MY MOMMIES have been quiet all week, which is not how I like them. Lolo and her littles Sav and Hunty have taken one of their Silkie chickens to the vet for a broken leg. Jess and her husband Colton are still—still!—waiting for Brynnleigh at 40 weeks. Daryl-Ann is at Chick-Fil-A. Bernadine is at Chick-Fil-A. Arika is at Chick-Fil-A. Dani’s dog is being lethargic so she posts a poll asking whether she should seek treatment or wait it out. Most people vote wait it out.
These kinds of posts leave me itchy, unimpressed. I like it best when my mommies are posting about how they’ve long resisted sharing their flat-earth beliefs, but that today, the Lord has put it on their hearts to tell the world the truth; how Katy Perry is really JonBenet Ramsey or how a man in a fedora at a Trump rally is really JFK Jr. in disguise; how if someone threatens their children with a Covid vaccine they’ll hide them in the attic like Anne Frank, they’ll bring out their guns, they won’t let Shill Gates microchip their babies.
It is summer and it is hot. I’m quarantining in western North Carolina, learning the sounds of different bugs. Every day feels long, boring, almost analgesic compared to the dark, choked spring I spent in Brooklyn, wiping down my groceries and holding my breath for 30 seconds at a time to make sure I still could. Besides Twitter and the news, the mommies are my last remaining link to the deranged.
“Should this maybe not be the last thing you do before you go to sleep every night,” asks my boyfriend, looking over my shoulder as I scroll, in the fetal position, facing the wall. He cites a recent uptick in my vivid home invasion dreams, the dreams I have when I feel powerless. I tune him out and zoom in on a graphic a mommy named Jaelynn has posted to her stories: a series of overlapping circles labeled NASA: DARK SPACE MISSION and ANCIENT BUILDER RACE and VATICAN and BLUE AVIANS and OFF-PLANET HUMAN SLAVE TRADE.
“I feel like I’m really learning something about America,” I tell him.
IN FEBRUARY I decided to follow some Mormon mommy bloggers on Instagram.
For weeks they’d been popping up on my Discover page, beautiful blonde women with icy eyes and passels of children who looked exactly like them. The mommies seemed like a different species of girl than me. Every day I woke up overeducated, underpaid, uncertain of when I’d last shaved my legs. But with the mommies, every day someone new was pregnant; every day there was a new VICI try-on that stretched for 20 slides, each one a swipe-up link to purchase tie-dye sweats and felted black hats and Christian-girl-autumn-style knee-high boots. Some of the outfits were cute, and I thought: This is why Instagram is showing me these women! It wants me to buy things. I did not buy the mommies’ special clothes and I felt superior, smarter than the algorithm.
Still, the mommies grabbed something in me. I’d followed them, at first, so I could gape at the uncanny landscaping of their lives—but the more I watched them, the more I noticed their imperfections, their vulnerabilities. Some of them seemed, maybe, a little more unmoored, a little too in need of attention. Brittany posted lots of sad photos of her handsome dead husband; her captions always suggested God had taken him for a reason (while plugging a pricey workshop for widows and widowers). Ivy hawked Monat hair products, but she worried that her youngest had been injured by the heavy metals in the DTaP vaccine (she spelled it “v@((!n3,” to avoid being censored by !nst@gr@m’s f@ct ch3ck3rs). Everyone was selling something. Everyone was in pain.
I created a second account, saltlake_saltlick, to observe them more closely, without my real friends’ dogs and to-read stacks and dying houseplants cluttering my feed. I followed all my mommies, and I followed the mommies they followed. Homesteaders. Wifeys. Boymamas. Christ followers. Empaths. Holistic healers. Herbalists. Astral travelers. Antifeminists. Ohio dwellin’, Oahu livin’. Lilah, Heather, Sydnee, Sierra, Aubrey, Krystal, Jinger. I learned their names and their children’s; I studied the rhythms of their days. The mommies had husbands who worked in landscaping or the military, who politely smiled for the camera once a week when their wives sat them down to livestream a Q&A about marriage to a hundred thousand people. The mommies had babies with names like Raider and Rifle and Arkham and Taytum and Barley and Nehemiah. The mommies were custom-building their own mansions, buying their six children matching sets of sparkly clothing, having biweekly shoots with professional photographers to produce one beautiful image that would accompany a long caption about what it means to question your faith without abandoning it. I couldn’t believe people lived like this.
The final week in February, on the last plane ride I’d take all year, I used the free Fly-Fi to scroll for three straight hours while I hurtled from Florida, where I’d been visiting my family, to Brooklyn. I toggled between my mommies and my emails, planning out a Super Tuesday party with my best friends and a trip to Beacon the following month. I landed, I went home. I shopped for more groceries than usual. I tried ignoring the news. The Super Tuesday party was sad, the trip to Beacon got canceled, lockdown began. I followed more and more mommies.
The mommies started wearing t-shirts sunnily screen-printed with the phrase FREEDOM KEEPER and attending anti-mask rallies. They posted videos implying they were foregoing chickenpox vaccines in favor of exposing their children to the virus via mysterious, black-market-looking envelopes labeled VARICELLA. They posted that they were approaching new vibrational energies, that they were moving into a fourth dimension of consciousness, that they were becoming a part of the Great Awakening.
On Twitter, someone was recirculating a tweet from January: Something shifted. Shits about to get real weird.
