Letter from Simon Kelner: Sent with a loving kiss – but what's the subtext?


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The Independent Online

A male friend of mine sent me a text yesterday. Not the most remarkable event, I grant you, particularly in an age when people would much rather text or email than expend the energy on actually talking. But the point is this: his text was a simple, perfunctory message about playing table tennis, but he signed off with an "x".

Do I really want a kiss from a mate of mine? Does he really mean it? And when I reply sans tendresse, does that make me appear unfriendly? This started me thinking about how the modern world's etiquette can be very tricky to negotiate for those of a certain age.

Like me, for example. (A friend of mine once said there are three ages of man: youth, middle age, and – "you look well!" I have now reached the point in my life when people tell me how well I look.) The point is that I don't know the rules about the "x" suffix to a text. I am always pleased to receive one, and I sometimes send one – not usually to my male friends, so what does that say about me? – but I worry about whether it's inappropriate, or whether I've added one on a previous message, and now, if I send an "x"-less text, will the recipient read something into that?

A letter sealed with a kiss used to mean something. (Do you remember personal letters, by the way? Lovely things to send and receive.) But what the text has done is to turn a kiss effectively into a full stop. My advice: where friends are concerned – male or female – use it always, or use it never. That way, you're never going to confuse or upset. And on the subject of text etiquette, anyone over the age of 30 – and I'm being generous here – should leave the abbreviated language to the youngsters. After all, it belongs to them. I have a friend who's coming up to pensionable ago whose texts are full of "cul8r" and "gr8" and even "lol". It's every bit as wrong as a grown man (who is not actually a rapper) wearing a baseball cap back to front.

Here's a couple of other tips to stay polite and switched on. When you say you are switching your mobile off, don't just put it on vibrate. That's not switching it off! And, if you insist on tweeting, don't say anything ironic. Twitter only does face value, not irony, and those 140 characters might easily be taken the wrong way. 21st Century etiquette? It's a nightmare. Let me kno wat u think. C u tmrw x