Nude photos! Ahem. Thought that might get your attention. Blogging, vlogging, and social-networking have already hit orange-alert levels on the oversharing meter. Now pushing things into the red are "sext messages."
Forgive me for stepping into the world of old news, 14-year-old teenyboppers and sensational-television programmers, but for those unaware, sexting is the practice of sending sexually explicit notes or photos via text message. (As it involves teenagers, the trend has parents, school officials, and other generic authority figures up in arms — just the way kids want it.)
All this recent hubbub around sexy texting led me to ask around and see who among us (that doesn't have phys ed for fourth period) actually participates in this less embarrassing (though more incriminating) form of phone sex.
Jacqueline, a twentysomething comedian, wrote in response to my inquiry: "Have we had it? phone sex? or texting sex things? video chat sex? Done, and done. And done." Another mutual friend quickly jumped in to add: "Surprised Jackie hasn't found a way to Twitter sex."
The initiated agree that sexting can go from zero to 60 in a matter of minutes. One second, you're innocently texting about your day; the next, you're virtually talking about taking each other's clothes off. Depending on the circumstances, it can come as a bit of a surprise. And unlike Phone Sex 1.0 (or the real thing), you can sext while sitting at a table surrounded by friends, co-workers, or even family members, who have no idea that you're mid-blowjob even as you discuss the housing market. (Of course, they might wonder why or how talk of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac could bring such a devilish smile to your face.)
Mind you, for sexty adults, there are pitfalls (beyond the legal ones applicable to minors, who are getting arrested for possessing child pornography when their poor girlfriends send them naked pics). I've come to the conclusion that drunken sexting — and tipsy texting in general — is in fact worse than drunk dialing, for two reasons. First, it's so easy to do. There's no mustering of courage required — just tap out a few sentences (or unbutton a button or two on your shirt and snap a quick pic), fire it off, and let it sit in the ether. Secondly, there's a written or photographic record after the fact of your lewdness. Many's the morning that I've woken up, looked at my sent messages, and cringed. And let's be honest, a lot of sexting happens after you've had a few.
I'm wondering, how do the sexually inexperienced successfully sext? As one colleague pointed out, the following is not particularly enticing erotic prose: "I would have no way of knowing, but I think this might feel nice."
Twenty-six-year-old Suzanne doesn't have that problem. Her cell phone must be red from all the blushing it does. The experienced bi-coaster writes in an e-mail: "The best is sexting with someone who is in the room with you but can't, for whatever reason (girlfriend present!), pull you into the bathroom and ravage you."
I've never been particularly good at remaining friends with former flames, with the notable exception of High School Significant Other. That's because HSSO is cool, normal, and our relationship didn't implode in a messy display of emotional dysfunction; also because that was a decade ago, and because we were each other's firsts and both feel pretty cozy about that. But mostly it's because we've both completely abandoned any desires or hopes of ever again being romantically involved.
As many of us know, that's where most ex-friendships get hung up. "It's . . . very easy to delude yourself into thinking you're cool with things," points out a 27-year-old urban planner, "only to be devastated when he meets someone else and falls in love or something."
That's if you even want to stay friends with an ex. As one petite amigo of mine, let's call her Tiny, says: "My friends are plentiful and amazing — the purpose of having that person in my life was for romantic love and affection — not to go to the movies or the beach or whatever."
But another friend, a Boston writer, has a different perspective. "In part, I stay in touch with them because I loved these people, shared my life with them, and have always railed against the idea that you can have such an important person in your life, and then have them make a total exit," says the 30 year old. "And I feel . . . extremely grateful that these people are still willing to be in touch. A testament to both their ability to forgive me for various wrongs, and to the strength of the foundation of friendship we were able to create and maintain. That said, it's not the whole truth. The truth? I have a very difficult time closing doors. I want them all to always be in love with me."