The questions women and men don’t ask but should.

Jordana met Jeremy at summer camp. They were 14. They met again in eleventh grade¬†at a Halloween party in lower Manhattan. She wore a tail, he wore fangs. “I’ve missed you,” he whispered. They kissed.

This, Jordana wrote in a New York Times essay that published last week, sparked the start of their ambiguous relationship — several¬†years of “sporadic affection” but no explicit profession of feelings. No commitment. No labels. Continue reading “The questions women and men don’t ask but should.”

The Lost Art of Conversation

You know what’s weird?

I’ll tell you.

I answered the phone at work once, the way I do…

Tampa Bay Times!”

What’s supposed to happen next is standard procedure: the person who dialed my desk explains why he or she called. But this day, my greeting didn’t elicitan explanation. Instead, it elicited silence. Awkward silence.

So I broke it: “…um, is there something I can do for you?”

“Yes,” the woman said.

Then the woman stopped talking. So I spoke again:

“…um, can you tell me what it is that I can do for you?”

“Yes,” she said. Then she stopped talking again. Continue reading “The Lost Art of Conversation”

[Q&A – Dating] What does it really mean when she (or he) says “we should just be friends?”

The Q: From a guy, about a girl: “At first she seemed very interested. Then somehow, she got scared or had second thoughts or something. I must have come on too strong. … If she says she wants to be ‘just friends’ right now, does that mean I have to not talk to her any more?” -Michael*

The A: There are two versions of my answer to this question. First, the long one: One of my favorite quotes, from George Bernard Shaw, says “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

My hunch is that’s what’s happened here.

This reminds me of the time I let a guy take me out twice and after date two, I knew: I couldn’t be more than his friend. Afraid to hurt his feelings, I dropped a gentle hint or two, intending to imply the following:

I definitely don’t want to date you.

He didn’t pick up what I tried to put down. And that I expected him to is absurd, because people can’t read minds. But the point is this: explicit communication is key. We can’t assume somebody knows exactly what we mean if we haven’t told them exactly what we mean.

And this is not to say Michael’s girl doesn’t want to date him. It’s to say that as far as Michael’s concerned, she hasn’t told him exactly what she means.

And since I’m not her, I can’t say for sure whether “I want to be ‘just friends’ right now” means she doesn’t want to hear from him. Which is why this is my short answer:

Ask her the same question.

– – – –

Q&A is an occasional feature. If you have a Q, I can come up with an A (and if I don’t have an A, I’ll find somebody who does). To submit a question, email me at arleenwrites@gmail.com or leave it in the comments. No topic is taboo (although I can’t promise I will answer every question).

*Real person, fake name.

Click here to read all the posts in this series.

Cell phone shopping.

Friday night, I stopped at my cell phone service provider’s store, with plans to purchase a new phone.

“Something better than this,” I said.

I held my flip phone up for the store manager, who had greeted me upon my walking into the store.

“Anything’s better than that,” said the manager, who — using an iPad or comparable tablet — sent my name to the next available salesperson, and smirked.

I laughed, and recited the list of what I want and don’t in a phone.

“Preferably one that doesn’t flip open, but I’m flexible,” I said. “I don’t text. And I don’t want a phone that requires a data plan.”

“Follow me,” he said.

We wandered through a maze of displays to the “Basic Phones” kiosk at the center of the store.

“You can pick any of these,” he said.

I had my pick…

of exactly six phones.

Only one of them sturdy, none of them sleek, and none for under a hundred bucks. Of fifty phones in the store (give or take), the folks who refuse to use the internet on phones are forced to choose from six crappy options.

In truth, I am part of an overwhelmingly outnumbered minority for my age and country. We, the phone users who only use phones as phones and whose phones are routinely mocked by salespeople in cell phone stores, can’t expect the cell phone world to cater to us. But I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t sting a little to know my options are forever limited. I think we’ve reached a point at which basic phone users are largely coerced into switching to smart phones, not just for their apps and their looks but their quality. And I wonder whether we’ll eventually reach a day on which my options cease to exist, when “cell phone” and “smart phone” are synonymous, after the demand for basic phones is so small manufacturers stop creating them.

I shudder at the thought. (Click here if you don’t already know why.)

So Friday night, I left the cell phone store empty handed.

I’m keeping my good, old fashioned flip phone.

Communication.

Communication is beautiful.

I imagine my family discovered my life-long love for it long before I did. I was the kid who wouldn’t. stop. talking (only at home).

Communication creates and perpetuates a connection from one to others. It disseminates information. It affirms a person’s authenticity or in-authenticity. I like communication. I got a degree in it-like it. I am as infatuated with it as I am with grammar (and I am obsessed with grammar).

Which is why when I started grad school, it was both wonderful and painful to learn the following:

You.

Can’t.

Not.

Communicate.

It’s impossible. Everything you do or don’t do, every word you say or don’t say, every time your body moves and doesn’t

says…

something.

This isn’t actions speak louder than words. It’s actions (both voluntary and involuntary [e.g. body language], words (and their frequency and duration), inaction and silence all speak.

So we all always are saying something. We are in a constant state of sending and perceiving messages. But I think we get in trouble because we get a little caught up in assumptions.

We assume, for instance, that we’re on the same page (figuratively speaking). We assume so-and-so picks up from my facial expression what I intended to put down with it (when in reality, so-and-so might see “anger!” on my face when what I mean to say with it is “Dude! Do you smell that, too?”).

Which is why generally, it is good to use words. And it is better when you use actions to authenticate them.