Rule of Thumbs: Love in the Age of Texting

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By Natalie Y. Moore
Sunday, September 16, 2007

I once had a boyfriend who was Mr. Text-o-Rama.

He never wanted to talk, but he always wanted to text. To him, the only way to communicate was via thumb.

I remember a Saturday afternoon I spent with a female friend when I didn't have my cellphone handy. By the evening, I had a logjam of text messages from him. The final mess of a message inquired whether our relationship was over because of my "lack of communication."

I called him. He didn't answer.

And so it went. During our relationship, he sent me curt texts reeking of attitude. He sent texts that had the elocution of an August Wilson soliloquy. If I tried to actually call him to work something out, he'd fire off a snippy "You're busy. I'll talk to you later." It got so I wished I could string him up by his thumbs.

Looking back, I see that relationship as the embodiment of how technology is slowly killing romance. It's draining the courting out of courtship. And frankly, I'm ready to hit "delete" on the whole thing.

A flirtatious text here and there is fine, but a text of more than 100 characters? That's overkill (not to mention hard to read). When the time comes, I don't want to see the words "will u marry me" in one-point font. Call me old-fashioned, but I wonder what's so "advanced" about these so-called advancements in communication. When they're abused, they can make a caveman's grunt seem refined. The same gadgets that allow you to be in touch all the time sometimes mask the fact that you never really touched at all.

"Texting is a way of life," says etiquette expert Joy Weaver, "but it cannot replace the human voice or touch." Tell me about it.

The relationship began sweetly enough. We met through mutual friends and quickly took a liking to each other. We visited museums and bookstores and camped out at dive bars. I liked that he was so expressive and open. And I had never dated a guy who liked to communicate quite so much in so many ways.

"I love you."

I looked down at my cellphone and read the text message. It was the first time he'd expressed those dreamy words. My heart fluttered. I immediately speed-dialed him back to hear him say it out loud. He didn't answer. "Call you later," he texted me back.

At the time, I was too giddy to notice -- or care -- how weird that was, or how even weirder the many scenarios that followed were: being forced to boost the allotment on my mobile text-messaging plan. So much passive aggression delivered via tiny rectangular pieces of plastic.


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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