Landline Calls Were the Handwritten Love Letters of My Adolescence

holding paper telephone
holding paper telephone

...and they've been replaced by sliding into DMs.

Can I take you back for a moment?

The year was 2003. I'd recently become a freshman in high school, George Bush was the president, Kill Bill had just been released, and my favorite pop song was Crazy In Love, which also happened to be what I was, at the time.

I'd recently become obsessed with a handsome sophomore who lived and went to school 15 miles away from me  --  an overwhelming distance when you're both not old enough to drive yet. Occasionally, I'd make my way to him to attend his basketball games and, some weekends, his mom would drive him to my house or my mom would drive me to his.

He  --  we'll call him "Jack"  --  was my first love. And, despite the inconveniences, we were both willing to put forth the effort required to make a semi-long distance, teenage relationship work. This meant logging hours upon hours on our house phones with one another. I was 14 and it'd be about six more months before my mom would finally give in and get me my first cell phone  --  one of those virtually indestructible Nokia brick phones, that came equipped with Snake and a handful of ringtones.


"A lot if these new-age teens won't get to experience their crush calling their house phone for the first time. "

Young people still talk on the phone, of course, but, thinking back to these phone calls between with Jack, it occurred to me that a lot of these new age teens won't get to experience their crush calling their house phone for the first time. Even if they are making or receiving landline calls, it's very likely by choice. For so long, for my peers and me, it was our only option.

In my middle school and early high school years, if a boy wanted to talk to you, he had to dial your number and prepare himself for the often-intimidating task of talking to someone other than you. This made late-night phone calls risky.

When Jack had to call me late at night, I'd sit by the phone, alert, knowing that the other phone in the house was on the night stand right next to my sleeping mother's bed and us being able to talk on those nights hinged on my ability to swoop the receiver up at lightning speed.

See, kids these days will never understand the utter devastation we felt when an unwelcomed third voice suddenly intruded upon your proclamations of young love and demanded that you get off the phone, for whatever reason. Or having to talk on a corded phone, and being tethered to the phone base, able to move about six or seven feet, if that.

Communicating 12 years ago was much more difficult. Not quill pen written love notes or Morse code difficult but it certainly wasn't done with today's ease, and that made the conversations more meaningful.


"I fall in that age range of people both old enough and young enough to have flirted via AIM chat and Snapchat, respectively. "

Like, if a guy who didn't have call waiting wanted to talk to you all night and clog up his phone line? Oh, forget it. You could pretty safely assume that he was your boo, at least for that month. Even once everyone started getting cell phones, someone using their limited minutes to talk to you before 9 PM during the week, was a definite sign that they were interested.

Nowadays, a guy can be on the phone with you, while texting another girl, and sliding into a third girl's DMs. We're all so accessible that working up the courage to ask someone for their number has become completely unnecessary  --  all you need is their name and you'll most likely be able to find them online.

As a Middle-Child Millennial, the devices and platforms that guys have used to court me have evolved from calls to my wall-mounted house phone to FaceTiming on my iPhone. I fall in that age range of people both old enough and young enough to have flirted via AIM chat and Snapchat, respectively.

I'm not unaware of how cliché it is to get older and romanticize certain aspects of your youth while finding fault in what's currently taking place. There's nothing profound about pointing out ways in which technology is a double-edged sword and I'd be lying if I said that, if given the choice, I'd go back to those landline days. Still, on occasion, I can't help but long for the intimacy and exclusivity of those evening, house phone calls.