'K. So. That was delicious.
The "disappearance" of "telephone culture" is a direct consequence of place and decorum in that telephones used to be for places. You had a home phone and an office phone and if you needed to be reached at the office you had a number. If you needed to be reached at home it was presumed it was someone who knew you personally, wanted to know you personally, or had something important to communicate.
A phone was not an obligation - a phone was a tool for communicating within certain settings. And because phones were controlled by large monopolies with ridiculous build cost and tremendous vertical integration it was exceedingly difficult to sidestep the decorum associated with calling a phone number. And if you didn't connect, you didn't connect. If it was important, you'd call back.
Answering machines, which are older than Alexis Madrigal, allowed people to leave messages. This allowed people to screen calls, which has been happening since before Alexis Madrigal was born. Where things got messed up for the phone company, however, was when they went digital.
Because they couldn't do it all at once. Your digital system had to be backwards-compatible with your analog system, and your analog system had to be backwards-compatible with the first phone systems installed back in nineteen diggity-two. Which meant, effectively, that the controls on digital technology were adequate for nineteen diggity-two.
The same technology that allowed the phone company to give you voicemail allow VoIP pirates to phonebank the shit out of everyone from a call center in Bangalore. Once it's become data you can do anything with it. The original PCS transport protocol is literally 10BaseT. You're on a computer now, bubba.
So they made them smaller and they put one in everyone's pocket and phones were no longer about place. I fought them for years using this very argument: "I am not a place. If you need to reach me, you can reach me AT home. You can reach me AT work." For a while cell phones were things you called in an emergency because they were expensive. Texts, despite being free sideband metadata, were equally expensive. And then things were deregulated such that texts were free and calling was cheap and suddenly
And that's the thing Madrigal doesn't get (because he's a fucktard). "Telephone culture" has vanished because there's no goddamn freedom from it. There's no longer any unreachability because the number everyone has (and it's on Facebook and it's everywhere and VoIP is so cheap that you can literally dial every number sequentially) is in your back pocket. Which means if someone is calling you, they're fuckin' interrupting you. You can't get away from that thing.
So yeah. People text first because it's polite and asymmetrical. If you're the kind of person who responds to texts too quickly, people email you. You likely chat with your friends on the phone, but rarely... but when you do, it's important.
I work freelance. We're hired on the phone. Random-ass number calls you, you pick up because it is likely a producer who got your name from a friend or coworker and they don't want to waste time. They want to take your pulse and answer any questions. I once almost got fired off a job because I cracked a joke (wish I had in retrospect). Voice communication is more important now, not less.
My wife delivers babies. She's got a client portal in her EHR. She answers texts from patients all the time. But every single one of them - ALL OF THEM - call when it's time for the baby.
That most reclusive of species, the early-20s woman, who never talks to anyone on the phone anymore, CALLS my wife in the middle of the night to say the baby is coming.
Telephone culture isn't dead. It's just been elevated. And if you don't get that, you deserve to get hung up on.
"Hey, live feed. Active shooter in Texas."
"Isn't that outside Dallas?"
"Just another example of the government not doing their job."
And then we called attendance.
When I went to college 20 years ago, there were signs up about what to do in the event of a fire. This time? There is no room, hallway or bathroom without an 11x17 placard telling me what to do in case some fucking nutbag with an AR-15 decides to kill me.
We keep hearing "it'll never happen here" and statistically they're right but fuckin' hell, a buddy's daughter lost a friend in a school shooting so statistics or no, that is FAR too few degrees of separation between a statistical fluke and me and my loved ones. You know what I grew up with? I grew up with a constant back-of-the-mind fear that the Russians would get itchy and we'd end up as mohawk-wearing dogfood eaters on the edge of the Great Nuclear Desert.
Forty years. Strangelove, Failsafe, Wargames, Day After, Threads, Road Warrior, the Russians would eventually blow us up. It left an indelible mark on culture and fuckin' hell if the 'boomers didn't wallow in that shit like it was sausage gravy. If you were a kid? You just knew that between AIDS and Andropov there was no fuckin' point in planning for the future.
By the time I graduated high school most of the fallout shelter signs had come down because it had just been accepted that there was fuckall that could be done. It feels like we're getting there with school shootings. But while the 'boomers made sure the whole fucking culture understood that death was coming from Ivan the Terrible, everyone is fucking ignoring the fact that we've raised an entire generation to expect one of their classmates to turn an assault rifle on them sometime.
