Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I'm a 39-year-old woman, and I'm re-entering the dating scene after many years in a long-term relationship. I feel ready and even excited to date again. But the way people get to know each other is so different from when I was last single some 15 years ago. Specifically, I'm confused about how often is too often to text.
The last time I was dating actively, people didn't text or IM. Facebook didn't even exist. I was in my mid-20s, and if you met a guy and gave him your number, or even went out on a successful date early on, you'd expect two days to pass before he called again. This wasn't considered weird or rude -- it was just normal. Now, guys text you before you're even home from the date to say how much fun they had, and they text all day with little random thoughts and comments -- even photos. I guess this is normal? I just don't know.
I really like this one guy, and I want him to know I'm interested, so when he texts and stuff, I want to respond. At the same time, it all feels like too much to me, so I'm afraid of coming across as too eager or too available. How much communication is too much, especially when you're just getting to know someone?
-- Sore Thumbs
Oh, you and your poor sore thumbs. While the rest of us have spent the past several years training for this, you've been thrust right into a world where people connect with each other on the go. I remember the "wait two days to call" era -- the bygone days of cassette tape answering machines, when pagers were cutting-edge and cell phones were the size of Speak & Spells.
But frequent texting and other social media channels are how most daters communicate now, with strangely abbreviated words, cute emoticons and coy selfies. It's rapid, it's fluid, it's less thought-out and more spontaneous, and it gets us from Point A to Point B a whole lot faster than spending two days pondering whether Romeo would reappear.
It can definitely be a bit overwhelming when you are first dating someone and haven't yet deciphered the texting tempo. For now, let him set the pace. If he's reaching out to you, it's because he wants to talk, to hear about your day, or just know more about you. He isn't blowing up your phone to be polite. Don't be scared you'll scare him off. But do know that by ignoring his texts or regularly delaying your responses, you risk sending the signal that you're not interested.
Personally, if I send a charming text to a love/like interest and I don't receive a reply within a half-hour, we're done. Finished. LOLL -- lots of luck, lady... JK, LOL! Winking emoticon! But seriously, some modern daters feel this way...
So yes, times have changed since you've been out in the dating pool and your age group straddles two dramatically different communications worlds -- you're old enough that you spent hours talking to your high school boyfriend on a phone that was attached to a wall by a cord, but you're young enough that you must be somewhat tech-savvy to maintain your professional and personal lives.
So if you are truly interested in this guy, you'll have to embrace his tech talk. Respond to his texts -- he wants it, and in a really weird way, it does build some intimacy and comfort. But balance that by expressing your own communication needs. Make it clear to him that no amount of smooching emoticons will make up for face-to-face quality time for you. If his texts and IMs begin to overtake the personal contact that you need, tell him you're logging out.
• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.