Monday, June 27, 2011


Reading Between the Texts: The Other Side

The Text
“What are u up to”

The Strategy
K: OK, so in your response, what message do you want to send? Are you trying to play it cool like you don’t really care that much, unless he cares a lot? Or are you like, trying to be sexy and forward?
B: I’m trying to be … sexily uninterested.
K: NICE, okay. So you should make it sound like you’re doing something awesome, but you are potentially free if he begs you.
B: Exactly! So should I be like “nm, at this crazy party, what about u” ?
K: Well that might be weird. It’s like 4 p.m. He’ll think you’re an alcoholic.
B: Well I don’t know what to say then. I never do anything cool at 4 p.m.
K: Be like, “just went for a run. sooo hot out! what about you?” Then he’ll think of you being all athletic and sweaty.
B: I feel like that’s gross.
K: Good-gross.
B: Is that a thing?
K: Are you KIDDING?

The Text
“Just made it home! Thanks for having me over! I had so much fun!!!”

The Strategy
C: I can’t use that many exclamation points back or he’ll think I’m a maniac.
K: For sure. So just, like, have it be short and flirty so that he’s like “OMG I’m a little surprised by this, but also really happy” and then he goes to bed with the phone on his pillow, holding it until he falls asleep, smiling.
C: That’s like, a really specific response.
K: Well just give me a draft.
C: “Thanks for coming! I’m glad you could make it and got home ok! See you soon.”
K: That is the worst thing I have ever heard.
K: Say “I’m glad. I always have fun when you come over.”
C: Whoa. Now I want to sleep with you.
K: Haha, get in line! Hahaha I’m kidding. Ahhhhh there is no line. There is never a line.
C: But wait, periods or exclamation points? Upper-case or lower-case I’s?
K: Periods and upper-case I’s. I don’t even want to think what would happen if you used lower-case I’s.

The Text
“ok cool. have a good night.”

The Strategy
K: What do you think I should say???
R: I don’t think you should say anything. You have to let him be the last person to say something for once in your life.
K: But isn’t it rude to just not respond to things? I don’t want him to be like, “wow she literally has no manners.”
R: Why would he ever think that to himself? If you write back, he won’t respond and then you will never sleep or eat again.
K: Oh come ON, I am not that dramatic about it.
R: You have made me take your phone away from you five times in the last week so that you can’t keep checking it even when there are no vibrations.
K: Barely.
K: I’m just going to say “thanks, you too. Let’s do it again soon.”
R: Absolutely do not say that.
K: I just sent it right now while you were talking.
R: Why do you even ask me for advice? You never listen to me.
K: Because I keep hoping that one day you will tell me I should do what I already know I’m going to do.

The Text
“Want to grab dinner tomorrow or sometime this week?”

The Strategy
R: I can’t believe he keeps asking me to hang out.
K: Really? I can. You have given him no way of knowing you don’t want to.
R: I have said no to hanging out three times!
K: Yes. Because you said you got malaria, that your great-great-grandma died, and that you had to get stitches because a stray dog bit you.
R: He should have realized that that many terrible things can’t happen to a person in three weeks, and that really I was saying “please, I don’t like you, as a person.”
K: Oh my God.
R: I don’t know how to be mean.
K: You don’t need to be MEAN, just be direct.
R: How about “Sorry not this week, I’m super busy! But maybe another time and I’m really glad we’re friends.”
K: WHAT?!?!?
R: Four no’s is a clear sign, and the last part is obviously sarcastic.
K: You’re like that horse that you bring to the water and it won’t drink, or whatever. Drink the mean water.
R: I barely ever know what you’re talking about.
K: Say “Are you sure you want to? My father has kidnapped the last five guys who tried to hang out with me and nobody knows where they are, lol!”
R: Ugh I’ll just say I have to go to church. … all week.
K: You’re going to use GOD as an excuse?
R: I feel like God would understand. God is like “haha, yeah, that guy IS terrible.”

