Recently while I was hanging out with three of my girlfriends, I drafted a text message to send to a guy. It was the type of text message that had to simultaneously say, “I’m cool but not conceited,” and “I’m both fun and funny.” You can imagine the pressure.
After drafting the text message I did what any normal girl would do: I passed it around one-by-one so that my friends could read it and help me weigh in on whether or not I should send it. The text message went through a series of rigorous examinations to make sure it was send-worthy. We did focus groups on whether or not it was funny enough. We held caucuses on whether or not I came off too strong in the text. We made graphs and charts to determine if I’d waited the necessary amount of time since he texted me last.
Okay, so maybe I’m being a little bit dramatic. But texting a guy is no longer a solitary act. For all of those guys out there that think it is ridiculous for a girl to ask her friends for advice on a text message, give me a break. Communicating in this new technological world, this world where an emoji of a wine glass can serve as an invitation to hang out, or where a question mark can initiate a late night hook-up, is really very hard.
And while I’d love to pretend to be one of those girls that can fire off an effortlessly witty text at the drop of a hat, I’m not that girl. I’ve sent text messages that I’ve spent more time editing than my college application essay. (Okay, slight exaggeration but whatever.)
If I’ve learned anything from being a single girl in the 21st century, it is that it’s nearly impossible nowadays to send a guy a text message that is both engaged and aloof, that is funny and somehow effortless. These days so many different factors go into sending one simple text message. And inevitably in the moment when you finally send it out into the void one misplaced comma or misused emoji can seem to make or break an entire relationship.
I like to think I’m not the only girl going through this, that I’m not the only girl who struggles with the unwritten rules of virtual communication these days. But what I really want is to know, when you first start seeing a guy or when you first develop a crush, how can you best play the game?
The rules, man. They’re exhausting. The game, man. It’s infuriating. Where is the rulebook to tell me whether or not my joke is going to land or what it means when he just sends back the whale emoji? Somewhere in my past 22 years I must have lost my copy of the rules, because most of the time I find myself lost without a clue of what to do.
So many questions run through my mind as I begin to write a text message. It’s no surprise that I need three girls to help me decipher what he is saying and what I should say back. I need someone to tell me if I’m overusing ellipses or when I should use “u r” versus “you’re.” (You see, “u r” is more casual and seems to take less effort, but if you use “you’re” at least he knows that you know the difference between “your” and “you’re.”)
Maybe, even in the archaic pre-cell phone world, it has never been easy to say the right thing. Maybe it has never been easy to play it cool. But there’s an added pressure now to seem cool and collected, interested and interesting. You can’t come off too strong, but you don’t want to sound wishy-washy. You need to be entertaining but you can’t seem like you spent a lot of time on the message. And you have to do it all via text, Facebook messenger, Instagram comments or Snapchat chat.
So what’s a girl to do? I’m seriously asking. If I’m being totally honest with you I’m pretty lost. I have high hopes that one day it will be easier to send that first text, to respond quickly and cleverly, and to hold the attention of some guy distracted by some Buzzfeed quiz, some sports game, or worst of all, another girl. For the time being I’ll assemble my Taylor Swift girl squad for help. At least that way when I receive a “🐋” from a guy, I’ll have my expert cryptologists around to help me figure out what he means.* And to all the rest of the girls out there going through this too, hit me up if you ever need help figuring out what it means when he texts “also…” but never finishes his sentence. Godspeed.
*Seriously does he want to go to the aquarium? Is he looking to invest in a new pair of khakis from Vineyard Vines? Sigh.