One of the mommies changed her avatar to a caricature of a mincing Jew with large lips and long fingers wrapped around a flute, a short line of small blond cartoon children trailing behind him. Another mommy posted a graphic featuring three old men and three lizard people. WHO THEY WANT YOU TO THINK IS IN CONTROL, said the text above the men; WHO’S REALLY IN CONTROL, said the text above the lizard people. The caption read: dart board emoji, sparkle emoji, lizard emoji, sparkle emoji, planet Earth emoji. Just another reason to not eat Oreos, posted one mommy, offering a handy guide to the Satanic crosses and Freemason symbols hidden in the patterns on the chocolate cookie. One mommy lost her pregnancy at 11 weeks and had a non-socially-distanced funeral, no masks in sight. She buried the fetus in her family’s plot; she posed for photographs weeping, wearing sparkly hair clips that said ANGEL BABY. At the end of the funeral, she released 11 blue butterflies.
NOW IT’S JUNE. There’s an amazing new steam mop out and all the mommies have it. Cops are beating protesters unconscious with their riot shields and the mommies are all posting the same graphic, which reads i understand that i will never understand above a line of fist emojis: one black, one brown, one white. The steam mop is made by Bissell. Soros is paying Antifa to usher in the New World Order, which will persecute Christians and Republicans so Jews and socialists can finally rule the globe. The infrared thermometers that now take our temperatures outside grocery stores or doctors’ offices are acclimating us to the idea of having guns aimed at our heads. Marina Abramovic has taught Jay-Z and Lady Gaga and Hillary Clinton and Rihanna to cook and eat the spirits of small white children. The Bissell steam mop is only $79.99 on Amazon and I have to try it. The West Coast wildfires were started by left-wing arsonists. Yoga is Satanic. Tarot is Satanic. When a celebrity wears a Band-Aid on their left hand they’re telling you they eat children. When a celebrity wears a flower crown they’re telling you they eat children. When a celebrity wears dark eye makeup they’re telling you they eat children. If I swipe up the Bissell steam mop will be automatically added to my Amazon cart. The Deep State did 9/11. The Rothschilds did 9/11. Jeffrey Epstein did 9/11. On October 17th Trump will announce JFK Jr. as his new running mate. The Bissell steam mop is going to change my life.
The mommies are unconcerned about catching Covid. YOUR BODY IS NOT BROKEN, they post. GOD GAVE YOU AN IMMUNE SYSTEM FOR A REASON. The mommies have found the perfect chunky scarves for fall. The mommies believe that ten minutes a day of walking outside barefoot will safeguard you against any virus, that the fluoride in our water is a chemical weapon that makes us more susceptible to disease. The mommies’ husbands’ vasectomy reversals were successful; the mommies are expecting miracle babies. The mommies advertise a $425 water filter. The mommies are hiking in Utah, hiking in Hawaii. They know that the Earth has grown weary.
The mommies go collectively crazy for a little graphic that shows a passage from Revelation in which every instance of “mark of the beast” has been edited to instead read “mask of the beast.” Some mommies love the Snoo, a motorized bassinet that rocks your baby to sleep. Others say the Snoo causes SIDS. Others still say SIDS is really caused by vaccines. The mommies affirm the statement “Black Lives Matter,” but they do not support the Marxist Leftist Organization BLM Inc., which they know supports the decentralization of the family. The mommies are posting pictures of bloody fetuses at every stage of development. The mommies are posting infographics about how every Covid death is really a death caused by the rollout of 5G. The mommies are sure you will love this perfect wrist wallet. The mommies reject false prophets like Rachel Hollis of Girl, Wash Your Face fame. The mommies are calling their three-day-old babies little chonks. The mommies are retiling their kitchen backsplashes. The mommies are ready for the return of the Messiah. The mommies are ordering a size up for a cozier fit.
On 9/11, a mommy posts a picture of two people jumping from the Twin Towers and captions it this photo right here is why I’m willing to speak out against the synagogue of Satan. Are the lizards in control, I wonder, or is the synagogue of Satan? Is there some relationship between the two? The mommies sell essential oils, get hair extensions, hold large indoor parties where they fete their one-year-olds. They post gender reveals and they pray the end of Roe v. Wade is near. October 17th comes and goes; JFK Jr. is nowhere to be seen. The year is winding down, but what is a year anymore? Time is a bowl of mush. One of my mommies puts up her Christmas tree the day before Halloween and posts a time-lapse of her children trimming its branches with tinsel. Some of my friends start their sentences, As soon as there’s a vaccine. The mommies start theirs, As soon as Jesus comes back. Election day comes and goes. The Saturday after, at 11:27 am, Brooklyn is one happy shout. But my mommies warn me that ten days of darkness are coming, that this has all been scripted, that the Texas Rangers are about to take Sleepy Joe into custody. We are entering a period of spiritual warfare, they say. We are coming to the end of everything.
Every day thousands of Americans die. Every week my screen time is up another 4%. My heart aches, a little, wishing I could believe that the fires aren’t a now-uncontrollable consequence of human-hastened climate change, but instead have been engineered by anarchists; that the virus isn’t a virus—one our government has let spread and spread, while many, like my mommies, do nothing to contain it—but a scary story concocted to keep us in our homes so that the lizard people can take control. It’s easier to invent underground enemies than it is to confront the culprit that is right in front of us. It’s easier to blame the unseen than to look at what we’ve done to each other.
When my boyfriend asks me what, exactly, the mommies are teaching me about America, I don’t have a ready answer. But I found something, and I stared at it hard and often. The lesson has to be somewhere I haven’t yet looked. If I put my phone down, I’m afraid I am going to miss it.
Alexandra Tanner is a writer based in Brooklyn. A graduate of the MFA program at The New School, she has received grants and fellowships from MacDowell and The Center for Fiction. She is the fiction editor at Triangle House Review.