You know how when people ask couples, “How did you know?” most people answer, “Oh, my mother was in the hospital, and he came and sang show tunes with her to keep her happy,” or “My dog had diarrhea into his expensive gym bag, and he was totally cool about it.” For me, I knew I was going to date my boyfriend when he sent me a photo of a magazine with Shailene Woodley’s face on it that had been left in his apartment lobby with the caption “your enemy.”
I have no idea what gives people like me the right to arbitrarily decide not to like a celebrity without any concrete reasons or evidence of the claims we set against them, but I had decided that I didn’t like Shailene Woodley; my dislike mostly stemmed from an interview she did about how oil pulling and tanning her vagina could fix everything, a sentiment I found both irksome and classist. Not all of us have time to just tan our vaginas, Shailene! Some of us have to work, okay? God only knows what I would say in a similar interview and how many random people would hate me for it—my bet is I would share my thoughts on sourdough bread and alienate a nation—but the heart dislikes what it dislikes.
Anyway, my now-boyfriend (then friend-I-was-hooking-up-with) and I had watched a terrible movie with Shailene in it a few days before, and I had gone on a likely-drunken rant about how much I despised her. So when he remembered my unfounded ire and sent me that photo well after the fact, I realized that he was not like all the other guys—the guys who would never have remembered, let alone nurtured, my celeb hate-crushes. He revealed himself to be a master of the maintenance text. I have spent every day since trying to match his skill.
Maintenance texts are the glue that holds modern relationships together. I don’t want to get all “how to date in the world of the Internet,” but we are all online and therefore on-phone almost constantly. No one has time to stop in and have lunch at your office during their break, which apparently used to be a thing. And you can only deliver flowers every so often before it becomes weird. Enter: the maintenance text. A maintenance text is a text that does not convey important information. No directions. No plans. “What do you want to do for dinner tonight?” is not a maintenance text. Nor is “Does this mole look cancerous?” But a photo of your boss wearing the same tie for the third day in a row because you have an inside joke about it is a very good maintenance text. So is a link to an article about Timothée Chalamet making out with a mysterious blonde woman with a “Looks like he’s taken; you’re stuck with me.” (Note: While technically a maintenance text, a generic “good morning [heart eye emoji]” text is vomit-inducing and cheesy and is best left to teenagers.)
The maintenance text harks back to a time when the only things you knew about each other were that you both knew Randi from college, who set you up, and that you were both probably going to sleep together. In nascent relationships, inside jokes are all you have, so you lean on them like Johnny Depp leans on makeup to make his roles seem interesting. Whether you met on Tinder (God forbid) or in real life, the beginning of a relationship is when two people are desperately trying to seem casual via jokes until they finally feel comfortable enough to touch naughty bits, and you must keep those inside jokes alive. Nothing is more disheartening than when the person you're dating gives up on a joke that you thought was still going. No, you don't have to hang on to every single moment that you shared the night you met for 40 straight years until your untimely death at the hands of a carnival ride, but you can at least do your partner the favor of keeping the jokes going.
Men should be amazing at maintenance texts. You’ve been conditioned to think that all the words you say are worthwhile, whereas women, in our natural state, hover closer to “Am I bothering you?” In most scenarios, you guys lack the self-consciousness that often keeps women from sending these wholly unnecessary missives. Friend-to-friend, men are great at keeping inside jokes going: While still imperative in female friendships, it seems like inside jokes are the very foundation of many male friendships. The sine qua non of being man-friends is remembering that time at the lake with the four-wheeler when you guys were micro-dosing acid or whatever. This is your time and place to really shine. Worried that you might come on too strong? We all are, so get over that. But also, most men are way less communicative than women want, so you’re probably not in much danger of appearing overeager. As a general rule, you shouldn’t be sending multiple maintenance texts a day. Maintenance texts exist for those times when you’ve gone a day or two without speaking and you can’t think of anything to bring up other than asking “wyd?”
A maintenance text says, “Hey, I was thinking of you” but in the very opposite way asking for nudes does. While I strongly believe no one should call their partner their best friend, some degree of friendship is required for a good relationship, and maintenance texts are where the friendship part of your relationship grows. A terribly boring story about a dog you saw, the dream you had where you stole her car, the fact that you spilled iced coffee right onto your crotch so it looks like you peed...anything that says, “Hey, I’m going through life, come with me” is great. The Internet is delivering new and funny things right to our phones thousands of times a day, and all it takes to win a couple extra Boyfriend Points (a totally made up thing that you should still strive for) is sending one of those things along to your girlfriend with a joke. It doesn’t even have to be funny. Even complaining about something small (i.e. Shailene Woodley) suggests that you want to share the mundane life stuff with another person, which is hot. Even the dumbest thing you can imagine sending to another person counts, because the whole point is that you only want to share that dumb thing with them.
Except for dick pics. Dick pics are for no one.
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