I’ll admit I suck at texting. I’ve had this discussion with someone before. In person, I’m actually kind of comfortable serving up blank stares during conversation, but with texts, I have a tone crisis. Others before me have agreed: best to pepper your msgs with smileys and exclamations. Nothing can be misinterpreted.
Beyond that, I’m not very funny over texts. I’ve only recently mastered the irony of certain emojis, and use them only when completely necessary. My friend Lizzie sends these uproarious, totally dry quips that I go back and reread when I’m in a bad mood, but amidst them I have to cringe thru my own responses because they’re so frigging stupid. Just, “hahahaha,” and “hahahahahahaha,” or “hehe.”
When things aren’t funny, though, beware the angry text. It lives forever.
1. It’s important, when infuriated or tempted to threaten one’s life over digital communication, to keep it light. Think: high-brow metaphors and rhetorical questions that would never hold up in court.
Why the paranoia, you ask? Or maybe you don’t, but I’m gonna tell you.
In college (over AOL messenger, not text message; hush!) I had some total turncoat liberal fascist report me to the honor council for skipping a yoga class. In short: I almost got arrested by an actual police officer for passionately composing a series of brilliant away messages a la Tim O’Brien that happened to break some dubious law in the Commonwealth of Virginia I wasn’t aware of. Like, digital bullying, or something, before there was even Facebook. (What can I say, I’m a pioneer.)
Facing not graduating due to a lack of gym credits, I’d say I chose the high road? The poetic blurbs depicting myself in various wartime scenarios delivering justice on the enemy (my classmate) spread like wildfire. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but they circulated nearby schools, not just mine. The key to this was that I wasn’t actually wearing camo and hiding behind boxwoods on front quad (“the rice patties”) with an AK-47 waiting to ambush her (“Charlie”). I didn’t really have grenades or booby traps or, like, flame throwers, but legally, they had to ask me just to be sure. Lacking any imagination at all, she claimed to be afraid for her life, so I was summoned. For the record, the officer was doing his best not to laugh. I wore this skirt back then that said “So Cute” on the front; I’d be scared of me, too.
In light of this, I’m going to do you all a favor and we’re going to, once again, turn to Peege for some dry British insight.
Telegrams: the first text messages. From Right Ho, Jeeves, we have an aunt-nephew exchange that demonstrates lesson one on wise texting etiquette perfectly. [Buy the book by P.G. Wodehouse here.]
Aunt Dahlia: Am taking legal advice to ascertain whether strangling an idiot nephew counts as murder. If it doesn’t look out for yourself. What do you mean by planting your loathsome friends on me like this? Do you think Brinkley Court is a leper colony or what is it? Who is this Spink-Bottle? Love. Travers.
Bertie: Not Bottle. Nottle. Regards. Bertie.
Almost immediately after she had dispatched the above heart cry, Gussie must have arrived, for it wasn’t twenty minutes later when I received the following:
Gussie Fink-Nottle : Cipher telegram signed by you has reached me here. Runs “Lay off the sausages. Avoid the ham.” Wire key immediately. Fink-Nottle.
Bertie: “Also kidneys. Cheerio. Bertie.”
What if you need to pass some light insults or incur a bit of guilt? Aunt Dahlia doesitagain, folks. But Bertie executes a wonderful dodge-and-weave we could all learn from.
Aunt Dahlia: Well, this friend of yours has got here, and I must say that for a friend of yours he seems less sub-human than I had expected. A bit of a pop-eyed bleater, but on the whole clean and civil, and certainly most informative about newts. All the same I like your nerve using my house as a summer-hotel resort and shall have much to say to you on subject when you come down. Expect you thirtieth. Bring spats. Love. Travers.
Bertie: “On consulting engagement book find impossible come Brinkley Court. Deeply regret. Toodle-oo. Bertie.”
Aunt Dahlia: Oh, so it’s like that, is it? You and your engagement book, indeed. Deeply regret, my foot. Let me tell you, my lad, that you will regret it a jolly sight more deeply if you don’t come down. Deeply regret Brinkley Court hundred miles from London, as unable hit you with a brick. Love. Travers.
Bertie: No, but dash it, listen. Honestly, you don’t want me. Tinkerty-tonk. Bertie.
Aunt Dahlia: Well, all right. Consider you treacherous worm and contemptible, spineless cowardly custard, but have booked Spink-Bottle. Stay where you are, then, and I hope you get run over by an omnibus. Love. Travers.
What’ve we learned today? Subtlety, grace, and wrap it all up with a tender sign-off.