When my daughter was nearing the end of her high school career and had a Senior Day Off, we did a mother-daughter thing. We got our ears pierced. She had held out for 18 years, and I had held out for, um, longer than that. We went to Claire’s and perched on high-top chairs facing each other, hugged teddy bears and waited for the big staple gun to power through our lobes. It’s how memories are made.
I never really wanted to get my ears pierced. I didn’t see a need to have any more holes in my body. And I probably wouldn’t have done it otherwise, but piercing in tandem with your daughter is one of those rare opportunities that you don’t pass up — like when your son asks you to go shopping with him, or your husband wants to schedule a sitting for a family photo.
Aside from the unwanted extra orifices, my biggest aversion to the whole piercing process was the fact that I knew that once I did it, there would be earrings. I would start buying earrings, and people would give me earrings for birthdays and Christmas and Mother’s Day, and I would begin to like that. I would learn to linger at the jewelry counter over a selection of dangling objects that never interested me before. It would just be another way to spend 30 bucks a pop. It would be unavoidable.
That’s essentially the same reason that I didn’t want an iPhone. I knew that once I entered the world of smartThings, I would be opening a floodgate to a constant river of distractions and apps for distractions. And there would be no turning back.
I had a phone I was happy with, much to the chagrin of anyone who tried to communicate with me on it. It was like a 1992 Subaru. It was reliable, yet old and outdated and not much coveted. It had a warped keypad that I used occasionally to text “k” and “here,” and nothing more. But I could drop it roughly 42 times a day (and I did), then literally pick up the pieces, slam them back into place, and redial.
It was a 10-year-old Nokia, and it didn’t do much of anything but make calls. It didn’t give me directions, get my emails, take pictures or answer any burning questions I had about Bastille Day. It didn’t even “flip” or “slide.” It just sat there, easily, in my back pocket with its indestructible self, giving me a serendipitous jolt whenever someone buzzed me with a phone call.
But as it creaked on in its years and lost parts through my constant dropping of it, it also slowly lost its ability to function, even as a phone. And I eventually had to admit that no one could hear on it very well, not even me.
So a few years ago, when my husband presented me with a snazzy new iPhone4S (because I wasn’t worthy of a 5) complete with the promise of a new service provider, I laid my trusty Nokia to rest in my bedside table and entered the world of Distracted Adults.
Sure enough, now I’m playing with Pandora when I should be working. I’m checking emails while I’m supposedly exercising. And I’ve joined my peers in relentless texting. We’re all like a bunch of delinquents who are passing notes in class.
Texts come in while I’m brushing my teeth or paying bills or making dinner, and like a passel of whining children who are yanking at my legs, they beg for attention. I’ll glance at my screen and find a pressing question or an irresistible Bitmoji staring back at me, so I stop what I’m doing to text back — taking the time to correct the self-correct and choose just the right emoji — and a flurry of exchanges ensues that completely spins me off task. For all of our “live in the moment” advocacy, the smartphone is the ultimate antithesis.
I’ve devised a system though, a type of positive reinforcement designed to limit myself from the tantalizing distractions that this device provides: If I can go through an entire day without messing with my phone while working or cooking or eating or exercising … I’ll buy myself a new pair of earrings.
Robin Conte is a writer and mother of four who lives in Dunwoody. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.