Lost In Translation: Emoticons Make Me :/

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Communications between the sexes can be difficult. To gives us some incite into the ways men interpret women, we've asked former b5 intern and current Duke undergrad Michael Woodsmall to send us dispatches from the frontlines of the he said/she said battles.
C’mon! Why the hell is it that emoticons somehow better express whatever damn emotions you’re grappling with. J and L? They make me fucking : /.

Why am I this heated about a few seemingly trivial taps on the keyboard? ‘Cause until now, they were an urban legend. A myth. Something that a friend of a friend talked about, or a kid that someone knew  or someone who seemed vaguely familiar but I didn’t know at all did. But no more. And now? My blissful ignorance has been dampened with a torrential downpour of emoticons.

No, my kid cousin didn’t open the trendy box of a new iPhone on her last birthday. And my mother didn’t just learn how to text. No, these emoticons are coming from a girl that I also happen to like.

I’ve always had trouble when texting a girl I like. I’m the type of guy who likes to “verbalize” whatever it is I’m thinking (read Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart if that quotation falls short for you). I kick ass in the realm of person-to-person dialogue. Put me in a conversation with anyone, anywhere, anytime, and I’ll promptly elicit their social security number, last life-scarring embarrassment, or in-depth details about their recurring sexual fantasy involving that bitch of an English professor who tarnished their GPA with a B+. But throw me into the pool with nothing but a couple hundred characters and no button to differentiate between sarcasm and genuine feelings, and I flounder and sink to the bottom, but not before making a fool of myself, splashing around and making everything all wet and soggy while short circuiting my cell.

In person, I’m one charming son of a bitch. Really. My mother says I’m handsome. My father says I have a good head on my shoulders. My aunt tells me I’m the life of the party. And my sister tells me to shut up. But I ignore my sister, and, therefore, you should too. Basically, I’m a gentleman with all of the necessary traits to sweep a lovely young woman off her feet and onto the sheets.

But none of that charm ever travels long distances well. And any distance beyond the few feet necessary for a face-to-face conversation is long. When I do text, they are long, well crafted pieces of art sent after careful proofreading to ensure that the most clever of comments come off as subtle nudges of my wit.

Texts baffle me. Emoticons are that much worse.

Unless there is an emoticon that is wearing an ascot with a pocket square that promptly reads brief excerpts from Bellow’s collected works, there is no smiley face that gets me. And definitely none that are able to succinctly express how I feel. And that is why it baffles me that people, girls in particular, are fine with them in conversation. They find them cute, even endearing at times. But they are also downright confusing. When I text you (‘cause I’m way too nervous to actually call you, which is a shortfall of my manliness) that I had a great time last night and would like to do it again, a one-word answer followed with J throws me off balance. Does that mean you enjoyed it as much as I did and we’ll possibly be sharing intimate moments in the days and weeks to come? Or does it mean we’ll grab lunch and maybe a movie with you be telling me about a guy you like…that’s not me? Please, in an age of impersonal exchanges, let’s hold on to the bits and pieces of the English language that have yet to be forgotten.