The Text
“Are we ok? I want to know where we stand.”

The Strategy
E: Look, it’s so sweet!
K: But he’s been such an asshole to you!
E: I know, I know. But maybe he will have a complete transformation in personality?
K: That does happen a lot.
E: Fine, what do I say?
K: Say “No we are not ‘ok.’ The only kind of relationship I want to have with you is the kind where I stand at the top of a volcano, laughing maniacally and zapping lightning at you with my trident until you die and then ravens eat your body.”
E: *snarling* *texting*
K: What did you say?
E: I said, “we’re great. I love you so much. xo.” Oh, he just responded!
K: What did he say?
E: “k cool.”

Previously: "Hey I've got a free hour, want to go get groceries?"

Katie Heaney lives in Minneapolis and writes the most beautiful goddamn text messages that the world has ever not responded to.

110 Comments / Post A Comment

Pound of Salt

Oh god, this. Wait, THIS TOO. UH GUH THIS.


@Pound of Salt love love love LOVE.


I would just like to put out there how much I am enjoying this new column. (Wow, that's a very detached avowal of approval, isn't it?)


@CupKates I KNOW, RIGHT?! I've been in the dating world for a few months now and this is how I spend 90% of my life and it makes me feel immensely better to know I'm not the only one.


'Drink the mean water'. You are a genius.


These are so, SO great, Katie. I feel like they are the Bridget Jones (books, not movies) for the new era.

Katie Walsh

PERFECTION. God, how I relate to number 4. Also, the next time my roommate asks me about the stupid asshole she's fucking I'm going to tell her verbatim to say "No we are not ‘ok.’ The only kind of relationship I want to have with you is the kind where I stand at the top of a volcano, laughing maniacally and zapping lightning at you with my trident until you die and then ravens eat your body.” It's too too good.


@Katie Walsh
I know!!!! I'm plagiarizing this one SO HARD.


@Katie Walsh k thanks

The only kind of relationship I want to have with you is the kind where I stand at the top of a volcano, laughing maniacally and zapping lightning at you with my trident until you die and then ravens eat your body.



He used 'u' instead of 'you', delete and find someone else.


@shenannies THANK U.

fondue with cheddar

@shenannies Seriously. Is saving two whole characters worth sounding like a 13-year-old?

The Lady of Shalott

Wow, this column is...my life. Also anyone who texts this:
“Are we ok? I want to know where we stand.” and honestly wants to have that discussion via text is probably a douche.

Also if a dude used more than three exclamation points in a text to me I think I'd be afraid and start looking for his secret stash of meth.

But whatever, my bf broke up with me last week by ignoring my texts, phone calls, and defriending me on facebook. So whatever whatever.


@The Lady of Shalott Damnnnnn girllll... how long did you date him for? I officially hate him.


@The Lady of Shalott Oh babes! That's awful, terrible behaviour, he deserves no texts from anyone for the rest of his life. Or ya know, the volcano/trident/ravens approach.


@The Lady of Shalott But whatever, my bf broke up with me last week by ignoring my texts, phone calls, and defriending me on facebook. So whatever whatever.



@The Lady of Shalott I still can't believe people actually pull this crap! Like, fine, no one enjoys a difficult, awkward conversation, but come ON!! I just can't even wrap my head around it.

I'm quite impressed you're already in "whatever whatever" territory, good for you. Please do share your secret. For me, the hairpin is my new coping mechanism. Delightful distraction and community and feeling less alone-ness, hurrah!


@The Lady of Shalott Oh girl, I've been there. The only thing to do is listen to your favorite song like 300x, refer to him only as "the asshole" for the rest of your days, and possibly move to another country? It worked for me.


@The Lady of Shalott I am de-lurking just to say, I don't even know you and I can tell you're too good for him.


@Kitty I hate him too! But yeah, best that Douchey McDoucherson decided to be douchey about getting out of your life now.. by being a huge douche about it.

