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"Dad, I wish you wouldn't insist on real-time." The acute barbs in the voice came across very clearly, even through the right-angled digital packets getting reassembled and decoded in the earpiece. "It's so twentieth century, ya know? And it means I just have to squeeze you between customers, so I'll have to hang up when the next one comes. It's just, like, so inconvenient."
I sighed deeply. "You know I can't stand voicemail tag. And with news like this, I figured it was worth a call, Sugarplum." I heard a grunt on the other end of the line. "I wish you had told me personally. It's a bit of a shock to find out your daughter is getting married through a status update." Already the grunt on the other end was turning into a rebuke. "Dad, don't call me that any more. Especially not any more. I don't want Squid to know that's what you call me. I am twenty-five, you know. Not some kid. And don't even start on that 'you'll always be my little girl' routine. Been there, done that. And as for the status update, well, that's how everyone else found out, too. You're not the lone stranger. That's the way these things are done these days, you old fart."
"What about S.P.? Can I still call you S.P.? So tell me about, erm, did I hear right? Squid? What kind of a name is that. Where's he from? What does he do for a living? How long have you known him?" I heard a bleep at the end of every question; my daughter was bookmarking my sentences again. I knew what was coming. "Well, number 1, what about it? Number 2, sure I guess. Number 3, yes. Number 4, well, that's his screen name, yes he's got a real name Dad before you ask but, well, I don't think that's relevant, he doesn't like it. Number 5, he's from Lincoln, or somewhere like that. Number 6, you're not going to like this, he's a social marketer. And number 7, we've logged about five hundred hours so far."
"He's a spammer?"
"I knew you'd respond like that. That's why I wasn't going to tell you. Social marketer, Dad. It's not the same any more. It's a good job, he makes good money, you couldn't even guess how well he does. And yes, just like you, he has a job that didn't exist when our parents were growing up. Just like everyone used to call you a code monkey or a computer junkie. I know you hated that. Don't you complain about what my generation does with their online presence. It's all stuff your generation invented, anyway." It was the same irrefutable "everyone does it" speech I'd heard over and over again. I wasn't going to encourage it any more than I had to. "Oh," I responded, obviously crestfallen.
"You don't sound very happy."
"Let me see. You're getting married to someone who's real name is 'irrelevant', who you're not sure exactly where he lives and you talk about how many hours you've 'logged'. To be honest, it doesn't sound like you're very happy. Aren't you going to have a proper wedding?"
"Hey, remember Mitzi? From school? She's married now, and they'd only logged fifteen hours. And, if by 'proper wedding' you mean inviting everyone to see it, well, there doesn't seem much point, does there? Oh don't worry Dad, we're going to have it done all legal, properly, and even get all that religious stuff dealt with. We've got a mutual follower who does the ceremonies all the time. He can telepresence us both onto screens next to each other, and he'll podcast the entire thing. Of course, we'll share the file with everyone, so there's no problem. You won't miss any of it."
"And then what? Is he moving there to be with you, or are you going out to Lincoln. Nebraska? There's probably more than one, you know." I had a funny feeling this was going to be a pointless question. "Is it Nebraska then? Oh no, neither of us is moving. He's got far too much concrete investments in his home town, he can't possibly just up and leave them. I think he's got a cat as well. Or a dog. No, it's a cat. He couldn't just move. And his Mom I think. That wouldn't be fair on the cat. And I couldn't possibly give up this job, after it took me so long to find it, could I? You wouldn't want me doing anything foolish. We've decided that as long as we both move each other up out of our nights and weekends lists and into our free call 24/7 groups, that's all we need. And no, before you ask, I'm not going to change my name, either. You can't even begin to imagine just how many online accounts I've got in this name. I don't see the point in changing them." "What about kids?" "DAD!" she yelled at me down the line, before the question was complete. "What do you think this is, the dark ages? We're getting married. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether we have kids or not. You can do one with or without the other, you know. We've never thought about it."
I couldn't stand it any more, I had to say my piece. "This isn't the way I saw things happening, S.P. I remember that evening, all those years ago, when I brought you and your mother home from the hospital. You know ever since then I've been thinking about this moment. And the moments to come, where you'd be there in your dress and I'd offer you my arm and walk you down the aisle to give you away. By the sound of things, that's not going to happen. You're going to be 'telepresent' and 'podcasted'. To someone who's idea of commitment is moving you to a list of names where he doesn't have to pay for telephone and video chat. I don't see what was wrong with the way things used to be. Where you'd meet someone, for real, in the flesh, go out for dinner and a movie several times, talk, get to know each other better, learn everything about each other, share everything, your entire lives, your complete existence, struggle together, bring up kids, and meet the challenges head on, at each other's side. This way you kids get together these days, it really doesn't sound like a happy ever after."
"You mean, like you and Mom?"
"Point taken." I said no more.
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