10 July 2014

Thumbs and tongues

I shall get slammed for this piece of sexual stereotyping* ... but I have to express my conviction that the ceaseless use of little plastic machines held in the left hand is commoner among young women than it is among young - or older - men. It is ... have I got this right? ... called Texting, and involves the agile flickering of the thumb of the left hand in order mysteriously to communicate with distant other young women. It appears to imply an unwillingness to have communications severed, even for an hour, even for a minute, even for the blinking of an eye, by mere distance.

Long before these funny little machines were invented, I at the age of about six was aware that the little girls at my Primary School simply could not stop gossiping with each other. Except when compelled to be silent in class, they were endlessly engaged in huddling together in corners whispering their perfervid confidences to each other. Sometimes they became noisy and shouted (just as girls now sometimes talk loudly on mobile 'phones), but the intimacy of the corner, filled with murmuring and giggles, seemed preferred. Mark Studdart in That Hideous Strength felt, as a small boy, so terribly excluded by the whispered intimacies his sister Myrtle shared with the little girl next door. Is Texting simply the ultimate, the technological validation, of this urgent biological necessity among young girls?

Girls can, as I have just said, still be noisy. The previous house we occupied in Oxford was on the bus route which conveyed the trainee school-teachers of Brookes University from one campus to another (they seemed almost all to be female). Those large blue double-deckers were capsules of din as fifty or sixty young women endlessly and ferociously exchanged information. You will remember that the maidservants in Odysseus' home on Ithaca tended to be heard phthongo eperkhomenai ... . But confidences seem to be even more attractive than din. I have just had a sudden vision of the Fornicating Maidservants in the Odyssey, after being led out (end of book 22) by Telemachus to be hanged, stretching their necks forward into the nooses while their thumbs still flickered on their texting machines minuntha per, ou ti mala den.

S Ambrose was critical of girls who were accustomed circumcursare per alienas aedes ... demorari in plateis ... in publico miscere sermones .... Is the Texting Machine the Omega Point to which a girl-culture of the unbroken exchange of secrets has, through all the millennia of human history, been pointing?
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*Perhaps a balancing piece would deride small boys, middle-sized boys, big boys, grown men, for the testosterone-fuelled absurdity with which, by verbal and physical assertion, they compete for Alpha Male status?

4 comments:

Clare A said...

Hmmmm - not my daughters. However the boyfriend of one of them is so fond of his mobile that he almost needs surgical detachment from it when he comes to the table. Our house, blessedly far from too much civilisation, has a poor mobile reception and this also helps to restore a modicum of tranquility.

John Simlett said...

When I was first given a mobile-telephone, I treated it with caution. One day it rang. I answered but there was nobody there ... I never used it again.

My granddaughters took me to the cinema - first time in 30 years - and I was amazed that just about everybody carried a torch. "They're not torches, they're mobiles." I was told. "They are all texting."
"What do they find to text about?" I asked. I got no answers, just sighs.

Rubricarius said...

The worst, IMHO, of this praxis is encountered when coming out of a London Underground station, especially when one is running late - in my case always - and the flow of people on the pavements is obstructed by slow moving members of the female gender with their heads bowed to their hand-held machines thumbing away oblivious to the nuisance they are causing.

Sue Sims said...

Teaching in a girls' school, I can confirm Fr H's perceptions. Pupils have become quite adept at texting their friends on the other side of the room during a tedious lesson - they simply keep the phone below the edge of their desk, fix adoring eyes on the teacher, and text blind, so to speak, just glancing down occasionally. With their phones set to 'vibrate' rather than ring, it's very hard to know they're doing it.