- by Dianne Drake
Years ago, when I began writing for Harlequin, I started out in the romantic comedy lines, particularly the imprint that required its couple to get together through some strange form of communication. The guidelines for that were changed pretty quickly, and the line went belly-up pretty quickly, as well. I don’t think the editors could have anticipated the strangeness that was about to take hold of communications. I know, I didn’t.
I was talking to my friend, Julie Rowe (North of Heartbreak by Carina press), a couple days before she left her home somewhere near the North Pole and ventured south, to the distant land of Chicago, to the RT Convention. I didn’t have time to go RT this year, but I live only a couple hours south, in Indy, so we decided to meet in Chicago and play for a few hours. Anyway, the subject of contacting each other when I got there came up.
E-mailing was out of the question since I wasn’t lugging my laptop along. Julie wanted me to call her because she doesn’t like texting, and believe it or not, I still like a good phone call every now and then, even though in my family, phone calls are pretty obsolete. For example, my oldest doesn’t call, but she texts me several times a week because her “plan” includes unlimited texting, but phone calls are pretty pricey. No landline in her house, by the way. And there’s my middle child who never, let me repeat never, answers her phone. You want to communicate with her, you text her. Phones calls cost extra on her phone plan (what’s that about?) and again, no landline.
Then there’s my other one – not my kid, but might as well be. He went to Florida with my husband and me a couple weeks ago, and I’m not sure he ever looked up from his cell phone. He’s got muscular thumbs from all the texting he does. No landline, either. But on the bright side, he’ll answer the phone when you call him. I suppose that’s because he’s a business owner and his customers expect him to use his phone.
Anyway, I called Julie when I arrived and we had a nice evening. But we didn’t spend our few hours together the way I saw a young couple do a few nights ago. After the symphony, Joel and I had stopped for a bite to eat, and a nice-looking, mid-twenties couple were seated at the table next to us. Pretty young woman, handsome young man. Perfect for one of my romance novels…almost. The instant they were seated, out popped his phone, and away he went. Thumbs flying a mile a minute. Occasionally you’d see his lips move for a word or two, while still texting. I can only assume he was talking to his date. But, who knows?
My husband did notice her looking around quite a lot. My guess – looking for her next guy to date, because even when the one she had looked up at her in those oh-so-brief moments, he had that too-much-texting look to him. You know, eyes crossed and glazed-over, thumbs twitching in withdrawal. It was a nice restaurant, could have been romantic for them, but it wasn’t. In fact, for as long as we observed them, they barely even communicated.
So, my first question is: What’s the point of dating someone if you leave them alone on the date while you text yourself into a stupor? Second question: Couldn’t you text each other on your date, if your thumbs are that eager to boogie? Or maybe instead of questioning it, I should simply say: It’s rude to ignore your date in favor of anything connected to that little device in your hand. It’s something parents are going to have to teach their children, along with all the obnoxious and/or disgusting things you’re not supposed to do in public, as well as the names you’re not supposed to call your Aunt Bertha even though she’s gone through the Chuck-a-Rama buffet line five times already and it looks like she’s just getting started.
It’s a brave and somewhat uncommunicative new world out there, but tell me, how do I write a romance novel when the latest trend in dating seems to be texting instead of gazing longingly into her eyes? Maybe I’m too old to get it, or maybe the texting-addicted are too young to understand what they’re missing. The sound of a human voice is nice. It can be comforting, or sexy. It can pick you up when you’re down, and tell you just the thing you need to hear. (Notice I said hear, not read). It can sing you a lullaby or tell you that you’re loved.
I loved seeing Julie this past weekend. We talked for hours. Made eye contact. And shared experiences we can’t get on a minuscule phone screen. As for the two would-be lovers… he texted all the way through the meal and she continued to look around. Bet her next date will be with someone who doesn’t place his text messages above his date.
By the way, my latest two texts from my kids – the oldest sent a photo of an egg. She has chickens, it was the first egg one of them laid. And from my middle – a picture of her uterus. She’s pregnant. (Not even going to tell you what the text and photo about the dead possum was all about.) Bet none of those would have been good openers for the defunct Harlequin series that required odd communication as the start of a relationship. Then again, maybe they would have been. Hmmm…perhaps the chicken egg, or even the uterus. Definitely can’t come up with a thing for the dead possum, though.
Until next time, wishing you Health & Happiness.
Oh, and I do have an April release – The No.1 Dad in Texas, from Harlequin Medicals. It’s a book about a child diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. April is Autism Awareness month, so grab (or download) a copy of the book and see how one special little boy found a way to prove to his parents that they were still in love.