The day my Dad sent me my first text, I was sure it was the dawn of the Apocalypse. I was texting with a crush, trying to come up with witty responses and retorts—I was, as they say, deep in text. When all of a sudden—bada bing!
Dad: this work? Love you daddy.
I’d be lying if I said a little part of me didn’t die at the sight of this text, and every subsequent text from him since. It’s not that I’m surprised by his texts; I guess it’s more fascination than anything else. Like watching a fish out of water, or like seeing your 3rd grade teacher out drinking. It is truly a fascinating site. And at the same time, it’s not an easy state to achieve—such a lack of coherence when texting. For one thing, you have to have been born before 1965. A distinct disinterest in pop culture is also compulsory, as is having made the transition from Democrat to Republican within the last 25 years. The remaining criteria to naturally produce Dad-like texts isn’t quite clear, but the rules of the game certainly are. Follow the below rules, and you’ll be texting like a Dad in no time.
1. Ensure disparities between content of text and tone of text
“Sylvia pregnant.” That’s the text I got from my Dad today at 5:45am. Sylvia is my paternal cousin. On my Dad’s side of the family, we have a total of 22 cousins, and this marks the first time any one of us are with child.
Dad: Sylvia pregnant.
The content here would be Sylvia being pregnant, which is one of the more exciting revelations in our family for some time. Notice how inconsistent this content is with the tone of the text, which seems to be channeling the complacency of a toad.
2. Do away with prepositions
And aggressively so, too. Do it to the point where your message is barely legible. For instance, this:
Dad: If can help any way.
I spent hours pouring over this text and was finally able to deduce that this was my Dad’s way of asking me if I needed any help.
Always, always, always sign your texts with a signature. This here is Dad texting 101, so if you can’t even get this down then just save yourself the energy and stop trying.
Two crucial elements to this are inconsistency and odd formality. For instance. Sometimes it’s “love Dad.” Other times it’s “love your father.” And the rest of the times it’s just “love you daddy,” which, as it happens brings me to my next point…
4. Be fastidious with punctuation
As in, pay extreme attention to detail. Either implement it entirely and very formally, or leave it out altogether, but either way make sure your decision is exaggerated and seen to completion. Like the text in the point above, “love you daddy”—the lack of punctuation here makes this text sound as if my father is telling his own father (“daddy,” if you will) that he loves him. It is, like most of his texts, unintentionally funny. Which brings me to my next point.
5. Unintentional humor
This is actually the air with which a father’s text breathes and subsists on. All texts should be grounded in this fundamental trait.
6. When said aloud, text should be either unintelligible or awkward sounding
Sometimes my Dad’s texts force me to consider the veracity of aliens and UFOs because of their extraterrestrial nature. When reading his texts, it often feels like I’m trying to decipher an alien’s very important message regarding the coming apocalypse. Other times it feels like I’m reading Morse code. It’s a very rare confluence of exceedingly proper grammar, with early 2000s/dawn-of-the-cell-phone-era abbreviations. Like he’ll write “U” instead of typing out “you,” but in the same sentence will capitalize, punctuate, and even use a semicolon correctly. It’s at once baffling and quite impressive!
7. The text should never come off as casual
Texting is ultimately supposed to be a casual form of communication, but it never quite is for Dad, is it? More times than not, texting for him is an opportunity to share his prolific thoughts. The only thing these texts could be compared to are dramatic Shakespearean soliloquies. They are extraordinarily long, include copious tangents and myriad philosophical musings, but are ultimately just him relating thoughts and feelings to himself. And yet, contrary to what one might believe, these are not an attempt to open up a dialogue of any form. The times I have dared answer or engage, I was met with radio silence.
When they’re not soliloquies, they’re on the complete opposite end of the spectrum: conspicuous attempts at being concise, so much so that they fail. Because you and I both know that these guys weren’t taught to be concise; they didn’t grow up having to compress their thoughts to fit 140 characters, and so an attempt at being concise will generally culminate in the excision of crucial words. Words that, when excised, render the sentence incoherent.
8. Use texting as an outlet for lifelong anxieties
Which, in my dad’s case, are typically tied to the Jewish holidays. Hence the text I received from him last night at 1am:
Dad: Can confirm U 4 next year’s Seder?
A Seder that is, mind you, 8 months away.
The irony is that whatever my response is will ultimately be meaningless. Texting is a handy tool for these men, yes, but also one that they inherently don’t trust. And so, confirm a dinner appointment or even next year’s Seder over text and in their mind it’s not officially confirmed at all.
9. Send texts that emit a visceral cringe-worthiness
It’s important to note, however, that ultimately the joke will always be on me. Because—who am I kidding? No one texts me anymore. No one aside for my parents. Hell, I’m lucky if my dad tells me how his root canal went. So, Dad, what I’m trying to say is…follow me on Twitter?