Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Let Your Yes be Text?

Technology continues at its hysterical pace, and nothing can date me as much as the admission that I never sent B.A. (or, I think, anyone) a text until 2009 when he gave me his old mobile phone. I am still rather lackadaisical about texting, however, and prone to leaving this phone behind on public transport. Fortunately, my phone is endlessly forgiving, and we always get back together again in the lost property offices of Europe.

Texting makes a nonsense out of the quaint advice of The Rules that one ought not to reply to a man's phone calls right away, for fear of looking too available. Thanks to the mobile phone, we are all too available, and everyone knows it. However, texts are cheaper than actual phone calls, so those are what we are most likely to get.

I was struck by the terrible dilemma of a reader who was asked on Tuesday for a date, and she said Sunday. She received a short text on Wednesday, which had no content, just an affectionate "Hi there, hot stuff" (not actual words). She did not return this text, and then received no further communication. Because there was no further communication, she wondered if their Sunday date was still on.

Remembering a time when all telephones were connected by wires to walls, I would have assumed the Sunday date was still on. If you say on Tuesday that you will meet Sunday, then it is obvious to me that there is nothing more to confirm. Let your yes be yes--that's how I feel about it. It would have been a bit odd, in the days of wires, to tell a man on Tuesday that you'd see him on Sunday, and then have him call you up on Wednesday just to say "Hi."

But these are the days of wireless, and men are more spoiled than ever. By the 1990s most young men assumed that most young women who would be seen with them would also sleep with them, and nowadays most young men seem to assume that most young women who would be seen with them will answer all their text messages. Technology, no less than the sexual revolution, has radically changed social communications AGAIN.

Well, we aunties must stay on top of these things, so I'm glad that this has been brought to my attention. I have given the matter some thought, and I think the wisest thing to do is to answer first texts (at least) from suitors the day you get them, but ignore all those that come in after 8 PM until the following morning.

Why 8 PM? The idea is to cloak your evening engagements (or lack thereof) in some mystery. If you rapidly answer messages from 8 PM to midnight, you might give the impression that you are moping at home with nothing better to do than exchange texts with him. This works against the impression that you are a busy, exciting woman with a fulfilling life, from which only an ambitious and attractive man with serious intentions could distract you.

However, I believe you must answer texts from suitors in a timely manner, and not simply ignore them, because men these days have a horror of being perceived as stalkers, and if you don't answer their first texts, they might not send you second attempts.

This does not mean answering every random follow-up thought or answering all messages ASAP. The flip side of modern men worrying about being perceived as stalkerish is modern men's rapid slide into satiation and boredom.

One feels sorry for men sometimes. (Bless their little hearts.) They demand more and more, and then when they get it too soon (even if not before they demand) and too much (even if not more than they demanded), they get all twitchy and irritated, and they don't know why. Young men are bad at expressing how they feel because they so often don't know how they feel, let alone why. And thus we have to do their emotional thinking for them. They can't help it, poor sweets; they just have lower EQs.

It is our duty, therefore, our responsibility to masculine fraility, not to allow them to become bored with us. It is one reason, by the way, why after marriage we must spend money--no matter how much husbands complain--on new hairstyles and new shoes and new clothes and alternate long periods of domestic tranquility with shouts about the state of the garage.

So when it comes to texts, I recommend answering their first texts in a text conversation in a businesslike way but not after 8 PM, if it is merely "Hiya, hot stuff" and not "I'll be there at 9."

Married women, of course, must answer all their husbands' texts ASAP. Women should band together to create a culture in which a man thinks the only way to get a woman to be really super nice to him is to marry her, and married women should do our bit by being demonstratively nicer to our husbands after the wedding than we were before it. This, however, does not preclude the buying of new shoes, etc., for the reason I mention. It is not nice to allow your husband to become bored.

Update: I am swotting away at Polish, and it appears that poet Wyslawa Szymborska agrees with me: "Piękna jest taka pewność, ale niepewność piękniejsza."

"Perhaps to a point," says Father Bernard Lonergan from heaven.


April said...

I dealt recently with the closely related problem of being asked out via text message. A nice young man I had met at a party asked for my number and the next day, when I was beginning the agonizing "Will he call?? Won't he call??" he contacted me the next day to ask for a date-- over text message. Ugh! I know it isn't personal (societal forces and all that, plus this is most people's primary way of communicating), but I cannot help feeling somewhat insulted by this. It's like someone who doesn't know enough to send a hand-written thank-you note.

