Back in the old days, guys and girls used to go out and meet each other at, let’s say a bar. There was the initial attraction, the flirtation, the conversation, and finally, the moment of truth when the aggressor (usually the guy) asked for digits… a phone number… basically saying, hey, this was fun, let’s try it one-on-one and the target (usually the girl) either gave up her number – or didn’t.
If you did get a phone number and actually intended to use it to secure a follow-up date – everyone knew the general ground rules – you were permitted to call the person between 50 and 70 hours of obtaining the phone number. Anything less and you were a needy stalker and anything more and you were a non-committal player. And, you actually had to talk to the person on the phone, sound interested, and somehow set up a date – as hard as getting the number was – you were now in cold-call land.
The world of cell phones has definitely changed the dating game. No more giving fake numbers – you dial yours into my phone – I “send” my number to you by making your phone ring – we type names in – an d if it isn’t too weird (read more like, “if you are drunk enough to do it”) you snap a picture that will be displayed when you call or when I call you.
But, the real change is in the Short Message Service – or SMS – or Text message. SMS has changed some of the old rules…
Getting a phone number on a Saturday night that you intend to use to secure a follow-up date means you still need those 50 – 70 hours before you can call – but a text message is appropriate – even expected within 15 – 18 hours of obtaining the number – again – too short is bad – but in this case – too long isn’t necessarily a bad thing – you can wait up until that 50 hour mark to send the first text. So, now, instead of waiting by the phone for the guy or girl who you talked up to all your friends to call – you anxiously wait for that text message to come through. And, if you have a Blackberry, iPhone, or some other multi-function phone you will somehow forget which tone means a text has arrived and you will jump up like a school girl even when the e-mail alert sounds until you finally get the text from your prospective date.
Then, you need to plan your return texting strategy. Fast fingers can return a text within seconds after it is received, but, again, this can make the receiver seem needy or maybe insecure or even like they were happy to hear from you – and, we wouldn’t want that in the dating game. My grandmother once said, after hearing that my aunt had returned a phone call within an hour from a man she met, ‘Hmmm she should’ve waited until tomorrow… that’d be the day I’d let a man know I wanted him that badly… returning a phone call within an hour… ugh… kids today.”
Planning the date is easy – right? The conversation is something like, “Hey, we both like sushi. Lets meet at 7pm at Sushi Samba on Thursday.” Agreed… but – date day will throw in all kinds of obstacles. Sushi Samba will somehow be closed for renovations or too crowded or reserved for a private party. If you are first to arrive, you will be texting your date to let them know that the place is not where you are going to be eating and that you need an alternative plan. On the other side, you are getting the communication that the place is a no-go. What does this mean? Do they not want to see me? Should I just go home? Do they think I am too fat to eat sushi tonight?
To illustrate the point, let’s take an example of a romantic story from dating yore… boy meets girl, girl agrees to go out with boy, boy picks restaurant, boy and girl arrive at restaurant to find that it is closed… boy and girl walk through the streets of Manhattan hand in hand in search of an alternative restaurant. They fall in love under the haze and soft glow of a June night in New York City. Now, let’s take the same example with SMS… boy texts girl, girl texts back that she’ll go out with him, they agree over text to meet at a restaurant. Boy arrives at the restaurant first to discover that it is closed. Boy texts girl to inform her that the restaurant they chose is closed and that they will need an alternate plan. Girl thinks boy is trying to get out of the date. She texts her friend who agrees via text that all men are scum. Girl returns text to boy saying that maybe she will be available some other night. Boy texts his friends and goes out drinking until 4am. Girl goes home and eats a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
Nobody is on time anymore. When I was in high school, everyone was on time because if you weren’t, it was assumed that you were not coming and you were left behind. The cell phone changed that – but you still had to call and be berated by the friends you were keeping waiting. But now, with SMS you can just send a message. There is little recourse from your friends. As a matter of fact, I met a friend for dinner tonight. He is perpetually late for everything – and so it was not at all a surprise when I got the text that he was, “running a couple of minutes late”. Of course, fully expecting this, I was at the time I received his SMS, which was also the time we were scheduled to meet, was having my shoes shined.
It is not different in the dating game. Seems like everyone goes for a “pre-date” today. If you have a date at 7pm, you go out with a friend at 5 to have a drink and discuss the impending date. If things are going well, you have another drink… and before you know it – you are texting your date saying, “I’m running a few minutes late.” Maybe more appropriate would be, “I’m running a few cocktails over.”
And, now, it gets interesting. It seems that people will say things in a text message that they would never utter in real life – even if they were paid to do so – and most people who are paid to do so get $1.99/minute on a 1-900 number. But, give someone access to SMS and the things they will type would make Hugh Heffner blush. What is it that gets unleashed between the brain and the fingers that doesn’t get unleashed between the brain and the tongue?
So there you are in third or fourth date territory with your sweet Southern girl or properly schooled New England boy and somewhere around 1:30am on a Sunday morning after the first Saturday night that you haven’t spent together in a while you get a text message that goes something like, “I really wish you were so I could &)*& _*( ))& and then )&&)(^^%$#&* and then we would &&*^%$.”