Romance without speaking

May 8, 2009

Showing my age, I remember when teenagers called AM radio stations at night to dedicate songs to girls or boys they liked. The lyrics communicated things they couldn’t say face to face. In junior high school, I was one of the them.

Sometimes we masked our identity but made clear whom the song was intended. Or we identified ourselves and left people guessing about the recipient. If we were lucky, our dedications would air live rather than get read in the DJ’s hyper parlance. What was said would be the source of giggled chatter at school the next day.

Now, having just read about so-called flirtexting, I wonder whether it’s merely a more direct and immediate evolution of the radio station calls I bumbled through. A flirtexting website for girls defines the technique as:

Any text message sent between you and a boy you would like to date or are currently dating (i.e.; someone you would like to make out with or are currently making out with). These texts normally contain flirty, witty banter that typically leads to a date and, if you’re lucky, much much more.

The site addresses the new style of romantic communication, which to an old guy like me lacks the high anxiety and quavering voice I equate with early-age romance:

When it comes to communicating, our generation has shorter attention spans and greater expectations. Gone are the days when we spent time getting to know one another over hours of intimate phone conversations. Today we say it all within 160 characters of writing space. . .We change our minds, outfits, boyfriends, and thoughts about our boyfriends at least twice a day. In an attempt to stay hip, we shed our fears about the death of romance and accepted flirtexting as a path that could potentially lead to our fairy tale ending. So we’ve adopted texting as our new obsession.

In this Brave New World, how would a young person fare if he or she eschewed new technology and embraced the inefficiency and intimacy of, like, you know, of my god, speaking? If suddenly young again and on the hormonal overdrive prowl, I’d probably strike out. Unless my approach was seen as nerdish in an ironic way, giving me a retro bad-boy aura that girls couldn’t resist. And they’d have no choice but to talk.