Friend visiting from Fresno. She's talking about the junior soccer league there. Apparently there was a barbecue and one parent got into a fight with another parent and pulled a gun on him. AT A BARBECUE. Which meant there had to be a meeting. About whether concealed carry was okay at soccer league functions. One faction argued - in all seriousness - "that it just isn't a party until the guns come out." And we have to humor that. Because that's the culture. But if anybody said "it just isn't a party until the tits come out" it'd be national fucking news and someone would be required counseling before they were allowed to work in an occupation around children ever again.
I'd rather my kid be around tits.
When I was in high school I had ready access to weapons. Went plinkin' multiple times a week sometimes. Friends of mine got in an armed standoff because someone made someone else mad. Nobody died. I used to fantasize about walking into a classroom with an AR-15 loaded with blanks to shoot at the ceiling. Never did. (1) I knew there would be dire consequences (2) I cared.
I think the caring part has decreased. When the Russians were going to kill us all, it was about fearing a natural disaster, basically. Nothing we could do. Active shooter shit? If you're at the end of your goddamn rope, and you have no real concept of mortality because you're seven-fucking-teen years old, the choice between popper and poppee is a moral one. And in these here United States, you aren't allowed to say "If you have a fatalistic attraction to tools designed to kill multiple people at once and minimal affinity for socialization and thriving, you are sick and we need to help you." Because if you love guns, you're a True American and if you think there should be not just access controls but oh, I dunno, maybe a concerted effort to disrupt a culture that values the tools of military aggression in the hands of civilian sportsmen... well, you don't understand, you're wrong, and I'm a responsible gun owner why are you punishing me?
It was just as easy to get guns 20 years ago as it is now. By any measure, the murder rate has gone down while the gun ownership rate has gone up. You are much less likely to die by gunfire now than you were then.
But back then, you were a lot less likely to die out of the goddamn blue, for no goddamn reason, by gunfire.
The NRA aren't terrorists. Gun owners aren't terrorists. Gun rights advocates aren't terrorists. But every mass shooter is a terrorist and our country has a hobby that is the proximate cause of terrorism.
Most people will never face a mass shooting. But every school student in America has to prepare for them as if they are, and they have to face the reality that we'd rather they memorize "run, hide, fight" instead of "stop, drop & roll" because a splinter fraction of the populace is concerned that if they give an inch, we'll take a mile and the next thing they know they'll be in fucking FEMA camps.
She was Serbian. She'd lost two houses in the war. Her neighbors had firebombed her house in the country and burned it to the ground. Then NATO had bombed her city and leveled her condo. I asked her which was worse. "The country," she said. "Carpet bombing you don't have to take personally."
The entire country arranged its culture around eventual, impersonal armageddon at the hands of unseen Soviet aggressors. Yet that same generation is perfectly okay with kids wondering which one of their classmates might shoot them in the face some day.
When the Run-Fight-Hide generation is tasked with taking care of the Duck'n'Cover generation, I wonder what they'll do.
I wonder if despite all their triumphs, they'll end up eating alpo on the edge of the desert.
And it takes every inch of my generosity to not wish for it earnestly.
I'll totally pretend to give you answers.
know the difference between FEELING helpless and BEING helpless.
So okay. You went on a trip and met a girl and felt titillated and infatuated for the first time in a while. Happens to literally every person in a long-term relationship. I flirt recklessly. My wife knows I do. She also knows I come home to her because a lot of it is situational. Infatuation is exploring the possibilities. Love is cherishing the realities. You may not be in love with Sarah but she's also not surprising you much anymore. Novelty is a hell of a drug.
And okay. Sarah accepted that she cares more about you than you care about her, and you, for some dumb goddamn reason, decided to keep her around as a fuckbuddy until AUGUST or some shit.
This is the only thing I'm going to give you a ration of shit for. You're in a shitty place. It sucks. I'm sorry. I'ma give you some pathways I promise but for a minute, sit there and feel bad for this. Because it's a shitty thing to do to another human being. "I don't feel that we have a future together but... let's keep rubbing our genitals together for another four months because we have nothing better to do." It's one thing if you're both at "eh" in the relationship but if you're already acknowledging that she's way more into you than you are into her, keeping her on the leash is fuckin' cruel, dude. And it's going to cause things to cascade one of three ways:
(1) She's going to muster up her self-esteem and drop you like a hot rock because who the fuck are you to string her along like that after you've both acknowledged that she's got feelings you can't reciprocate.
