In case you weren’t sure where I stood on such key principles, I’m really not one of those dads who feel that his kids watching a DVD on a road trip is ruining “Family Time.” Today’s world offers such amenities, and that’s fine. Of course, this isn’t the same world that I grew up in. If it were, my kids would be unbuckled, lying down in the back of the Family Van, going to wherever, sharing the space with six siblings, listening to Unforgettable Fire on their WalkMan while they “rewound” their Listen Like Thieves cassette tape by sticking a pen in the spokes of the tape and whirling it around in order to rewind it by hand, thus saving the batteries in the WalkMan for strictly playing cassette tapes, rather than rewinding them. (And yes, in the next life, when the pioneers try to tell me how rough they had it, I am planning on bringing up this hardship in my defense.)
So I’m not your middle-aged fuddy-duddy neighbor who poo-poos all technological advances and thinks they are the demise of our children’s’ character. On the whole, I actually embrace such advances. However, I do have my limits.
Recently I had the unanticipated opportunity to put my head in my hands, angry and appalled, and weep at the thought of our future world leaders. It began innocently enough; I was at a party and summoned to come listen to a friend weave a tale of her daughter’s first date with this “super-cute” boy. (I cannot emphasize those quotation marks enough.)
“So,” she begins, “they were sitting in the movie, and about 10 minutes into the movie he texts her!”
“Wait,” I interrupted. “Were they sitting next to each other?”
“Yes!” she said, not detecting my disdain, “and do you know what he texted? He texted, ‘Can I hold your hand?’”
“AAAAAAAAAHHHHOOOOOHHHHHHHH!” cooed all the women in the social circle.
I stood there, stone-faced. I did not coo. I did not cheer. But I had the restraint to not say what I wanted to say, which was, “THAT IS TOTALLY CHEATING!”
I’m sorry, but that is not how the game is played. I understand how the power of texting provides a false sense of bravado and you can say (or ask) things you would never in a ba-jillion years do otherwise. And I can see the allure of going that route. I mean, I’ve wanted to quit jobs, inform somebody their fly was down, and tell-off my waitress all through the power of texting, rather than the more direct and traditional manner of talking face-to-face.
But brother, you are not doing yourself any favors by skipping the entire dance that is hand-holding. You are missing the joy and satisfaction of one of life’s greatest accomplishments. The patience, the reading of body language, the nuances and subtleties of movements, the wishing, the hoping, the fear, the anxiety, the pit in your stomach, the palm-sweats, the glances, the skin brushing. And when those fingers finally lock, it has all been worth it. You can almost hear angels singing.
As an authority on the art of hand-holding, with mucho know-how and enough experience to write a
book brief pamphlet on the subject, allow me to walk you through what the experience would have been, won’t you?
Where were we, 10 minutes into the movie? That’s not when you text to see if you can hold the girl’s hand; that is when you are wondering if she is going to be appalled at the amount of popcorn you can eat in one sitting.
15 Minutes: You observe the boundaries. What are the physical obstacles between you and her? A bucket of popcorn? Sodas? Her purse? A wall of anticipation so thick you have to poke it to measure the density?
30 Minutes: You lean towards her, possibly brushing shoulders. First contact. You realize you are paying very little attention to anything going on in the movie at this point.
45 Minutes: You casually place your arm on the armrest of the chair, and slyly look out of the side of your eye to see if she has done likewise. You leave it there for 20 minutes to give her ample opportunity to A) notice it, B) appreciate the opportunity to eat some of the popcorn that you are no longer inhaling, and C) casually move her own arm in that direction. Hands now in the same proximity.
60 Minutes: What the WHAT?! Your hands were so close, and now she has just as casually put her hands in her lap! You do the same, not wanting to appear desperate.
70 Minutes: Hands are inconspicuously back in proximity of each other. You’ve observed and retained about 15 minutes of the entire movie so far, completely preoccupied now by how dangerously close you are to lightly brushing up against her hand with yours – just to see what kind of reflex you get from her. Then you make the move – hand sweeps past hers, lightly touching. Does her hand move? Does it begin to take the direction of opening, fingers prepared to go inter-digitary with yours? Does it completely sit still? Does it actually recoil, going back into her lap, with her saying, “Oh, sorry,” assuming you accidentally bumped her? You both retreat, hands back to yourselves.
75 Minutes: The side of your pinky is now flat up against hers on the armrests. There’s contact, and nobody is withdrawing. You lift your pinky slightly, and her hand begins to slide into your now-shared space. It’s happening! Your hand slides over the top of her hand, she slides under yours, and your hands both turn and CLASP!
Somewhere, the Hallelujah chorus is being belted out. To the on-looking movie goers, nothing has really changed, but internally, you are a volcano of emotions! You go deaf and can’t hear anything going on in the movie, your heart is visibly pounding in your chest, and your hand immediately begins to sweat, but you don’t dare break away and wipe it on your jeans. It might break the spell!
In fact, you consciously avoid any movement of your entire appendage whatsoever. You don’t want to draw too much attention to your date that you are, in fact, holding hands and probably going to get married some day. You are now a team as you watch this movie. You laugh at the same parts, even making comments to each other (which up to this point had been taboo).
90 Minutes. You remember nothing of the movie – other than it was your favorite movie EVER because you got to hold hands with your date!
Give all that up for the ease of a text message? I think not. Don’t surrender life’s delightful nuances to the crassness of technology. Please, join me in being a responsible tech-user.
(However, that being said; if my fly is down, as an act of goodwill, please consider texting me about it, rather than discussing it. That’s the kind of awkwardness we can all sidestep with the appropriate use of technology.)