The Lady of Shalott

@vodkasaurus @cuminafterall @pmk @clare @rayray @Kitty wow, you guys are all so nice! I am already at the whatever/whatever stage unfortunately because of other shitty events in my graduate-student actual life. This has not stopped him from sending me a couple of messages along the lines of "I feel so shitty, I'm so sorry, you have my apologies" blah blah blah whatever.

It's OK, guys, because one of my coping mechanisms is imagining what it would be like if he worked for my dad and my scary dad-at-work would absolutely rip into him in a polite, civil, but utterly scathing sort of way before firing him and sending him on his way reduced to tears. And then I imagine my mom raking him over the coals for being, basically, a piece of shit. And then I feel better.


@The Lady of Shalott The approach outlined by cuminafterall totally worked for me, too. Except I named the ex "Justin the Disgusting," which I found profoundly witty... and I actually still do.

Anywhoo, you are clearly awesome. Forget Douchy McDouchepants.


@The Lady of Shalott WHOA! Sorry to hear that. Whenever I lose a friend on FB, I *always* check to see if it's the guy I'm dating, and then chastise myself for being so nuts, but looks like douches like that do exist! Sorry again :(

The Lady of Shalott

@maebyfunke No, no! Do not be a panicky nutso like me! It will only lead to tears. I will tell you this from experience: if he does it, he is a douchebag from the douchiest corner of hell and you can clearly do much better.

elysian fields

best part: "That does happen a lot." haaaa.

also the only acceptable response to "I love you so much xo" is "I love you even more, xoxoxo." "k cool" gets a swift decapitation with a flaming sword.


"I’m trying to be … sexily uninterested."



PLEASE, God, let him telephone me now. Dear God, let him call me now. I won't ask anything else of You, truly I won't. It isn't very much to ask. It would be so little to You, God, such a little, little thing. Only let him telephone now. Please, God. Please, please, please.

The Lady of Shalott

@melis "I won't telephone him. I'll never telephone him again as long as I live. He'll rot in hell, before I'll call him up. You don't have to give me strength, God; I have it myself. " I can't believe I've never encountered this before but savesavesave


"I don’t even want to think what would happen if you used lower-case I’s."


Because I keep hoping that one day you will tell me I should do what I already know I'm going to do.

This is my life.


What if there was a "Ask a Textpert" column where we could send in texts to be analyzed? Please Katie Heaney PLEASE???


@theharpoon Yes! Katie's professional help plus the opinions of the commenters? This would result in me wasting much less time talking about stupid boys during therapy sessions, and then I could talk about important things like my father, and then my entire life would be fixed!


Katie Heaney

@theharpoon I have been sending psychic as well as actual hints to Edith regarding this very topic.


@Katie Heaney Yessssssss


@theharpoon i would DIE it must happen


@Katie Heaney adding my psychic hints to yours!


@theharpoon: I don't know... part of the humor of this is the blatant over-analyzing of a very curt medium. Actual texts share the same problems but will result in even more hand wringing if we try to read into them with this kind of granularity.


@Too Much Internet Wait, are you saying these aren't actual texts??? KATIE??????


@Too Much Internet Agreed. I feel like, as a collective, we Hairpin readers go back and forth between making fun of behavior like this and rushing to admit that we embody it. Then I tell myself that there is no real Hairpin collective and I need to quit judging the actions of strangers according to standards I've privately set for them. But... um... I vote, individually, for more making fun of overanalyzing texts, and less actual overanalyzing of texts.

Katie Heaney

@theharpoon some of the "him's" certainly find them familiar. ;) :p xoxo <3 LOL


@Xora, haha oh my god yes, there were a lot of comments in the last post that made me want to implore the crowd to dial it down from "literally insane" to "endearingly neurotic" or maybe just pop a xanax but then again I am not terrifically fond of exclamation marks or copious emoticons so perhaps I am the one with the problem


@Too Much Internet I was more looking forward to making fun of dudes who text me.