(2) She's going to take what she can get for as long as she can get it and try to win you over to her way of thinking HONESTLY. You've given her a deadline, you've given her an ultimatum, you've given her a way forward: how to win a guy in 120 days. And, as a bonus, she gets to bump uglies.
(3) She's going to take what she can get for as long as she can get it and try to win you over to her way of thinking BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. You've given her a deadline, you've given her an ultimatum, you've given her a way forward: how to land your man in one easy step. And, as a bonus, you already had a pregnancy scare 5 weeks ago.
If I understand correctly, you have not been present at any doctor's appointments. You have her word that she's pregnant. If you believe her, that's plenty evidence enough. If you don't believe her, she wouldn't be the first person to fake a pregnancy in order to push a guy into marriage. It's happened to three of my friends, in fact. But don't focus on that. In the end it doesn't matter. Those three pathways are independent of pregnancy, real or feigned; the pregnancy is a complication but it does not affect the fundamental core of your relationship with Sarah.
Your relationship with your father is coloring your current situation way too much. Makes sense. Entirely natural. By all means analyze it, reflect on it, react to it, but then set it aside because the relationship that matters now is between you, your potential child, and the mother of that potential child. That's where a lot of the helplessness is coming from: you had no power over your father yet he still holds power over you. You have no power over this child yet this child holds power over you. Hold it up to the light, nod at it, then put it back in the drawer.
Your current reaction to Sarah has a lot to do with the fact that you thought you killed all responsibility to the relationship yet still managed to reap the benefits. Yet here she is, drowning you in responsibility and threatening to cut you off entirely from any benefits. She's making it clear that you are unnecessary to her future plans, much like you made it clear that she was unnecessary to yours. What was the word? "Paralyzed." All right. You're frozen. You can't move, you can't breathe, and you're freaking out. Hold it up to the light, nod at it, then put it back in the drawer.
You're all about abortion which leads me to believe that divorce doesn't offend your religious sensibilities. You're freaking out about your family's reaction to a kid out of wedlock. And you're fixated on this child's future alienation because you're going to have no input into their life. Yet the obvious solution - marry the girl - has been ruled out, out of hand, with no discussion whatsoever. Why is that?
Marry the girl. Now you've got a say in the kid's upbringing. Commit to not being a stranger. Get to know her family and friends. Commit to three more years in Germany, three more years of trying to see what kind of life you can build with Sarah. It's the first two years of a child's life that govern so much of their future and having two parents that love them under one roof where they feel safe and loved makes all the difference in the world.
If you're not into it within three years, part amicably. Support your child. Be a part of their life. Be anchored in her family. Be a relative that doesn't vanish. Be a father. You can be travel dad no problem. After you've front-loaded the commitment it'll be nearly impossible to shrug you off, particularly if you comport yourself like a gentleman. And fuckin' hell, you may discover that having something in common with Sarah, who is about to give over her body and time for the next two years to the life and well-being of your firstborn, makes her someone you can love more.
You might be surprised what happens when you extend the girl some trust and empathy. You might find she warms up into more of a person you want her to be. And, you might discover that she miscarries and you didn't have to blow up your life. Maybe you go through with the wedding, maybe you drop her like a hot rock and learn to never again string along a girl who likes you more than you like her.
Either way, your best move is to commit to a wedding and let it play out for better or worse. All the bullshit above aside, saying I'm going to do this means you're DOING something which breaks you free from paralysis. You're making a move, you're making a decision, you're acting towards your own future, and you're forcing the probability cascade to break down in your favor.
- You propose to the girl. She turns you down. You say you want to help. She turns you down. You try to be in the kid's life. She turns you down. You've done all you can, your father can't resent you completely, and the door is open to be a part later.
- You propose to the girl. She says yes. You get married, have a kid, stick it out as long as you can, and end up being Foreign Dad. By then you're more settled financially, you have a better idea what your future holds and you've influenced your child's future in an immeasurably positive way.
- You propose to the girl. She says yes. The pregnancy disappears. You walk away unscathed.
- You propose to the girl. She says yes. The pregnancy disappears. You find your feelings towards Sarah have changed. To be continued, for better or worse.
- You propose to the girl. She says yes. You have a family and live happily ever after.
Either way, when you've decided you no longer care for someone as much as they care for you, stop fucking them for both your sakes.