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Dorothy Wilhelm: Texts are fine, but I miss getting phone calls

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this in public, but I have come to really enjoy texts. Not school book texts, but the sort you get from the grandkids in place of a phone call. Grandparents don’t think much of texts. A lady who signed herself “Broken hearted grandmother” wrote to an advice columnist in our paper to ask what can you do about grandchildren who only text instead of phone. Learn to text, was the pithy reply.

Most young people don’t answer the phone. They don’t like to talk on the phone. Phone calls are intrusive, they tell me.

The statistics are formidable.

Most teenagers spend one to two hours a day texting. Of adults ages 26-35, nine out of 10 would prefer to send a text message than to meet in person. About half of teens can text with their eyes closed. The average teen sends more than 3,000 texts a month. So we just as well face the fact that they won’t be calling.

On the minus side, texting does stifle more creative forms of greeting. Number Four son arranged with a theater where he worked to put this message on the marquee: “Melinda, I love you, will you marry me?” You could text that, but it wouldn’t be as good. (She said yes.)

There is a real joy in looking down at your phone and seeing an unexpected, “I love you, Grandma.”

I began looking at texting in a new light when I received an email from my Number Three son who is on the faculty of a high school where he must take his turn with other faculty members as a chaperone at the dances. Usually this is not something he looks forward to, as an evening spent listening to pounding music while trying to separate young couples from placing flailing limbs in inappropriate places leaves him with a three-day headache. This year’s harvest dance was different.

“This year wasn’t bad at all,” he reported. This time the dancers stopped to check their phones or text every two or three minutes, so they had no time for inappropriate entanglements. Only one couple required actual intervention. I guess their phones weren’t working.

“And how did you separate the miscreants?” I asked, visualizing yanking apart intertwined body parts and other unfortunate acts. “Oh, it’s all according to the chaperone guidelines. I just walk up to them and tap them on the head with a rolled sheet of typewriter paper.”

“That works?

“It doesn’t hurt anyone, but they know they’re being observed and subside. That’s the theory,” my son said.

Now I’m not pretending I don’t miss getting a phone call from a grandchild on occasion, but this is the way things are. The 50-plus group still uses the phone pretty regularly, and actually answer phone calls, but from the 45-year-olds on down, it’s texts. My youngest son rejoices that his lifelong aversion to talking on the phone seems to be catching on and cites as his role model my father who never willingly spoke on a phone in his life.

So my advice to any lonely grandmother would echo Dear Abby’s — “ learn to text.”

It is fun to be looking at your phone and suddenly have pictures of the kids appear. There was my family out on the porch with the pumpkins they’ve carved and the kids in costume, and it was happening in real time. Or an unexpected video of the two great-grandsons playing football and soccer. I could hear their voices and their excitement.

So I’ve begun a cautious affair with my smartphone. You can hit those teeny tiny keys first try by using a stylus. Now I’m working to learn how to send picture text using emoji’s, those little icons you can attach to your email or text. Then the recipient has to try to puzzle out what it means.

I thought I was doing quite well till I got back a note from one of my correspondents, thanking me for my text, and saying she especially enjoyed the part about the lesbian couple.

I’m delighted to be thought inclusive, but I thought I was just sending her a kiss. There’s still a lot to learn.

Dorothy Wilhelm is a professional speaker and writer. Follow Dorothy’s blog at itsnevertoolate.com. Contact her at P.O. Box 881, DuPont WA, 98327. Phone 800-548-9264, email Dorothy@itsnevertoolate. com.

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