I got my first cell phone when I was 12 years old and started dating my boyfriend, Nick, when I was 14. We knew each other IRL, but our entire eight-year relationship exists in our phones. I remember our initial awkward, flirty texts, which led to pages-long text conversations that we'd have until we fell asleep. I remember (vividly) when Nick sent a text saying he was "really into" me in the Cool Freshman high-school boy way. It was via text that we made plans to hang out and he asked me to be his girlfriend. Four years later, we went to different colleges and maintained a long-distance relationship on our phones.
Now 22, I start every day with two things: A cup of coffee and a "good morning" text from Nick. I couldn't imagine starting my day otherwise. My addiction to his loving wakeup text is as real as my addiction to Starbucks.
But addictions are typically bad, and, after texting with Nick pretty much nonstop for eight years, I decided I should try to take some distance. Nick and I were going to go a week without any electronic communication. I let Nick know.
The rules were that we had to date like people did before cell phones and the Internet — no texting, no Snapchat, no Gchat, nothing. We could hang out in person (obviously) or talk on our landline phones. (I should note here that we only have landlines because we both still live at home. We graduated college in May, and we're a part of the 38 percent of Millennials who live with their parents post-grad to save money.) I knew this would be hard, but before I sound like the most dramatic human of all time, when was the last time you made plans on a landline? Probably never. Do you even own a landline? Maybe, but only because it was included in your cable deal.
On Tuesday, our last night of texting, one million "I love you's" and sad face emojis were sent. We made a plan to talk on *the landline* at 10 p.m. the following night. It was lame.
WEDNESDAY, DAY 1
Like every morning, my phone alarm went off and I shut it off expecting to see a text from Nick. In my groggy state, I rubbed my eyes and checked my text messages to see nothing there. He must still be sleeping, I thought before remembering that this was day one of not using our cellphones for the week.
I sat on my 40-minute train ride from New Jersey into New York City feeling miserable and making a mental list of things I wanted to tell Nick. Super Important Things. Like how I loved the new latte macchiato from Starbucks and he needed to try it. I texted other friends more than usual to compensate for not texting Nick. My mind wandered to wondering what he was doing. Without a text documenting his morning, how could I know if he was on his way to work or already there? HOW COULD I KNOW?! And was he thinking of me too? (I mean, probably 💁) (😇).
Work was a welcome distraction. I put my phone down at 8:30 and didn't pick it up again until 3 p.m., expecting to see a "How's your day going?" text. Nope.
I was so excited for our 10 p.m. phone call that I called Nick 15 minutes early. Two things about house phones: (1) They are heavy and holding it up to your ear is a workout you're not trying to participate in. (2) If you use a non-cordless phone, like I almost did, it's like you are in a 5-foot prison cell of your own conversation.
But it was before our scheduled phone call time and Nick had just walked in the door, so he said he'd call me back. "Mom, Nick is going to be calling on the house phone! Don't pick up!" I yelled downstairs. Which was really fun because what 22-year-old doesn't want to feel like an 11-year-old schoolgirl with a crush?
When he called back, I couldn't stop smiling. It'd been 24 hours since we'd last communicated, which is the longest we'd gone in eight years. Usually our phone calls are a quick 10- to-15 minute conversation while Nick's driving home or I want to tell him a quick story that would give me thumb cramps to type. This night, though, we talked for an hour. We talked about what we had for lunch, and I told him about something cool that happened at work. Talking on the phone is actually so fucking great. Instead of a smiley face emoji to show happiness, you can actually hear a smile in their voice or a giggle on the other end of the line. The emotion was overwhelming to my text-jaded soul.
We planned to talk again tomorrow night at 10. When we hung up, I was giddy like that 11-year-old who had to yell to her parents about her phone call. I could barely fall asleep.
THURSDAY, DAY 2
Usually on Thursday, Nick and I send each other texts about how we're so damn excited that it's almost the weekend, as you do on a Thursday.
