I am currently self-employed, though I’m beginning to doubt that I can claim that, since my gross business income classifies us as living in “poverty”. Thankfully, I have support from my ex-spouse, which, with my business income, means I can still live in the home, feed us, clothe us, and have some amount of fun time. Clearly I need to make some career changes, but that’s another story.
When I committed to filing a DBA and putting up a business website, I upgraded my cell phone to a BlackBerry. That little beauty has been fantastic: I can keep up with my clients’ emails—sporadic though they may be some days—and my cell number is my business number, so I don’t have to worry about a seven-year-old answering a business call. My work is always professional quality, but my work location is not: a room off of the kitchen, cats who want to sit in my lap or play fetch while I work, laundry going in the background some days.
Of course, for IRS purposes, the cell phone is strictly a business expense. However, I use it for personal purposes, too, since who needs two cell phones? Or, perhaps, who needs two cell phones in my level of business “success”? No one. In fact, if cell phones were awarded by earning power, I’d have my old boss’ 1993 model: the 14” Army field telephone with the hard antenna poking up out of the top, and the same signal quality that caused bomb strikes to be called in to the wrong location.
These days, any jackass can buy a cell phone. We can check email, text one another, take pictures or video, post to Facebook, browse the internet—all while driving. It’s fantastic! Dangerous, but fantastic. On nights when the children are with their father, they can send me a text or call me wherever I am. I don’t have to stay at home waiting until I hear from them before I can go out.
Having a BlackBerry has made staying in touch with all of my friends and loved ones much easier. On Friday night, I met up with a friend for a drink. This friend is a bit more than that, but how much more, I can’t really tell. His life is very full—so full that it’s overflowing, and he can’t seem to find much time to see me. We text each other frequently, and that gives us the opportunity to connect in some small way when our days are such that we can’t see each other. Our texts aren’t always meaningless chitchat. We both have unlimited plans, so we can take a few texts to say what we need to say, and we don’t try to communicate everything through text-speak and emoticons (“Divrc papers dun 2day & ”). This is wonderful, and seems like it could sustain things during a time when we aren’t able to see each other as much as we’d like—assuming “we” have a similar level of investment. However, I realize that we’re beginning to rely too much on texting and it’s lulling us into thinking we’ve really got something going when what we are is text-pals who occasionally meet for a meal or a drink.
After our drink, I headed off to an old grange hall in the next town over, to listen to a Cajun band from Lafayette, Louisiana. I have family from Texas and Louisiana, and though this is music I didn’t particularly relish in my youth, hearing it now feels like a little taste of home. I get emails from the organizer of the shows with updates about who is performing each month. Last week, his email included a plea for volunteers to work the door in exchange for free admission. I can’t dance yet because my foot is still healing—and this is not a crowd where you go and don’t dance at all—so this gave me the perfect excuse to be there yet not have to dance.
While at the show, my phone buzzed, and I saw that I had a text message from my dad. We exchanged a couple of texts about the work I do for his company, and about why in the hell I’m working the door for free at a music show. I love that my dad is tech-savvy and that I can have this little bit of contact with him in a very relaxed way. Plus, I was able to address his question about a database—at 9:30 on a Friday night.
My phone buzzed again, and it was a text message from my ex-husband. One child still believes in Santa, and we share the cost of the Santa gifts for both children. We also coordinate other gifts for the children so that we aren’t duplicating items. The older child is getting an electric guitar with an amp from her dad, and he kindly offered that the guitar and amp could reside in my home. We were actually able to be funny in our messages with each other, which is a big step in our post-divorce relationship.
My phone buzzed again, and it was my friend. He was wishing he could be there for the show, and more so after I reported that I’d been asked to dance by three men. Now, I realize that the interest in me is because I’m fresh meat in that crowd—definitely younger than the average age of attendees—and I showed up alone and it’s a group of people who love to dance and swap partners often without any subtext or expectation. I went a few times last year, when I was dating someone else, and the presence of a date, particularly if he’s possessive or glowering, really puts off most other queries for a dance. I was fine with that then. In fact, I danced with someone else once while I was there with my date, and it was the strangest experience, having another man’s hands on me or his body near mine. It felt too intimate, but maybe that’s because I spent thirteen years with only one man’s hands on me, and so I still take it all too seriously.
When my time was done at the door, I headed home. As I drove home, my phone buzzed again. It was a simple email from another male friend. I say “simple” but our friendship is really anything but that. We mean something to each other, but we haven’t figured out what exactly. We are definitely friends, but we were once, briefly, something more, something lovely and true and rich that probably can’t ever be again. I am glad to be in touch with him, and most of the time I am okay with our contact being limited to emails, which are always honorable as well as honest. When we write, I know that it is because we understand each other and have some shared experiences that we can help each other sort through, or vent about. In fact, most of our emails are some sort of free therapy, which is what only dear friends are willing to provide. We don’t text or call, but we write.
I got home at eleven. There was a little bit of snow on my driveway. Winter has arrived—it is cold all the time now, the sun sets at 4:45, and the utility bills are jumping up. I had left a light on because I hate walking into a dark house, and the kitties were sitting there, their tails happy little question marks, greeting me when I walked in the door and petted them. I am very fortunate in so many ways. I have a home that I can afford to keep 40–70 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. I have two beautiful children, and an amazing circle of family and friends. I have so many reasons not to complain.
But, after washing off my make-up, putting on my pajamas, and climbing into bed, I looked again at my BlackBerry. I responded to my friend’s email, then turned off the phone. I picked up a book and read for a while, but couldn’t really focus. You see, for a while, it felt like I had this abundance of men who care around: my dad, my friends, my ex. But the truth is that I am in my home, in my king-sized bed, by myself. That BlackBerry isn’t going to spoon with me at night, or kiss me good morning, or laugh at a joke, or hold my hand as I walk into a strange place. Maybe it helps me feel connected, but it is no substitute. I am grateful I have it, but it is not enough. I don’t think switching to the iPhone will change that.