13 August 2019

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? Should we relate it to the different linguistic functions of the two sexes as the men crawl around silently in distant fields doing the Hunter Gatherer stuff, while the women endlessly Cement Relationships back in the Cave?

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 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 unmemorable secrets has, through all the millennia of human history, been deplorably pointing?


Nicolas Bellord said...

Surely the reason women talk so much is to teach children to talk. I once knew a mother who hardly ever talked and her children were way behind others in learning to talk.

Don Camillo SSC said...

Perhaps the male equivalent is writing blogs on extremely trivial matters.

Banshee said...

Guys text all the time.

Girls make a show of texting all the time.

Sleep-texting by accident is a thing for both sexes.

Both sexes also play videogames on their phones, all the time, and listen to music on their phones, all the time.

PM said...

The affliction is spreading beyond youth. I read the other day of a 61-year-old who was collected by a tram because he had his head in his mobile phone while crossing the tracks.

Pelerin said...

I think Nicolas Bellord is probably right there!

I have just returned from Lourdes where it always surprises me that some women have taken the trouble to attend the evening torchlight procession and then proceed to chat all the way through. On one occasion last week I sat next to three women who even chatted non-stop all the way through the Credo while holding their candles.

GOR said...

An elderly religious I knew in the days before cell phones and such, was wont to opine: “Generally speaking … women are generally speaking!”