Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Textual Analysis

Yesterday I walked into my house and heard my cell phone make the little tinkling jingle it trills repeatedly when I have an unread text message. “Oh, shit,” I muttered as I picked up the phone, thinking that it was probably a wrong number, because few of my friends ever text-message me, and I’ve told the few who have that I don’t like the form of communication in the slightest. (There are all kinds of reasons, including the fact that I have better things to do with my thumb and hate all the cutesy abbreviations.) I didn’t know whether to be annoyed that I was getting a message from and intended for someone I didn’t know, or relieved that at least this annoyance hadn’t come from someone who actually claimed to be my friend.

But wouldn’t you know, when I checked the message, it was indeed from a friend. The message began, “I know you don’t like text messages, but....” and it went on at length from there, though the gist of it can be summed up as “I wanted you to know I’m thinking of you.”

I know you don’t like text messages, but.

This guy does indeed know I don’t like text messages, because we’ve been through this before--several times. It started out with my saying, “I don’t really like text messages,” then saying, “I really don’t like text messages,” then saying, “Not only do I dislike the basic form of communication, but the whole thing is even more annoying because I have to pay extra for every lousy unwanted text message I receive,” before finally informing him (via email, in my response to this most recent text message), “Never text message me again unless your avowed intention is to make me so angry that I refuse all contact with you for a good two weeks.”

I haven’t heard back from the guy, but I’m sure he’ll be very hurt and think I’ve over-reacted. But I’m angrier than I can say that 1) he not only does something he knows I don’t like, 2) he does it as part of something he expects me to be happy about: a message telling me that he’s thinking of me, even though that thinking of me involves no thoughtfulness, no attention to my explicit and unequivocal statements about my preferences in the matter.

I wouldn’t be so angry if this were an isolated incident, but the guy has a long habit of saying, “I know you don’t like what I’m about to do, but I’m going to do it anyway,” before embarking on some action he really expects me to be happy and/or grateful about. Two significant examples are his way of telling me stuff he already knows I already know, as if I’ve never heard or thought of the idea myself; and more importantly and offensively, giving me really shitty unsolicited advice, even though he knows that I HATE and RESENT unsolicited advice because it’s almost always a condescending, worthless suggestion to do something that is either completely inappropriate or else something I’ve already considered and in some cases already tried and discovered doesn’t work. Not only that, but I find it hard not to despise and contemn people who insist on dispensing such worthless advice.

And the whole “I know you don’t like what I’m about to do” part--is it an insincere disclaimer, a way of letting me know he doesn’t approve of my disapproval? I think more likely it’s a way of trying to prevent me from getting upset, to essentially withdraw my right or opportunity to express any displeasure I might feel by expressing it for me right off the bat. I don’t know what he’s thinking when he says that, but I do know that the fact that he does it so often makes the whole proposition intellectually and emotionally dishonest. It makes it clear that it's all about him, that the point is for him to do things for me that make HIM feel good--offer crappy facile advice, so he gets to feel proactive and wise, or say "hi" in a way he's fine with but I hate--rather than doing things for me that make ME feel good.

Last week I went to this presentation on the gender inflections of communication styles. Since men control most of the discourse, men tend to expect women to adapt to their way of communicating, rather than attempting to understand and become fluent in female forms of communication. Perhaps that’s part of what’s going on in this situation: this guy just expects me to get used to the fact that he wants me to be happy about his reliance on media and actions that really upset me, and to accommodate him. But that ain’t gonna happen. And I’ve already mastered one traditionally male form of communication: a flat command. So I’m telling the whole world: NEVER TEXT MESSAGE ME AGAIN.


Blogger Martini Nguyen said...

I don't know how you feel about unsolicited comments from total strangers, but if you don't like them, you're about to get one, anyway. Your entries amuse me, very much. And of course, I totally expect you to be happy and/or grateful because I left this random comment and ended it with a cutesy abbreviation. kthxbai

7:08 PM  
Blogger bluestocking said...

Hi Martini--
I totally LOVE unsolicited comments, when they're complimentary, polite AND from people named for my favorite drink. They indeed make me happy and grateful.

I'm very glad I amused you, and I hope you'll stop back by within the next three months, because I might have posted something new by then.

11:14 PM  

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