On Tuesday, the Internet’s Lonely Hearts’ Club was set ablaze with one of the most public displays of affection to grace Instagram since that TEDx speaker wrote an ode to his curvy wife. To welcome his wife back to tennis after her maternity hiatus, husband of Serena Williams and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian installed four billboards alongside a major California expressway that feature Williams and the couple’s daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. The billboards, which collectively spell out Greatest Momma of All Time and end with the vaguely biological acronym G.M.O.A.T., debuted on Ohanian’s Instagram with the caption, “I wanted to welcome her back to tennis. Designed them myself, with some help from Jr.”
The Internet’s reaction was, for a lavish moment of PDA, surprisingly positive. Most acknowledged the delightful extraness and the fact that Ohanian just made expressions of affection that much harder for partners of normal means. Some, however, felt not only that the gesture was “too much” and “creepy as hell” but also that the billboards cheapened the message of the Oscar-nominated film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Others squinted at the low-resolution quality of the photos Ohanian chose for the billboards—which, fair. Over at the Cut, one editor described the billboards as “the extreme version of getting them to sing to you at a restaurant on your birthday.”
It could definitely be argued that the billboards take something extremely personal like baby photos and unwisely make them public. (Of course, if there’s anyone who’s comfortable with the weird things people on the Internet do with private information it’s the co-founder of Reddit.) And it’s true that if you’re someone who hates being sung to by wait staff at Chili’s, then this gesture is definitely not for you. But I think it’s safe to assume that Williams, who has lived her life in the public eye since the late ‘90s, has fewer such qualms.
In any case, Ohanian’s gesture is remarkably sweet. Williams has been extremely open about her pregnancy complications, which left her unable to leave her bed for six weeks after delivery, and the difficulties she faced adjusting to motherhood. “Sometimes I get really down and feel like, Man, I can’t do this,” she said in an interview with Vogue. “No one talks about the low moments—the pressure you feel, the incredible letdown every time you hear the baby cry.
I’ve broken down I don’t know how many times.” You can’t tell me that that pressure, combined with the difficult transition that any new mom experiences going back to work for the first time, wouldn’t make a giant billboard proclaiming the fact that you’re the Greatest Momma of All Time a welcome sight.
At the end of the day, Ohanian’s billboards are just a rich person’s answer to all those baby forum questions on how to welcome a new mom back into the workplace. And considering how much money he has, we should just be thankful that he didn’t send a rocket into space emblazoned with GMOAT.