The Terrors of Text-Flirting
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Life in the Third Degree.
Itâ€™s 8:03 a.m. when the text message comes, and I know itâ€™s from him, from my musician friend with the hot mind, the man my friends all call â€œThe Treatâ€ because thatâ€™s how it feels every time I talk to him.
My cell phone plays its usual you-got-a-text-message ditty, a few bars of â€œPlay That Funky Music,â€ and I race to pick it up, absolutely certain itâ€™s not my morning horoscope or one of the kids or even a message from a bookseller perusing books at my website and wanting to place an order. Itâ€™s from The Treat, and I know it, and Iâ€™m grinning all the way across the room, from the moment I hear the signal until I whip open the phone to read the message. It feels like a present just waiting to be enjoyed.
But instead of answering my last text message to him, he has a question. Itâ€™s funny and different, and it makes me laugh. I laugh a lot with this man…I think Iâ€™d forgotten how. My daughters tell me I keep them awake when Iâ€™m on the phone with this man at midnight and later, but theyâ€™re not complaining too much; they like hearing me laugh so often after all these years, and my conversations with The Treat are upbeat and animated and sometimes raucous. Just like this latest text message. I snicker and put my phone away, vowing to respond when I have a few minutes.
By 9:30 a.m., it strikes me that his message could have another meaning. A completely different meaning. A mean, cruel, devastating meaning. My heart drops into my stomach, and I struggle against the nausea. I donâ€™t like this new interpretation. Why didnâ€™t I see before that he didnâ€™t mean it funny but instead in a cutting and hateful way? Iâ€™m such a fool. I should never have sent that last message. He fucking hates me! And I donâ€™t want him to be offended by what I said to him. I want more of those meaningful talks and more of the fun conversations and more of the â€œtext flirting.â€ More dates, too! I donâ€™t want to end this new friendship so soon, but thatâ€™s the end result now, isnâ€™t it? Iâ€™ve really screwed things up. Beyond repair. Or maybe not. If I can just apologize.
I agonize throughout the day. One minute, it seems ludicrous that The Treat would say anything so cruel. Heâ€™s been nothing but kind and gentle to meâ€”something Iâ€™ve discovered Iâ€™m really not used to in my personal relationships with men. then the next minute, Iâ€™m feeling foolish for not having seen the truth of his words earlier and realized that he has no interest whatsoever in me. Iâ€™m torn, because my instincts tell me somethingâ€™s there, but logic and past experience have intruded and I just donâ€™t know anymore!
A solid 12 hours later, I manage to raise the courage to call him. Heâ€™s quite busy making repairs in his condo, but heâ€™s chatty and sweet and in the first ten seconds, he mentions his last message to me and what it meant. My original interpretationâ€”the one that was funny and different and made me laughâ€”was what heâ€™d intended. My instincts had been right all along. Iâ€™d worried all day for nothing. Not only that, but he was excited about coming to dinner on the weekend.
Itâ€™s not the first time this has happened. Itâ€™s occurred at least three or four times in the past two months, and I realize this is something significant. Iâ€™ve seen it in him, too. The apologies when nothingâ€™s wrong. The expectation of being wrong or offensive.
In analyzing this new discovery, I see that it doesnâ€™t happen in my professional life. Trust me, Iâ€™ve been publicly dressed down by the equivalent of a two-star General and unlike my colleagues, I didnâ€™t dissolve into tears or lose my cool. I was shaking all over when I left the conference room but in anger, not despair. Of course, the General-equivalent had bad information from backstabbing co-worker and was wrong, wrong, wrong in the way she addressed me in front of 75 fellow professionals, but I never once thought it must somehow be my fault or I must have said or done something offensive. I was confident in my abilities and in who I was, so I didnâ€™t have the drama to deal with in the back of my mind.
But in my personal relationships with men, itâ€™s different, and I just now know this, thanks to The Treat. I expect to be wrong. I expect to do or say something offensive. I expect to have the man Iâ€™m talking to jump down my throat for something I hadnâ€™t realized Iâ€™d done wrong…or just for no reason at all.expect this from men I have personal relationships with. All of them. Even one who has been nothing but kind and gentle to me.
I confess this latest revelation to Vicki, and she has a diagnosis that makes me nod in violent agreement. She calls it â€œPost Traumatic Spouse Syndrome.â€
I donâ€™t know if thereâ€™s a cure for it. Except maybe more conversations with someone whoâ€™s been nothing but kind and gentle.