(Actually, when I think about it, it's just like that: an antiquated means of communication that is still appropriate for a particular situation, the demise of which custom is partly individual fault, partly a result of social decline).

Anyway, I responded by rather curtly declining his first invitation which came over text message-- mostly because I was ill and grouchy at the time-- but he continued to text me several times over the next few days to ask how my day was going (guess he wasn't one of those afraid of appearing stalker-y!). I finally responded to one of these texts with a "I'm fine, thank you, but just so you know, I don't usually carry on conversations by text message." This got me a speedy phone call apologizing profusely for not calling before (he explained it was because the reception in his apartment was so bad, which actually turned out to be true) and asking me out in person.

Anonymous said...

I blocked incoming and outgoing texts. :) If a man wants to reach me, he can email, g-chat, or call. Take that, Rules Girls! (Kidding. I think.)

Some of the reason is financial: adding a texting package to my phone would cost about $300 per year. Adding email was half that. (Things might have changed.) Some of it is sheer annoyance: texting is, in all but a few situations, a really ridiculous way to communicate. I don't think that I'm missing out on much by blocking "Hi ya, hot stuff" from my phone.

Any woman who wants to do this can call up her phone company, block texts, and spend her $300 on shoes, make-up, or a lot of really great wine. She can also send texts to people (google how to do this) from email if she needs to.


Rebecca said...

April, you almost missed out on your future husband!

Mustard Seed said...

At their best, I think text messages can be a fun way to check in with someone and say hi and banter - though on the whole, when boys are concerned, I find them exasperating. The worst is texting a guy and then not hearing back or getting a delayed response. A few months ago I texted a guy to thank him for a fun date (I admit, calling would be more direct but seemed too formal at the time), and didn't hear back until a couple days later. Which left me doubting whether *he* had had fun, and whether he had even gotten the message?! Not a good feeling. (I did see him a number of times after that, but his non-response made me indignant.) I like April's approach of just telling the guy to call! So much more direct.

Also as a side note, texting isn't always cheaper than calling... my plan includes unlimited texts, which gets addictive quickly, but I only bombard my sister and close friends :)

The aforementioned "hot stuff" said...

"Fun" texts that say nothing are only fun if you're into a guy. Otherwise, they are mostly annoying.

miciabobi said...

Recently, two guys asked me out via text, which I thought enormously lame, and ignored both of them. One came around sometime later and called to ask me out; I answered and said yes. The other, I finally had to tell him to call, but he's still not getting the picture, so he's out.

I think a man needs to show some courage and strength, pick up the phone, call a girl, and take the chance to be rejected if that's the case, or hopefully, pleasantly surprised. Texting to me is an easy way out, kind of sneaking around instead of standing tall. It is an insult to a woman, and if a guy is not brave enough to ask you out, what can you expect down the road?

I also agree that texting is a ridiculous way to communicate, especially in the early stages of dating when things are very new. I'm not convinced instant, expected constant communication is the best path forward. Later on, I'm ok with it, to a point, when there is some establishment of a relationship between two real people, not just two mobile phones sharing short phrases open for all kinds of misinterpretation, not to mention overwrought expectation.

And I really agree, if you are not into the guy, or still deciding, texts are totally annoying.

Jam said...

Well, thank you everyone for making me feel like a young whippersnapper ;)

I came too late to it to be an enormous fan of texting, but I haaaate talking on the phone. Various horribly-awkward phone calls with boys have just flashed through my mind. I don't think I'd be insulted to be asked out by text; if that was how we were communicating otherwise it would probably seem natural enough. And I'd be spared having to say things like, "sorry, I couldn't hear that, there's a garbage truck" or "sorry, I'm standing in the stairwell of the library, let me get outside where there's a signal". But then at this point I will take what I can get.

Canadian Doc said...

I have not minded the texting asking-out-for-dates so much (context was appropriate) but what I LOATHED was when a guy I had been dating broke things off over Facebook. It might as well have been a text message. While I'm not sure whether he is truly one, it had to be the most cowardly thing I can think of. He had seen me person not long before, and could have broken things off then, or even a phone call would have been more acceptable, given that it was a long distance situation.

Donkey said...

As a guy I can tell you there are new rules guys are following that are forbidding them from calling. "don't call her when you first get her number - that's bad logistics AND you're putting pressure on her from the get-go."

If you want to look at how the gamers are adapting to this new ascii world, they call it "text game."

