My mom online

One of the reasons I resisted blogging for so long was the navel-gazing nature I ascribed to it and everything it entailed: violations of privacy abound, and even when bloggers identify subjects with initials or pseudonyms, the circle knows who they are. And an online confessional can be a tough place to find yourself, even in disguise.

So now that I’ve actually started to blog I find myself constantly checking my inspirations: Topic A is on my mind, but if I write about it will I reveal too much about Subjects B, C, and D?

Which is why I’m delighted that today Topic A on my mind is my mom. If I didn’t know it before, I discovered this week that my mom has no boundaries. This week I learned that three years ago, in exchange for a free lunch, my mom agreed that Aubrey’s Restaurant Group could use her image, in whatever manner or medium they chose, apparently in perpetuity, to promote their product.

The news came in an email from my sister-in-law Laura, subject-titled “Look who I found,” and comprising only a link. Always wary of clicking a disembodied link, I waited till my brothers, both listed on the address line, weighed in.

“Wonder if she signed a release??” said one.

“Weird,” said the other.

Intrigued, I clicked. And this is what emerged. My mom, in the banner of an Aubrey’s ad, sipping a drink though a straw.

If you’ve never unexpectedly seen your mom in an Internet ad, let me just say it’s most unsettling. Like in grade school when you saw your teacher at the grocery.

Relying on no evidence whatsoever, my brother John and I immediately determined our mother had been the victim of a craftily crowd-sourced marketing campaign, her likeness appropriated unawares by a media manipulator planted amidst an unsuspecting lunch crowd to pirate candid photos for commercial use without attribution.

But as it turns out, Mom knew about the ad and had enthusiastically signed off.

“They said they’d buy us lunch if they could use our pictures in some ads,” she said. “I think they ran on TV too, but I never saw them. I’d forgotten about it till now.”

“Why didn’t you tell us when it happened?”

“Oh, didn’t I? I guess I was more excited about the free lunch.”

Which totally makes sense since my mom grew up during the Depression and appreciates the value of a bargain almost to a fault. She’ll drive 10 miles out of her way for a two-for-one special.

I asked if she thought it was still such a good deal, now that she knew Aubrey’s was still using her likeness–if she still thought she’d struck a good bargain.

She said she hadn’t really thought about it. I asked if she thought she should try to score another meal; she said no.

I told her John and I would probably blog about our experience seeing our mom online–did she mind?

She didn’t. No boundaries. Who knew?

Oh and by the way: The photo at the top of the post, Mom sipping a Bloody Mary, was taken last weekend at the Davenport Hotel in Spokane. Until I saw the Aubrey’s ad it was just a photo of my mom enjoying a cocktail. Now I’m thinking maybe John’s right: Maybe this is the start of a new career.

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