Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Guy Who Gets Stuck at Texting

One of the questions at Seraphapalooza concerned the the guy who keeps contacting a girl--with texts, emails, maybe even phone calls--but never asks her out.

And here is where the techno-generation gap opens before my feet because I have never encountered this problem myself. Men and women of my generation pick up telephone receivers, push buttons or dial a wheel, and talk. When we were teenagers, that was what we had, and so that is what we know how to do.

Sure, in the 80s and 90s, men could write letters, but they rarely did. Postal delivery in my town was such that it would be very eccentric and risky to ask a girl out by letter, and only a complete weirdo would write "What's up?" on a postcard and pay 40 cents for the privilege of posting it to a girl.

But times have changed and no longer do men have to actually pick up a phone, push buttons and talk to a real live girl through the receiver.  They can send endless little notes that many a girl feels she is expected to answer almost at once. Back in the days of verbal phoning, a man might find himself talking to an answering machine instead, and as he would assume the woman was out, she could reply at her leisure. Calling three times or more in rapid succession was socially unacceptable and made a guy look like a lunatic.

Those were the days! And sometimes I remember that I am a member of that generation and just throw aside computer and mobile phone, grab the house phone and just call somebody up. I do this especially when I have a question and I need the answer now.

I happen to know how difficult it is to call the apple of one's eye and ask it out on a date because I have occasionally done that, back in the days before I realized how pointless it is to ask men out on first or second dates. And therefore I do not have loads of sympathy for men who are too timid to call women up and ask them out although I understand that they have been coddled and protected from the scary, scary challenge by texting.

One of the difficulties about the guy who keeps contacting but never asks out is that a girl gets neither the chance to reject or to accept his advances. Possibly that's the whole point. Maybe some guys who just like to hang around getting a buzz from proximity to a girl without having either to go away or  to commit to an actual evening out together. And if you suspect a guy is like this, you might want to consider telling him to buzz off.

Here is a magical phrase: "Well, and what can I do for you today/this evening?" In the days of rotary phones, it was assumed that when a man called a woman, he called not to chat like one of her woman friends but for some purpose, for some business-like task. The phrase "Well, and what can I do for you today?" was a polite way of asking, "Why did you call?"

I recommend, then, that if a guy sends you short texts saying things like "Whtsup" that you reply with "?" In short, derail pointless texting and thus force male interlocutors into actually having a reason to contact you. If you don't actually like the guy who keeps sending you texts, text back "Very busy 2day."

Do remember that your social time is your own and you do not have to lavish it on anyone upon whom you do not want to lavish it. There are time-tested and true ways of telling men to get to the point or to buzz off, should you want them to buzz off.  "And what can I do for you today?" said with a smile or a :-) leaves the door open to a guy asking you out. "Pardon me, Scooter, I'm really busy right now" tells Scooter to buzz right off. Indeed, he will recognize this expression from the primary female in his life, his mother.

I would be particularly grateful today for the suggestions of readers with well-honed text management skills.

By the way, I thought this article was spot on, so great thanks to Cordi for sending it in. In my auntish opinion, it should be required reading for men. In a sane world, health teachers would be allowed to hand it out in high schools without both the Junior and Senior branches of the Feminist Brigade going into hysterics because reality is so embarrassing and politically incorrect.


katy said...

I could agree more with this, Seraphic. We're not looking for penpals. This is especially a problem, I have found, in online dating. Men will "ping" you in some way and then once it switches over to email, insecure men have trouble pulling the trigger and asking on a date. Some want to "get to know you" by email. I have a couple rules about this 1) 3 strikes and you're out. That means - if you haven't asked me out after three exchanges of pings/emails, I stop replying. 2) I keep emails super short and don't respond beyond one, non-deep sentence or two to any info revealed in his email. If you both use email to get to know you, you're doing what you should be doing on your first date and it makes it very hard to get through the first date if/when it happens (I've found first dates are usually the walk-me-through-your-life-story convo. Can't do that if you already did it by email).

katy said...

er, that's "couldn't" agree more.

Seraphic said...