Bus Driver Stu Benedict

@theharpoon You have to give me your number first.


@Edith Can we have a pm-ing system so that Butterscotch can send me messages and I can send them to Katie Heaney to analyze? Ok thanks.

Bus Driver Stu Benedict

@theharpoon I'm pretty sure a friend of yours knows where I posted my email and twitter here, sooooooooo


Currently I want to send this text to my hookup from Friday night that says, "You know how when you have a massive crush, and all you want to do is stalk their Facebook and send them pointless text messages? This is one of those pointless text messages."



@charizard hit send! see what the hookup says!


@charizard No don't do it! (Devil's avocado here, Larry)

Princess Langwidere

@charizard Dooooooooo iiiiiit! Charizard ain't gotta be coy. 'Friday Night Hookup, I choose YOU!'


@charizard Nooooeeeeee! Not yet. He might be a dooouuuuchhhhe!


@charizard: See, if I knew you, and knew you were funny, I would think this is a funny and cool text. Does he know you're funny like this?

The Lady of Shalott

@charizard DON'T DO IT!!!!


@charizard Do it. Eff him if he can't take a joke. (And if he can, you get to eff him. Yay!)


@charizard Okay, well, I did it - and it was received well. :)

Katie Heaney

@charizard YEAH girl.


@charizard You are a hero.

I'm Not Rufus

@charizard I would love getting a text message like that.


@charizard YEAH! get it, girl!


I love this column SO much. I have these convos regularly as the go-to text advice giver/ghostwriter for my friends and coworkers. Advice is usually solicited...but sometimes not.


Can the next column please discuss x/xox/xoxo/xx other expressions of affection at the end of messages? If I leave them out I feel passive aggressive. In fact, reading that good night message without a kiss made me feel super tense. I don't even know what I've become.


@Sundae Xs and Os have become the cornerstone of my workday communication with my boyfriend. We are both extremely sarcastic, but sometimes it doesn't come across in a text. Therefore, if the seemingly sarcastic text isn't closed with an "Xo" or "xoxoxo" or "X", something is terribly wrong between us and I must use three hours of personal time to race home IMMEDIATELY.


@kayjay @Sundae So what if a guy closes his text with "XXX"?? Does that mean porn? (I'm totally serious. I received this text this morning)


@QuiteAimable I hope so.


@QuiteAimable Prolly just kisses? He's digging on you, either way right? Porn or kisses = digging on you!


@QuiteAimable Kisses or porn are both acceptable meanings of "XXX". It could also mean "30". So he's either going to kiss you, porn you or do 30 of something to you. Or give you 30 of something. Let's hope it's porn. 30 porns would be nice right about now.


@kayjay "30 porns" !!!!! <3 you.


@kayjay 30 porns yes! Alas, yahoo answers let me know that it's a European-friendly greeting. But I will still spend time dissecting the many meanings of XXX.



xo lol ox


@QuiteAimable: He's thinking about that scene in xXx where Vin Diesel jumps his dirtbike over that fence by just yanking up on the handlebars. It's pretty rad, guys think about that a lot.


@Too Much Internet A very likely possibility. The text did mention that he was drunk and listening to Purple Rain.


@Sundae I love writing 'xoxo' to people I am fond of, and I'm a sarcastic, distant bitch, but I mean it endearingly. One of my friends always responds with an 'Ox', passively aggressively calling me fat. I love it!


@QuiteAimable Clearly he has pornographic intentions or is over enthusiastic, but I prefer the 30 porns reading.

Also guys, I think I just feel more confused and terrified by xoxo's now. Thanks for nothing, jerks.


"nm. just sitting on my washing machine chewing some ginko leaves and reading the piano teacher. u?"

rosy disposition

"I can’t use that many exclamation points back or he’ll think I’m a maniac." I don't know how many times I've thought this very same thing. Also in this category, emoticons. Sometimes I have to stop myself from adding the winky guy to the end of my sentences...

