Middle Class Problems: Deciphering text messages

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The Independent Online

Just as we're unpacking the shopping – shoving Petit Filous into spaces that aren't there and rescuing sausages from my daughter's toy box – my other half's phone buzzes with a text message from a friend. We're due to meet her, her husband and their two young boys the next day for a spot of child-led, currently indeterminate, time-filling. But this is the point at which the promise of a carefree Sunday afternoon mutates, instantly, into an exercise in textual analysis.

"What's the matter?" I say, as she stops halfway to the fridge. "Pppphhhhhhh…" she sighs, enigmatically. I take the milk from her, and she leans back on the work surface with her phone, in a manner that suggests she will be there for at least 20 minutes.

"OK. What does this actually mean? 'Hi. So did you still want to go to Greenwich Park tomorrow? Or we could come to yours if you're too tired. Or more than happy to have you over here.'"

"Wow," I say.

"I'd like to go to theirs and see all the work they've had done. But she would have put that first if that's what they really wanted, wouldn't she? And what does that mean, do we still want to go? Do you think they'd rather do next weekend? What shall I put?"

We spend the next 10 minutes imagining ourselves into their shoes, and I think how much easier it used to be when we simply spoke to one another.

"Why don't you give her a call?" I ask. In the ensuing silence, the tap drips and my daughter, who has been rooting around in the shopping bags, drops a can of baked beans on my foot.

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