“What do you like to do for fun?” I read the text from the stocky, caramel-complected, hazel-eyed man I’d met three weeks prior walking to the train on my way to work one Wednesday morning. It’s been 20 days since Mel and I met and reading this text had me all up in my thoughts. Most of our conversations have been confined to texts and I had become used to it. I heard somewhere that it takes 21 days to form a habit. And here was ours–a literal communication breakdown.
Mel isn’t the first person that I’ve dated behind words on a smart phone screen. While I can argue that as a busy young professional, texting is convenient for me, I know that dating via text sends mixed messages. I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve found myself typing out full paragraphs back and forth and never wondered once why this wasn’t a face-to-face interaction. More than likely I’d be juggling working out, hanging out with friends, some after-work event, writing, twisting my hair or watching my favorite show. Maybe one or all of these could use some time off so that my date could see me giggle at his response or bite my lip nervously, waiting for his reply.But because I felt like we were getting to know one another, it just happened to be written out, dating outside the texts was a non-factor.
It had gotten so bad for me, at one point, I found myself arguing with a guy via text. As I angrily poked at my screen, trading insults with him, I stopped myself from sending the last one. What in the world am I doing? How did the argument even start. I scrolled up. As I reach each line and even in between them, I realized it was sheer miscommunication. That word should be synonymous with “text message.”
Texts should be confined to mini messages that don’t require a full drawn-out exchange. Remember how it was when we had monophonic ringtones and phones you had to press the numbers countless times to type out your messages? Texts were a lot more like, “On my way,” “See You Soon,” “Call You Later,” and now they’re riddled with feelings, insecurities masked mixed messages.
You may as well be in a long distance relationship because you’re surrounded by your partner’s written word instead of in their gaze. I want to blame technology. I consume just as much technology as anyone else in our advanced need-to-know culture. But once the internet became a household thing, we slowly began surrendering real contact with one another in order to stay “plugged in.”
Now we’re so far in, we’re out…of touch with one another. I can’t be alone in this. I can’t even count how many new guys I meet who confine themselves within the walls of texting without me even leading them there. I can admit that there have been a few too many ignored phone calls when I meet someone new.
I remember complaining to my mom one time that I’m trying to date, but I find it hard to connect with men on that level. We can text all the live long day, but somehow, there’s a roadblock. “Maybe it’s you,” my mom is one of those tough love types. “It’s only so many times a man’s going to call you with no answer before he moves on.” I heard her, but I didn’t want to listen. Listening would require me to rearrange my hectic lifestyle to make sure I can fit in time for face-to-face interactions like the Jill Scott “A Long Walk” song. Or at least a lengthy phone call or Skype session.
I’m going to blame myself for being in my own way, therefore sending and receiving mixed messages from the men I keep in my text inbox only. I looked down at the text from Mel. I didn’t reply. I dialed his number. Three rings later, we started our first real conversation in 20 days of meeting one another. By the end of the chat, he asked if I wanted to go out on Saturday night. Feeling like I was having some sort of out-of-body enlightening moment, I told him I would love to. Now, what do I wear?