In sum,


"The only kind of relationship I want to have with you is the kind where I stand at the top of a volcano, laughing maniacally and zapping lightning at you with my trident until you die and then ravens eat your body."

i am dying. this is amazeballs.


I've got about 200 texts over the past 6 months from an ex boyfriend for you to parse through thaaaaaaaanks

Katie Heaney

@heb Got it. NP (no problem)


"ok. cool" is THE WORST! They might as well just grunt at you through SMS.


@Shamela4Life The only thing worse than "ok. cool" is the dreaded "k". Just don't even bother if you're going to "k" me.


@kayjay This is an actual text message thread I am currently involved in, at this very moment.
Me: "You are so lucky you get to see me on my birthday!"
Him: "k."

LOWERCASE k??????????????? And the worst part is that I cannot chalk this up to "He's Just Not That Into You" because he actually likes me more than I like him. Literally the only thing I like about him is how hot he is. That is probably telling, but I will worry about the implications of that statement another time.


@ShamelaAndrews I always say "that will work" but I'm a very dry person so there is an assumed loads of enthusiasm hidden in there that needs to be discovered.


@zidaane So you're telling me its completely normal to assume loads of enthusiasm? Thats what you're saying right?


@ShamelaAndrews: Hmm. On one hand that's a pretty short response. On the other, your statement leaves him very little room to respond in a way that will both fit into 160 characters but not seem glib or manic.


@Too Much Internet In the part of my brain (all of it) where I come up with what he SHOULD HAVE SAID, he replies with "Yeah. Can't wait :)" I am overthinking this. I have to go watch Bridezillas and drink wine coolers.


Ahhhhh there is an Internet line.

throwaway style

seriously. love this, ladies.


Katie, seriously, I LOVE THIS. The End.

Inspector Tiger

"sexily uninterested" is what I fail at regularly. still trying though!

Jamila Batchelder@facebook

Too funny. I was literally just giving my babysitter advice on how to respond to a text. Maybe y'all can help her out. She is 21 and also babysits for a guy who is going through a divorce, I think he is like 15 years older. He asked her if she was free tonight, she assumed he meant to babysit, so she said yes. Then he asked her to get dinner with him. She says he is a nice guy (though I question her judgment!), and she doesn't want to embarrass him. How should she respond?


@Jamila Batchelder@facebook Tell her the first rule of cheap eating is never to turn down a free meal. So if Divorced Dad is paying, she should be eating.


@Jamila Batchelder@facebook o_0


@QuiteAimable: The mental price of that meal would be orders of magnitude too great for what she's getting.

Divorcee guy won't be embarrassed. "Oh, I thought you asked so I could babysit for you." That's the text that should be sent back. If he doesn't get the hint, the next one should be "Sorry, but I'm not interested in you in that way."


@Too Much Internet Agree, the proper response is "Oh, I thought you asked so I could babysit." On the other hand, does she want to have dinner with him? Maybe that's not the worst thing in the entire world. On the first hand again, if she says she doesn't want to embarrass him that's a pretty good sign she DOESN'T want to have dinner with him so she should probably just say the thing you suggested.


@Ellie Boundaries. He clearly has none.


Just text "I'm trying to teach morons how to spell "you" with 3 letters"


My views on texting alternate between "This is so sweet in a 2010s sort of way, or like that one Carol Ann Duffy poem!" and "texts are the fucking scourge of the goddamn universe." One has capital letters and exclamation points. One is sulky. Ugh.


YES except all of the conversations occur within my brain, including the one where I tell myself to do the smart thing and then I do the other thing while telling myself to do the smart thing.

Danny boy

Good-gross gets me every time. Does that make me gross? k.

happy go lucky scamp

"sorry i can't but i'm washing my hair"

brings back memories of me and my old roomie. we were masters of passive agressive texts (with proper punctuation).


I have never had any of these conversations. Ever. *ahem*


I feel like God would understand. God is like “haha, yeah, that guy IS terrible.”



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