The other day, I was finishing a homework assignment at the Starbucks on my college campus when the two guys at the table next to mine started to analyze a text message one of them had just received.
He handed his cell phone to his friend, who scrutinized it for a few seconds, squinting his eyes as if that would help him decipher any hidden meaning behind the text message.
“Yo, so, are you going to ask her to the date party?” his friend asked, handing back the cell phone.
For the uninitiated, date parties are social functions that Greek organizations throw, a few times a semester. Per the name, you bring dates to these functions, which revolve around themes ranging from “Librarians and Barbarians” to “Celebrity Couples.” Once, I made a date dress up as John Goodman and a paparazzo with me. I went as John Goodman, and he was the paparazzo, bless his heart.
Anyways, date parties are an easy means of compartmentalizing romance in college. Carefully selecting the date you choose to bring is nearly as important as choosing your major or deciding whether to eat Chipotle for dinner three or six times in a given week.
“I don’t know, dude.” The first guy took a thoughtful sip of his energy drink. He cracked his knuckles. “You think I should?”
“Yeah, I mean, she’s chill.”
“She’s chiller than that other girl.”
“Hm, okay.” Guy Number One picked his phone up again. “Should I text her now? Or…later, you think?”
“Wait, like, 27 minutes.” His friend said sagely, with all the world-weariness of someone who must have had all his ducks in a row when it came to his romantic life. He was probably also one of those people who never forgot to do laundry.
27 minutes? By then, I had stopped paying attention to my homework and was fully invested in the conversation unfolding a few feet away from me. I wanted to know why Guy Number Two had suggested delaying a response by such a precise amount of time.
Thankfully, Guy Number One was as nonplussed as me.
“Why, dude?” he asked.
“Don’t text her back too soon. That’s weird.” Guy Number Two wrinkled his nose, explaining that 27 minutes was an appropriate amount of time to wait. If he responded too quickly, he would seem as though he were trying too hard. If he waited too long, the girl in question would think that he was uninterested in continuing the conversation and “you know how girls are, dude.”
Above all, it was crucial that he wait 27 minutes to text back because it was an odd number, so it wouldn’t seem as though he were intentionally delaying his response. Waiting 15 or 20 or 25 minutes would seem too staged.
Guy Number One shoved his phone into his pocket, heeding his friend’s advice and undoubtedly composing the perfect message in his head as he waited to send it.
I turned back to my homework assignment, but I had lost all concentration. I couldn’t stop thinking about the conversation I’d just overheard. On one hand, it was comforting to realize that guys are just as neurotic about texting behaviors as girls are. I couldn’t count the number of times I had overanalyzed a texting conversation with someone I liked or enabled my friends to do the same. He asked you to “hang out?” What does that even mean? Did he put an exclamation point at the end of his sentence instead of a period? Does that mean he’s hitting on you? What if there’s no punctuation at all? Oh my god…
Worrying about texting is a waste of time.
I guarantee that no one you’re interested in will notice or mind if you take 27 minutes or 13.4 to text them back. They might mind if you take three days to text them back. They might mind if you respond with five texts for each one that they send or if you consistently tack on seven shrimp Emojis to the end of every message. Otherwise, would you really want to be with someone who frets over something as inconsequential as texting?
I will admit though that as soon as I left Starbucks, I met up with my friend for dinner. We spent half an hour drafting a text message to a boy I kind-of-sort-of-but-not-really (except, totally) like. So, learning not to care is a work in progress for us all.