My texting problem is akin to–no, stems from–my writing problem, which is akin to–no, stems from–my talking problem. Have you ever talked to me? Because if you have, you know about my talking problem. Which is: I can’t seem to stop.
I can’t stop talking.
I can’t stop writing.
And now, I can’t stop texting.
And if the Universe comes up with one more means of verbal communication that allows me to push my random thoughts and half-baked opinions on others, I won’t be able to stop doing that, either. I think it all goes back to my Big Mouth which, as with most of my weaknesses, is Really Not My Fault. (See my Standard Line of Defense; i.e., It’s Really Not My Fault.) The way I see it, I was born with that Big Mouth, just like I was born with fair skin and short legs, for good reason. I haven’t figured out what those reasons are yet, but I have some pretty solid hypotheses:
Fair skin = forces me to use sunscreen, which I would so not bother with if a sunburn didn’t hurt so much. (The sunscreen, in turn, has allowed me to look not a day past 39.)
Short Legs = forces me to wear high heels on Sundays, which I would so not bother with if looking like a hobbit at church didn’t bother me so much.
Big Mouth = forces me to write, which I would so not bother with if gabbing nonstop in peoples faces didn’t scare them away so much.
And when the writing isn’t enough to relay my thoughts and feelings to my imagined audience (it’s big and full of hotties, let me assure you), I know that texting will finish the job. I didn’t set out to use texting as an overflow for my Talking/Writing/Big Mouth problem, but it’s certainly morphed into a useful one. (To my relief, and my texting recipient’s horror.) For example, you may send me a text like this:
r u picking up kids tonite
to which you may expect a short, prompt reply. But look at it from my end of things, will you? Upon receiving this message, the little bell on my phone will ding (to my great delight), I’ll pause in whatever monologue I’m delivering (to the listener-I’m-holding-captive’s great delight), and I’ll spend a few studied minutes formulating a reply that looks something like this:
Hey [insert your name, in case you were unsure who the text was addressed to] !!! How are ya today? Feeling better, I hope. I miss you!! We SO need to get together soon! How’s ur cold–better, I hope! And how’s the fam? Good, I hope! [I hope for a lot of things in my texts. I believe it exudes an attractive optimism.] Give [insert your son's name here] a hug for me–he is SO darling!–and tell him Ethan wants to have him over to play! Let me know when a good time is for you–we’d LUV to have him anytime!
[And then, my faithfuls, I will actually do a paragraph break. In a text. I know.] I’ll continue:
Yes, I will totally pick up the kids tonight! Thank u SO much for getting them yesterday–helped me out bigtime! It’s been a crazy week (I know I always say that) [insert happy face emoticon here], but it never slows down, does it? Aagh, life!! How are u holding up? U guys are SO busy too! Let me know if you need anything: dinner, a date night and I’ll keep the kids, whatever! [You know these are fairly empty offers, so being the good friend you are, you never take me up on them.] [Thank you, good friend.]
Next comes the most crucial segment of my text, the Conclusion of Goodwill:
U do so much, u totally deserve a break! Let’s get together ASAP and go get yogurt, smoothies, whatever, or even just go for a walk. We SO need to catch up! I miss u! U r just the best! Have an awesome weekend! LUV U! [insert Happy Face With Heart Eyes emoticon, or Standard Happy Face emoticon, depending on day of the week, my mood at the time, and how good of friends we actually are.]
See what just happened? You needed an answer, you got an essay. I know it’s obnoxious. I know it’s undisciplined. I know it shows a complete lack of respect for your time, not to mention your I.Q. But friends, as with my talking and writing: I just. can’t. stop. I’ve tried. Every time that bell dings and I whip out my phone, I take a breath and will myself to show some restraint and reply to:
r u picking up kids tonite
Because yes is all you need. You don’t need twenty questions, you don’t need a love letter, and you certainly don’t need my emoticons to show you that I care. (Or do you? Send me a smiley emoticon if you do, a frowny one if you don’t. Send me the flamenco dancer if you’re on the fence.)
But here is the problem in replying with yes: all it does is convey information! Since when is that the point of communication? What about conveying emotion and affection–not to mention developing Setting, Theme, and Plot? What if you read my emoticon-less yes and think–heaven forbid–that I’m not happy and smiling while I’m sending it? And what if, when I respond with that emoticon-less yes, you then respond with an emoticon-less K? I’ll worry all day that you’re mad at me. And worse, what if, after receiving my one-word answer, you feel no need to belabor the issue and don’t respond (gulp) at all?
My only insurance against such cataclysmic damage to our friendship is the Art of the Long Text. My husband shakes his head, rolls his eyes, and says, “Finished your novel yet?” every time he sees me tapping away, but I know that’s just ’cause he’s jealous that his relationships aren’t as deep as mine. See, his texting threads go like this:
Him: Home in 5.
Me: Long response asking about his day, his job, his health, and his spiritual development. At least five questions are posed, all with love and tender care. [And lots of emoticons.] I eagerly await his answers. The bell finally dings.
Hmph. I punch the end bar, throw the phone down on the couch, and get on with my day, shaking my head and rolling my eyes. No wonder nobody likes him.