Twitter's @PeanutFreeMom is 'um, yeah' a dude [Updated]
In the last week and a half a person using the Twitter handle @PeanutFreeMom has begun to build a substantial following online. Her name, according to her Twitter page, is Debra Jones-O'Brien (note the hyphenated surname) and in her profile she describes herself as "Life Coach, Career Mom, Peanut-Free Advocate."
Each of those descriptors is mildly annoying on its own, but taken all together they equal the worst person in the world — or, as it turns out, a super savvy Twitter comedy persona that targets the mommy bloggers.
Her close to 6,000 followers who love to fight with her have begun to catch on. "I'm starting to think @peanut free mom is the most obtuse person on the planet. Or secretly a writer for Second City," wrote one.
Since she arrived on the Twitter scene June 28, Peanut Free Mom has been infuriating her followers with bits of self-righteous mommy blogger gold. For example: "Caleb told me his sailing instructor is grilling 'hot dogs' for all his students tomorrow. Um, is this guy serious?" and "Mothers who consider 'Hamburger Helper' a home cooked meal are NOT doing their children any favors." And "Caleb is allergic to pet dander. All his stuffed animals are hypoallergenic."
In one tweet Peanut Free Mom notes that Yellowtail makes a great inexpensive merlot. In another she writes, "I only offer my services as a life coach to friends and neighbors. It's a very fulfilling occupation." Her followers have learned that her son Caleb loves the olive pizza from Whole Foods. She loves Trader Joe's and Nathan Lane.
Comedian Rob Delaney, who has a Twitter following of more than 150,000, was one of the first people to find her. "I was just enamored the second I saw it," he said. "The brilliance of it is that it's so close to real people, but she too consistently drops comments that are clearly meant to irk people for it to be real."
When Delaney first followed her the Twitter profile displayed a photograph of "one of those sexy people that you love to hate," he said. He tried to set up dinner with her in Massachusetts where she supposedly lives, but she turned him down and later direct messaged him asking him to stop harassing her.
New York blogger Katie Notopoulos also found Peanut Free Mom in her early days and was instantly obsessed.
"It's like she's managed to capture something that's so recognizable, but isn't exactly the full stereotype," Notopoulos wrote in an email. "It's not the full on yuppie mom, it's something more insidious. Yes, she hates Chili's and Papa Gino's (a Boston pizza chain), but she likes Starbucks. And the peanut allergy thing is so perfect: we all know nut allergies can be serious, but we all secretly suspect it's just a hypochondriac 'first world problem.' "
One of Notopoulos' friends used a photo-matching program that revealed the sexy mom photo was pulled from a random real estate broker's website. Peanut Free Mom has since changed her picture to a silhouette of a mom and child on a beach.
Notopoulos asked her Twitter friend @MT, who was one of the first people to retweet Peanut Free Mom, if Debra Jones-O'Brien was real, and he admitted that she wasn't. His friend, a dude, had thought the character up at a bar. But by that time Peanut Free Mom had grown a life of her own, having extensive arguments with other Twitter users, and baiting them with gems like, " A mother told me she can't afford to buy her groceries at Whole Foods. Um yeah, hi, can you afford insulin shots for little Carlos?"
"It's like a mind-melding combination of an over-educated, affluent, helicopter-parent, foodie mommy blogger and Casey Anthony," Notopoulos said.
She added: "I've started actually using her terrible 'um, yeah, hi' catchphrase in real life."
[Updated] The Times received a credible email from a man from the Boston suburbs who said he was Peanut Free Mom.
"I am not a comedian. I work with kids," he wrote. "I made the account to make my friends laugh. I am not trying to make light of the peanut allergy or single mothers. I just wanted to create a character that was overwhelmingly pompous upper-middle class divorcee that dishes out parenting advice.
"All the Parenting Tips are actual things I heard throughout my career in working with children," he said. "I WAS surprised at how quickly it caught on. It started on a Sunday and had 5,000 followers within a week. I happened to be on vacation at the time and had a LOT of time to tweet. I’ve started a few fake accounts, but none of them really took off."
He asked to remain anonymous.
-- Deborah Netburn