I sent my first text to the opposite sex when I was 15. Well, at least to a member of the opposite sex that I was interested in. Before I knew it, my mom was calling me into the kitchen and quizzing me about how I could “possibly send 500 texts a month” on my Nokia 3310, costing her hundreds of dollars in overage charges. Not knowing how to tell her that it was the best possible way to get to second base, I had no other option but to put my head down and apologize before getting right back into the game.
Texting just made things simple for me. It slowed the game down and allowed me to play at a speed I was comfortable with. Before long, I saw everything in a whole different light. It was like everything was unfolding in slow motion. And eventually, I became one of the greats.
In a world of unlimited data plans and iMessage, the game had evolved into a whole different beast. “Why do you have read receipts on?” they’d ask while I’d laugh and let “Read at 8:38” sit there until the perfect amount of time had passed before I’d respond with another flawlessly crafted quip. “How do you possibly wait that long to respond” they’d follow up while I’d anticipate my next move. “Does it ever backfire?” they’d wonder as I’d sit there with a smirk.
My friends and I? We had become once-in-a-generation texters. Pioneers. We knew that if we wanted to get anywhere with her, you’d have to first establish an inside joke to revert back to when things would get blown off course. We knew that responding immediately handed them all of the power, rendering all previous work to be completely and utterly useless. We scoffed at the idea of using emojis as it brought any and all of your masculinity into question. And we never (never) double-texted, as doing so would give her a key to the entire city.
Through the trenches we’d tromp trying to figure out when the most opportune time to use “her” number would be. We’d take our pre-established and planned storylines and implement them before bed, knowing exactly when to set the phone down and rest up.
They were pawns. I was Bobby Fischer.
With restraint, I’d tell myself, “Just wait until the end of the second period to text her back.” When my back was against the wall, I’d defer to the bullpen and ask them for advice or clarification before putting myself back in. And if things got really bad? I’d get into contact with a female counterpart (or a “Lion Whisperer,” if you will) before making any sort of mistake I couldn’t rebound from.
It evolved from being a game to being a lifestyle. Games? They end. This was a full-time gig where any days, hours, or minutes off would delay or spoil any progress made. Spending a couple hours on a boat? That’s playing with fire. Family reunion? Someone was going to ask me why I was checking my phone so much. Requests for a “technology timeout” during a dinner with friends? Get the fuck outta my face. Leave me alone. I’ve got work to do.
Where sending the first ever SMS text at the ripe age of 15 felt like a victory in and of itself, I started entering text conversations like how I’d imagine the Dream Team entered the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Much like them, I was playing above the rim. Girls I had no business talking to were all of the sudden in the realm of possibility. Dates I had no business going on were run of the mill. I was existing in a world where progress was just a few texts away rather than a hit-or-miss drunken bar conversation.
Me? It was a rare occurrence for me to look my best come the casual 11 o’clock barside conversation. I was no prize. I was a beer-soaked, red-eyed, bourbon-smelling mess of a man with no business talking to the bouncer let alone a pack of blondestars. But when the clothes come off, the sweatpants went on, and I got behind the comforts of the screen? The odds were even. Gone were the ill effects of having a puffy face day or the possibility of blurting out something that would I’d immediately regret. Calm. Cool. Collected. Calculated.
Even today, I’m not sure who to attribute the greatness to. Who taught the Wright Brothers how to fly? Who taught Edison how to build a lightbulb? Who gave Justin Bieber his stage presence?
Exactly. Some people are just visionaries. .
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