If you text once or twice you will not be called "creepy" or "weird" or "stalker," which many girls are very eager to apply to men who call them once and curtly ask them on a date.

They then brag/complain about it to their friends, and if you try to date any of her friend's friends, your potential dates will be informed of your supposed negative traits.

If you are moving in small social circles it can cut your pool of potential marriage prospects dramatically.

There is too much risk to reward by using the telephone, when all you thought you were doing was politely asking a nice girl out to coffee after daily mass, you turn radioactive, and all her friends whisper about you.

(This is generally for the younger crowd, 18-21.)

But men adopting text is done primarily because the women have responded better to texts. It is a response to what women have expressed they prefer. In the dating world men offer proposals and women accept or reject. And many women have started reacting to telephone calls with a nuclear irrationality. Don't think that men burnt once don't alter their proposal methods and trade information on what women prefer to other men.

Telephone calls are much better in my opinion, because you can gauge the person's interest, voice inflection, etc. But modern humans seem to have been raised in sterile environments without developing many of the social instincts that humanity has taken for granted for generations, like reading people, or basic curtsey.

If women receive a text message and are interested in my opinion it is best if she informs the man that she would prefer a telephone call. I imagine most non-PUA men would too.

Also the users and gamers have been adapting to this new preference by women to prefer text messages over telephone calls. They may send mass texts to many women, "Hey what's up" looking for a bite from a few. This was formerly impossible with telephone calls. They advise sending nonsensical, short, random messages to get a girl to engage with a response and strike up a conversation. They advise low-investment in many women. The arms race continues.

I just want to let you know what is going through guy's heads. Most men have little to no instruction on dating and courtship, and only rely on their friends. When word gets around that you DON'T call girls on the telephone men follow accepted wisdom.

I am late twenties now, but I remember when women were preferring facebook names. It was so awkward as a man because I didn't want facebook at all, but since that was what women wanted I had to oblige. Men's adoption of texting is only a response to their perception that that is what women prefer.

Texting arguably puts most men at a disadvantage because of their innate lack of EQ and lesser linguistic skills.

That is just my comments on why so many young men are moving to texting, and some of the dangers from predators through it.

Morgan said...

I was recently asked out via text by someone whom I was very interested in, and with whom I already had a casual friendship going (one developed via sporadic short emails and the occasional coffee).

At first I was irritated, and then I recalled how much I dislike talking on the phone to anyone who is not already a dear friend or family member. In the past I have felt very on-the-spot when asked out over the phone, so I guess I can appreciate the way that texting allows you to be very polite and measured in a response, whether accepting or declining.

The other thing I've thought about with regard to invitations, romantic and/or social, via both texting and email (at least the variety that doesn't expect a long, bantering back-and-forth) is that they are in some ways more along the lines of old-fashioned communication, like leaving a note for someone to reply to at their leisure, as opposed to the extremely interruption-demanding and awkwardly intrusive telephone call.

Jam said...

If you text once or twice you will not be called "creepy" or "weird" or "stalker," which many girls are very eager to apply to men who call them once and curtly ask them on a date.

Wha?? I am skeptical of this (although you can see about me above). It presupposes that girls are normally chatting on the phone with guys in the getting-to-know-you phase, which I really really doubt is happening among the 18-21s. Frankly if a dude called me and just wanted to chat I would be confused. I don't expect a guy to want to just talk on the phone; if he calls I figure he's going to ask me out before he hangs up. Obviously it's different if it's long distance.

Personally I think it's silly to get up in arms about the medium a guy uses to ask you out. It makes sense that he would use whatever medium you've been interacting with most -- facebook, email, text, phone calls (although I have serious doubts that this happens!), google chat, or in person. If a guy wants to ask for my phone number so he can call and ask me out, more power to him. If a girl wants to insist that a guy calls her, more power to her. But personally I'm not going to dismiss a guy for not making that formality. It's a date, not a marriage proposal!! Which of course, like a breakup, should obviously be done in person unless totally impossible, since at that point "in person" should probably be the normal method of interaction.

Charming Disarray said...

The problem is that some guys think having a days-long conversation over text is genuinely a way to get to know someone. It seems to be part of their method of deciding whether to ask the girl for a date. I objected to a guy who was doing this to me recently, after keeping up a tolerable amount of lighthearted banter, by saying I never get to know people over text, and he responded by saying that he felt like he was doing all the work and I never initiated any text conversations!