Work was crazy, and I desperately wanted to shoot him a quick text to fill him in on my day. By noon, I'd forgotten half the things I wanted to tell him. This week was proving to be a memory test that I was completely failing. Usually if I forget to tell Nick something, I just shoot him a text that's like, "Oh! I forgot to tell you!" But this time I had to wait for 24 hours. I started writing things down on my notebook. It was a somewhat creepy, but excellent solution.
I got home at 9:15 and had 45 minutes to eat dinner, shower, and get ready for work the next morning before I would Marcia- Brady-style get my flirt on on the phone. We talked for an hour and 15 minutes, about the stuff on my list, and about the coming weekend, and that's where things got scary. As someone in an eight-year relationship, I clearly don't have commitment issues, but goddamn, committing to a Friday night plan 24 hours in advance was giving me anxiety.
I would take the 6:50 train and get in at 7:30. He would leave work a little late and pick me up from the station, then we'd go to dinner. But I almost never make the 6:50 train. I told him to meet me in his signature parking spot, and that if he doesn't see me get off of the 7:30 then I'd be there at 8:05. If he wasn't there, I'd wait in the Starbucks.
I was convinced this plan wouldn't work. How the hell did our parents do it? I slept restlessly.
FRIDAY, DAY 3
Text from my mom the next morning:
I spent the whole day ridiculously excited to see Nick. I hadn't seen him in a full week since he was away for work the previous weekend, and talking to him so little made me miss him more than ever. I gushed about our dinner plans to any innocent bystander. I would catch the 6:50 train if it killed me. (I did, and it didn't.)
When the train pulled in, I ran to the spot where I told Nick to meet me. Nick wasn't there. Why the fuck did I think this would be fun? I thought, shuffling toward the Starbucks. Then I heard a distant "Danielle!" Nick was smiling and waving across the street, and I sprinted through traffic, smiling like a lunatic. When I got in the car, we were both laughing and congratulated each other. How clever we were, to meet at a train station without even one text. I'm still proud.
SATURDAY, DAY 4
We woke up and we went for breakfast, where phones were used for Snapchat story purposes because that's very important. Here, a fun look at my two loves, Starbae and bae!
Nick had to work that afternoon, and we made plans for him to pick me up after his shift so we could go out with friends.
I have never been so excited for a doorbell to ring. Nick usually texts me when he's on his way, and again when he's here—it's amazing what the element of surprise can do for a relationship. I haven't felt that much anticipation for a date in, well, maybe ever? Opening the door to see Nick standing there felt like it was my birthday, and not a crappy one, but like my 21st or something.
SUNDAY, DAY 5
I was with Nick all morning before he had to go back into work until the evening. He called me that night and, as every other phone call, it was great, but I was feeling really over having to use a house phone to talk to him. I am a Millennial baby and I shouldn't be chained to a landline. I should be able to talk to bae whenever I damn well please. Nick agreed and said it was my fault and laughed. It wasn't funny though.
MONDAY, DAY 6
I'm usually preoccupied during a weekday, but this day was a holiday so I was off of work. Nick wasn't off, though, so I was just hanging out with my phone, bored. A fun thing I did to preoccupy myself, as a young basic twentysomething does, was take a shit ton of selfies.
Our phone call that night was two hours long. Since it was earlier than our usual phone call time, I was able to call him back when I forgot to tell him something. I ended up calling him back three times after we hung up, but the same amount of talking we normally do via text ended up being rather aggressive via phone. I fell asleep feeling more awkward than giddy.
TUESDAY, DAY 7
Nick had had to get up at 3:45 a.m. that morning for work, and when I called him at 10, he was already asleep. If this had been any other night, I would have been upset, but I went to bed happy because in the morning I knew I'd wake up to that "good morning" text I had missed.
Before this all started, I joked with Nick about what would happen if we realized we hated talking to each other all day and life is way better without texting. Honestly, that probably would've made a great story, but the exact opposite happened. Our relationship was born in texts. Hell if it'll die on the phone.
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