Textual Relations

I, like many people, have a cell phone. That cell phone, like most, sends and receives texts. And the very same cell phone, this insanely common, text sending phone, is trying to kill me.

Ok, that may be an overreaction. But at the very least, my cell phone is conspiring to make all my relationships five times more complicated, and ten times easier to create. This through the magic of non-commitment. You see, for my generation, “text me” is the new “call me.” We’re lazy that way. Commitment is scary, and a phone call means something much more than a few lines of text strung together. It’s just the easy, pain-free way to a relationship. Perfect for our generation. Of course, I am no exception.

Let’s start from the beginning. I met this guy. I decided I liked him. I conspired to meet him again. Afterwards I asked for his phone number off of Facebook (because this wasn’t easy enough already). And that’s where it began.

We developed quite the relationship. For the 3 weeks or so, not a day has gone by without the exchange of texts between us. And yet, in person, he is constantly amazed at the intimacy between us. And I quote: “We’ve only had, what, 7 conversations?” Should I remind him that we have been texting for the better part of April, he replies, with absolute conviction: “Doesn’t count.”

Well, why the hell not?

Let me tell you a story. I once overheard a conversation between two guys while sitting in the halls of my school. They were walking with their phones out; trying to determine the meaning of this singular text a girl had sent one of them. They were discussing punctuation, the prevalence of smilies, and comparing this two line text to the other texts they had received from the same girl. I highly doubt they used the same care when discussing Shakespeare’s works.

Honestly, texting someone is like playing poker. Except neither of you know how to play poker. And there’s always a chance one of you is playing Go Fish. So yes, it’s frustrating. You have to craft every single word to try to deliver maximum meaning with minimum word count. No mean feat. And they say our generation has poor writing skills.

I mean, you can’t even express yourself in a way that makes it clear what you mean. So trying to guess what someone thinks of you through text is like reverse engineering a UFO. It’s nigh impossible and you know you’re going to mess up somewhere.

You know, I would forget who he was. After spending so much time staring at his words from behind a screen, the real man disappeared and was replaced by a fickle spectre. When hours would go by without a text, I would assume I said something wrong. When I would receive one word replies to painstakingly carved out monologues, I would feel he was being a jerk.

So why not talk? Like on the phone or in person?

Oh, what an optimistic question. You must not know much about Gen Y.

Do you remember the first time you asked someone out? Or the first time you confessed your undying “like” to someone? Most likely it was nerve wracking, terrifying beyond belief, and so awkward. And that’s if you weren’t rejected.

But texting…texting is like a pass code to avoid all the horrible commitment that comes with actually having to physically form words. Imagine if you could just write something vaguely flirtatious and pass it to whomever you wanted to get to know, without ever having to look them in the eyes. That’s just how easy it is to start a relationship. Not something real, mind you. But something that could eventually, at some point in time (far in the future most likely) possibly turn into something sort of committed (maybe).

Well maybe I’m just a commitment phobe. This is just the way you play it these days. Even if you want a committed relationship you don’t say it aloud. And you certainly don’t try to get one. That’ll just freak people out. It’s simply not done. You have to hide your intentions and wait until you figure out if the other person’s intentions are the same. Unfortunately, you both get so good at hiding that you refuse to look for the other. And so, you’re never found. It’s an eternal game of hide and don’t seek.

Though, if we’re all hiding the same thing, why are we hiding?

Maybe because hiding is safe. Maybe because a screen is not you, not really, and so can’t be hurt. Maybe because nobody is that witty, that urbane, that cool in person. It took me a few hours to write this essay. I would never have been able to make this up on the spot, no matter how much time you gave me. And don’t I sound clever? Score one for virtual reality.

But hey, it’s better than nothing. Right?

And what about me? What about my beautifully complicated yet pain-free textual relationship? Well, he did manage to tell me straight out that he liked me. I don’t want to think about our respective blood alcohol levels, but it happened. To the best of my recollection anyway.

So now? Now that he’s shown his hand, revealing just the cards I was hoping for? Well, I’ve gotten two texts from him today. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out what he’s trying to say.

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