tales of a girl in the city

décembre 17, 2003

A Pox On Text-Messages. And The Ex-Boyfriends Who Send Them.

I would like to complain about text messages. More accurately I would like to complain about my exboyfriend, M, who--because of existing text message technology--managed to hurl a "Thinking about you" message at me last night at (let me check my phone) exactly 1:09 am.

Email is bad enough. While going through the trouble of turning on a computer, logging into an email account, crafting a message, addressing it properly and clicking the "Send" option is (one would think) enough to make certain that no one who is too drunk or too emotional (or both) could ever complete the task without thinking better of it and returning to bed to either throw up or cry (or both), we all know that those emails do sometimes get sent. We'll give it, however, a sending percentage of around 33%. Meaning that two out of three drunken, emotionally misguided computer users usually just never even turn their laptops on.

Text message, however, has changed this. The sending percentage for the average user when dealing with text messages: we'll put it at around 80%. Admittedly, average users are going to send text messages saying things like, " U R cute. :) " or " I'm out front. U ? " As we all know, there is no need to contemplate the meaning or repercussions of any message that either uses the letter "u" rather than the word, or is punctuated by a winky smiley face of any sort (this is just one of the basic common sense tenets of being a human being who lives in the world. If you need further clarification, stop reading this and go set yourself on fire). For these average users, then, text-messaging is a harmless mode of meaningless communication--the white noise, if you will, of the conversation family.

For M, though, the text message is an emotionally safe window of communication-opportunity unparalleled since the days of the smoke signal.

Picture this. You are M. You're a successful (read: millionaire at thirty) banker. You are more intelligent, academically, than 99.9% of the population at large. You are less intelligent, emotionally, than 99.9% of most...well, than most everything. Because I am the bigger person here and, though the bastard cheated on me with a skinny, athletic Asian woman who makes upwards of $800,000 dollars a year and has a fiance in London...fuck it. He deserves every bit of venom I can muster. Bed bugs and sea anemones are more emotionally evolved than M. They may also be better gift givers and keep cleaner apartments.

So, you are M and it is one in the morning and you are returning from a long evening of drinking with other emotionally stunted banker types. You have just eaten a large steak, imbibed copious amounts of alcohol, and possibly gone to a strip club. All in the name of doing business for a large foreign bank. You're terribly frightened of commitment. You have cheated on and broken the heart of a girl who you recognize would have loved you "whether [you] were a banker or a teacher or nothing at all." You're Catholic and at this point your meaningless guilt is so heavy that your taxi is actually riding low. And there in the palm of your hand is the means to your salvation. Safe (which is key, key, key to the M Rules for Self-Expression). Convenient (which appeals to your bleary eyes and alcohol-tainted dexterity). And Easy. All these things considered, if you are M the likelihood that a text message will be written and sent? It is what the French call, A Sure Thing.

So we all know what happened next. M, feeling drunk and sentimental, picked up the phone and--reaching deep into his heart for meaningful sentiment--recalled the last Hallmark card he'd seen on his grandmother's card table and typed the three little words every ex-girlfriend wants to see on her phone screen at one a.m.

Bless his heart, he didn't even write, "Thinking of u."

As a form of communication in general, these are the things that bother me about texting. The thumb-typing allows you to be involved in other activities while sending messages. Theoretically, you could, say, hold a cell phone and--I don't know--get a blow job in the back of a taxi from--let's use our imaginations here--maybe...mmm...A ha! From a skinny, athletic Asian woman (or five) while simultaneously typing a "Thinking of you" message to your lovelorn ex-girlfriend.

Also, as a form of communication in general, the text message is, en Francais, Half-Assed. It's impersonal, takes less than thirty seconds to write and send. It's origins are dubious (see above). Cell phone screens are too small to contain large sentiments or thoughtfully chosen big words. There's no art to a text message. It's not even an expensive cliche like flowers or jewelry. Less risky than a phone call. In other words, its exactly what you send if you're a drunk, emotionally challenged commitment phobic banker who wants to say "Yo, Yo, Yo Dawg! Awwwwyeah" to an ex.

For all of you men who may stumble upon this, and who don't have the benefit of a sister or female best friend to guide you through your pathetic and meaningless male lives, let me now illuminate the events that take place after the sending of such a selfish little missive.

First of all, a bit of backstory. Though it pains me to point it out, if you will cast your eyes up about ten inches you'll see the reference to bed bugs and sea anemones.



