Your cellphone defines who you are. I know this because I read it in The New York Times over the weekend. It told about people with gigantic, clunky phones being embarrassed to have friends and co-workers and acquaintances see their phones — and realize how out-of-date and unfashionable both the phone and owner were.
Ha, I thought, reading the article. Ha. For once, when it came to technology, I felt smug.
In the past, year after year, my cell phone ownership had been defined by my husband and son, the two alpha males I have the greatest contact with. Every 24 months, they’d start making loud, macho noises about how pathetic their old phones were and they’d drag me to a cellphone store, where I’d be alternately bored to death, then traumatized by having to learn to push new and even tinier buttons so I could scream at someone who couldn’t hear me and miss calls I was too distracted to catch in time.
Enough of this male dominance, female subjugation, technological terror tactics. I demanded an iphone for my birthday. No, my service contract wasn’t up yet, so I had to pay extra. But hey, it was my birthday and I was asserting myself. What was that ridiculous hair-color ad? It’s expensive, but I’m worth it. Yeah, something like that. (An annoying premise, but so much better than that old, despicable ad that proclaimed, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful,” which always reduced me to throwing pillows at the TV, screaming, “I don’t hate you because you’re beautiful. I hate you because you’re vain and shallow.”)
But, anyway, my new iphone. It defines me as being with it and creative, ahead of the curve. My son already has one, but it’s the older model. “Yours is a lot faster,” he said grudgingly. My husband has some junky Blackberry-like model that isn’t nearly as cool. “I guess I’ll get an iphone someday,” he said, pawing mine till I had to snatch it back and assert my dominance and ownership.
The minute my high-tech hound of a brother-in-law hit our house for Thanksgiving, he was even worse. He kept asking me if I had this or that application and, of course, I didn’t. So he grabbed my iphone and set up some kind of emergency center at my computer so he could download all kinds of applications that allow you to shake the phone and the name of a nearby restaurant will appear, for example. Things like that. “You’ll love this,” he kept saying over and over, even though he kept hogging the phone for so long I wasn’t sure I’d ever get it back. (You see? I have too many male oppressors in my life.)
So now, I have all these applications on my iphone and I guess it’s kind of cool. I haul out the device or mention it whenever possible, so I can make it clear that I’m savvy and on top of the situation. But sometimes, I wonder: Will i ever use the phone for much more than calling and email and an occasional Google search?
Why do I keep thinking of that roommate I shared an apartment with so many years ago? She had a guitar, which she would carry out onto the rooftop. “Well, Joan Baez is going to play her guitar,” she’d announce. Then she’d sit, gazing soulfully into the distance, while she played the only chord she knew over and over.
But, hey. Everybody could see she had a guitar, so she must have been cool and very musical.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)