Whereas it is true first dates often feature the whole "here are the stories of our lives", I don't think this is such a good idea. It is best to save stuff for later, and just give a few broad outlines and concentrate on the present or on one detail that really resonates with the other, like the surprise discovery you both were at World Youth Day in Germany.

Lisette said...

Thank you so much! I used to text back out of politeness but lately I just don't answer back at all. I've realize I shouldn't have to carry on a conversation with someone I'm not interested in. Esp. one that begins with "S'up?"

alliecat said...

Sadly, I've had a guy who mostly just texted me think he was in a RELATIONSHIP with me. It took getting a "Happy Valentine's Day" text for me to realize that I needed to do something about it. So I told him that I was looking for more than just a texting relationship. When he just said he was sorry I felt that way, I realized that he didn't really care about me, and he was just looking for the perks of having a girlfriend, with none of the work. I was sorry that I hadn't listened to my friend when she told me that I should just stop responding. Another of those "he's just not that into you" life lessons, I guess.

Maria said...

Yes, I agree with Lisette. There's no way I'm going to text or email back someone I just don't want to talk to. Life is too short. I think a guy "gets the message" if you don't answer back, in a way he wouldn't if you just kept trying to subtly deflect him with "I'm rather busy" notes. Or else it will make him step up and take a more concrete advance, in which case you can more concretely say "yes" or "no".

Katie said...

Agreed, agreed! I also think that the principle of keeping the emails short and not too personal applies to texting. My problems with texting conversations are:
1. Texting it's easy, there's not much social interaction and personal investment. The immediate accessibility allows each person to take the other for granted.
2. Because it's so fast, people can become "addicted" to the rapid fulfillment of their emotional needs and become emotionally dependent.
3. It can misrepresent the texter - whether they want that or not - and also be misconstrued by the textee.
4. Most of the time, a good conversation is handicapped by the limited space for text messages.

Altogether, I try to avoid any relationships based on texting, emails, or FB messages (pet peeve-when people start convos consisting of "hey! Sup! How are you?" and leave it at that level). Although of course, there are long distance cases for these things.

Sheila said...

It might be a good idea to make it a habit to always wait a few hours before replying to a text. In other words, you're treating it like an email rather than a phone call. This would send the message that you are not a person who obsessively checks their phone, but a person who is busy and present to the people around.

But I am not much of a texter! I do think that "What can I do for you?" is an awesome answer. I have a friend who does that when I gchat her, and I respect that. It says, "I am here for you if you have a question, but I am not interested in mindless small talk right now."

Allie said...

reminds me of some articles at http://ruthiedean.com/ - she and her husband (I think!) have just finished up writing a book called "Real Men Don't Text" that comes from her blog post entitled the same... (there's also one doing her best to convince women why they shouldn't respond to text messages from guys)

Fair warning - she's Protestant - but intriguing reading on the topic none the less

american (not) in deutschland said...

That article starts off with the #1 reason I hate "nice guy" rants, and that is, "nice guy rants" always start with: it sucks being so nice to super hot bombshells and then those bombshells go on to date jerks!

Like, maybe if you stopped only valuing "bombshells" as the kind of woman that you want as a prize for your niceness, you wouldn't fall on your ass so many times.

If Grade A women are the super hot ones, then you can expect that the Grade A men will be the rich, confident, powerful ones. Yet you're whining that as a poor, insecure, "nice" guy, you can't achieve Grade A?

Basically I ALWAYS see these whinge-fests chock full of the kind of chauvinist prestige-ranking of women by physical attractiveness paired with bitter pissiness that women are "shallow" and just want money or jerks. I even see complaints that nice guys get stuck with "leftovers" or "ugly" or "fat" women. To which I can only say: God preserve the leftovers from you as well!

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

*round of applause* Thanks, american (not) in deutschland! And everyone from the other day's post about nice guys. I haven't been able to express why exactly I think it's a lame excuse (aside from the fact that I know "nice guys" - meaning respectful and thoughtful men - who don't have this issue).

Seraphic said...

American (Not) in Deutschland, that is a very good point indeed. And I am interested to know how many of these seething "nice guys" actually had the guts to ask out "the bombshells." I wrote a post on bombshells, and the bombshells reported that although they get lots of negative attention, they are not necessarily asked out on proper dates.