I know. Weak. All of you none readers out there are probably pissed at me and wondering when the real venom starts to flow. Yeah. So am I. I went to an all-women's college where I spent four years espousing feminist beliefs. Most of my friends own well thumbed copies of _Backlash_. We're hardcore. And, not to toot my own horn here, but I think one of the first adjectives my close friends would use to describe me would be...Strong. Followed closely by Independent. But, the truth is glaring and ugly like Michael Jackson in direct sunlight: my venom trickles rather than gushes, and it peters out after about a paragraph and a half.

With that in mind, I direct you to the above quote about loving M wether he was a banker, teacher, etc. Well--and readers with weak stomachs should probably stop reading here--this is a quote from the email he sent me (which I have pretty much memorized) when I stopped speaking to him after finding out he had cheated on me. And.... Well, fuck. Fuck, fuck fuck, fuck fuck FUCK FUCK. This quote accurately reflects my feelings for him. Money, no money. Whatever. Could've cared less. Odd and screwed up as he was... Well. You know.

Before I get back on point, I have to have a moment to defend my feelings for him and to try to explain why those feelings are so hard to get rid of. He was an emotionally witholding cheating letch, and a liar. I now know that this is true. But the thing that happens when someone lies to you is that they usually only cover up the bad stuff.

To me, the truth of our relationship was him rapping Sir Mix-A-Lot in the shower at six am while getting ready for work. It was being in bed next to him and opening our eyes just long enough to kiss once before falling back to sleep. Just like that. Kissing as natural as breathing. It's him saying, "Have fun storming the castle," as I rolled out of bed for the airport at four a.m..

During our relationship, he may have lied and withheld and lied and withheld some more. But I just told the truth and fell in love with him. And the result? Well, I suppose it would be like the museum guard sidling up to your favorite painting and unveiling its tacky, horrendous, day-glo colored other half. You can't help it if you still see the thing you loved before. Sure it's altered, but the GOOD half is still there. And if you just hold your hand up and stand at a distance, you can totally block out the horrible part. Or if you close one eye and turn your head at just the right angle it's like the bad stuff never was even revealed. And though the good half wasn't perfect, it was...well, it was your favorite.

(For those of you already sick of this metaphor, skip two paragraphs down. You'll miss little, trust me.)

But eventually you realize that you can't go around with your head bent at funny angles and one eye closed forever (and believe me at this point that you've contemplated buying a patch or just going all the way and Oedipus-ing the one out with your fingernails.) You realize there are other paintings in the museum, that there is little dignity in self-mutilation, that that line "Love means never having to say you're sorry" is total bunk, blah, blah, blah, kumbayah, Gloria Steinem, rah, rah, rah. And, though I treat these realizations lightly now, coming to them in reality is mind-numbingly, bone crunchingly hard. Crawling on broken glass hard.

But you do it. And, though you're too depressed to be even the slightest bit happy about not gouging your eye out, you open 'em both. And you walk away.

Then, in an effort to get over M, you embark on a mission to remake, reorder, and redo everything about yourself which includes, but is not limited to, the following:

(This gets ugly. I'm warning you)
Whitening your teeth.
Getting monthly facials and a glycolic peel for a cost equal to the national debt of a small Third World Country.
Joining an online dating site.
Going out on any number of dates with men from said site in an effort to convince yourself that there is hope of finding someone new. (There isn't).

SO THAT IS WHY IT SUCKS (wait 'till you see how I'm gonna bring this one FULL CIRCLE, back to the POINT--Barbara Taylor Bradford move over, it's just us Big Dawgs now, Awwwwyeah) to receive a "Thinking of you" text message at one in the morning. Because receiving such a message means that, just when you were starting to put your life back together... turns to shit all over again.

So what will I do? Will I respond? As I sit here, blogging furiously, my newly whitened teeth glinting in the light of my computer screen, I already know the answer.

I would like to say I will respond with something cool and distant:

HIM: Thinking of you.

ME: Don't.

But, the trouble with that is that then he might not. Think of me, I mean.

And then there's the other kind of message I'm dying to send.

I think of you, too. I think of you and miss you and hate you and have things I want to ask you and things I want to scream at you. And why? And how could you? And do you? And did you ever? And when? What was it like? Why her? And there is not room in the world for me to write out all things I think of as I sit here thinking of you.

Which I won't send him either.

So I'll just sit here. Stalemate. Just silently hating the useless fuck who invented the text message, and put me in the middle of this dilemma in the first place.