by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
April 3, 2009
WILL OBAMA'S PRESIDENCY DIE ON THE PLAINS OF AFGHANISTAN?
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Hold on a minute while I take a deep breath, before I comment about the latest phenomena to strike us. It doesn't take an earthquake or a bolt of lightning to knock me flat: "Sexting" can do it, and it's all the rage among our pubescent teens and young adults.
Still shy young maidens, the girls will pose naked or partially so, privately take their own picture using their cellphone camera, hit "send" and thus add new meaning to "just you and me, kid."
No longer are we talking about a private telephone line. No, it's "cyberspace" - not a term out of Star Wars, but "the global domain of electro-magnetics accessed through electronic technology and exploited through the modulation of electromagnetic energy to achieve a wide range of communication and control system capabilities."
Note the phrase: "...a wide range of communication."
Initially, texting was sending word messages at a cost per letter and grew into unlimited texting on the shared-minutes accounts with most of the wireless servers. I learned that unlimited messaging does not mean free. (Remember. There's no such thing as a free lunch.)
It seemed it was hardly more than shorthand for words like "before, in my humble opinion or rolling on the floor laughing out loud: translating into B4, IMHO, or ROFLOL) typed cost-effectively and safe from the readers over your shoulder. My association with our own cellphones at home, used for convenience and security, ended right there after I learned to answer, call, access messages and use the instrument as a timepiece.
I once texted my granddaughter and asked: "Does this cost money?" and she answered tersely, "Yes." Then one night I realized I could text four digits and vote for my favorite contestant on American Idol. That was easy and I kept hitting redial and redial and redial. Four votes went into the count for my favorite. Yes, they all do it!
Never again did I bother but I idly perused my Verizon bill and saw a monthly charge for $2.95.
"For what?" I asked John and he had no idea.
Verizon took a half hour to find the reason and said it was a texting charge. I said I don't text and they retraced the months in between and knew I was telling the truth. They then asked if I ever voted on American Idol.
I said yes and they said as soon as you take up a service, you are charged a monthly service charge, use it or not. And the charge was not from Verizon; no one had asked me if I wanted to sign up.
The charges were all taken off and I blocked texting in or out completely. I offer you my trifling background in the world of technology to illustrate how little I know of it beyond the computer and its word-processing abilities in service as the tools of the writer's craft.
What I do know about is love, young love and new love. I know the songs, the poetry, the dramas of love lost and love found, love stories beginning and those ending. And I know the people, young and old who have fallen under the spell and the magic of love. Over the centuries it has not changed.
Illustrating that point, Romeo and Juliet had problems and problems do fire the passion. Romeo was the peacemaker trying to reunite their families when the Montague's and the Capulets were adversaries. They secretly marry "but their union is soon thrown into chaos by their families."
Shakespeare wrote that play early in his career, 1594. In 1957, "West Side Story" opened on Broadway, telling in modern-day terms the same story. This time the lovers were Tony, a Polish-American and Maria a Puerto Rican girl. Gang wars: Tony on the American side, Maria's brother head of the rival gang.
Thus the clashes, thus the fired passion for young lovers. Nothing has changed except the neighborhoods and the era. Four hundred years between and yet both audiences sobbed over the plight of the lovers, fearing swords then and switchblades now.
In the 1967 movie, "A Happening in Central Park," Barbra Streisand sang a song by Ira Levin called "He Touched Me," with simple lyrics describing how love begins:
"He touched me, he put his hand near mine
Then, as now, the boy makes the gesture and she sparkles. "He touched me, he didn't even know it but he touched me... ." Now, it can be edited to read: "he imd me," meaning, "He sent me an Instant Message." And that young girl sparkles and spins around in delight; it could be the beginning of something, or merely serve to make her feel worthwhile because "he imd me."
Just as flirtations of the '30s gave way to telephone calls in the '40s and '50s, walking around the malls and meeting at the movies in the '60s, '70s and '80s, we now have cellphones - originally not given to our sons and daughters until they were starting to drive - and now in the hands of 7-year=olds who choose pink or purple with Barbie's picture on them.
The very young have musical ringtones with their favorite music playing. The older ones have soundless vibrations and the cellphone is read instead of heard. What came next? "Lights, cameras, action!"
This latest craze in America has been big in Japan and Korea for years as an important part of life - and here for just the last year or two.
But we move fast. Texting and sexting caught on rapidly among the young. To them, limiting the number of characters to 140 immediately suggested "a picture is worth 1000 words."
You guessed it: Boys and girls are together in cyberspace - until at least one of them gets driving privileges, and then the early attraction through wireless communications becomes more intimate, lights and motor off, just out of the glare of the streetlights.
The difference between the not-so-distant past and the present? Standards, usually set at home, taught as early as learning right from wrong, along with appropriate behavior.
In a skit by Mike Nichols and Elaine May, a comedy team in the last century, they are sitting center stage pretending to be in a car, miming the steering wheel and his come-on technique.
She says, "No, you won't respect me if I do."
And he, pining through clenched teeth, knees firmly together, reaches over and says: "I'll respect you like c-r-r-azy."
And we really laughed; it was so true to life. And now, naked pictures, suggesting if you want it come and get it. I'm not laughing at this event unfolding before me and if sexting is true to life, I not only need another deep breath but a blind eye.