us?”
Mother looked up from her foie gras, radiating innocence. “What are you talking about?”
“You keep mentioning things that sound random, but they almost always relate to something that’s personal to us! Jack posts a story on Downton Abbey, and you ask him if he’d like you to take him to Highclere Castle when the lockdown is lifted…”
Mother shrugged. “But…”
“And I just posted ABBA’s new song…” Michelle began.
“Oh my God,” Jack sighed. “I am obsessed with ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’!”
“…and there’s no reason for you to even bring it up since we were talking about the stock market!” Michelle went on, giving our brother a withering side stare. “Are you secretly on Instagram and stalking your children? Out with it, old woman!”
You could tell by the way Mother’s shoulders deflated a little that the game was up. Michelle pulled out her phone and tapped on her Instagram account. “Okay, who are you?” she demanded. “What’s your handle?”
That evening, after we’d separately spent the better part of two hours scrolling through xxx69’s posts, Jack called me. “Mother is a BTS fan?”
“Don’t get me started,” I told him. “The woman has 7,000 followers! How did that happen?”
“I had no idea BTS was a boy-band,” Michelle WhatsApped me. “I’ve always thought it was a phone company!”
“It disturbs me that Mother’s favourite is Jimin.”
“No idea. I think he’s one of the band members. He looks like he’s 15.”
All I can say is that if ever I needed evidence that I live in a world gone mad, I just need to scroll through my Mother’s Instagram feed. A few days ago, she posted how happy she was that Aimee and Wes seemed be back together again on Love Island, though she didn’t think she could last another day not knowing what was happening with Cashay and Cinco.
Michelle abandoned WhatsApp and called me. “You know what’s really depressing? I was scrolling through my feed and my posts are all about ABBA’s two new songs, Dr Pimple Popper, and Fann Wong.”
“I’ve posted nothing but ABBA Voyage-related stories for days now,” I said. “I’m so obsessed with ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’! I really can’t wait for the whole album to drop.”
“Mother’s post today was about Zendaya’s outfit to the Dune premiere and her caption was ‘Sliving!’”
I paused. “What?”
Michelle sighed down the line. “Sliving. A mash-up between slaying and living. Coined by Paris Hilton. I had to Google it.”
I was astonished. “She’s quoting Paris Hilton?”
This morning, Jack called to say that Mother is also on TikTok.
I put my bowl of cereal down on the table. “Shut. Up.” I said.
“There’s one of her in 2019 dancing ‘Jerusalema’! At first, I thought it was a deep fake, but then I recognised the living room in the background, and she’s got Daddy doing it, too! 2019! I was bingeing on Downton Abbey reruns in 2019!”
It’s telling Jack had to spell out ‘Jerusalema’ for me, just so I could Google it. And since I’m not on TikTok, he sent me one of Mother’s posts — all decked out in her Chanel and pearls, whilst shimmying to the Master KG remix featuring Nomcebo. And she’s good, too.
“I hate her!” Michelle WhatsApped.
Photo: TPG News/Click Photos