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.