Tired and hungry after a day of high school and sports, Isaiah Ramsey likes to collapse on his bed, grab his phone, and place a mobile dinner order.
To his mom. In the next room.
“And I bring it to him,” said Stephanie Ramsey, of Roslindale. “That’s the sad part.”
In 2017, this is where we are: Texting, having transformed interactions between people in distant locations, has now conquered new turf. The texts are coming from inside the house.
The old-fashioned intercom this is not. Entire dramas are unfolding, silently, between people separated by nothing more than an interior wall. Mothers and fathers eager to avoid in-person blowback are texting chore and homework reminders to teens who are a mere staircase away. Husbands and wives fearful of broaching sensitive issues are texting each other from the same kitchen.
Digital natives who are accustomed to summoning everything from their phones — restaurant meals, consumer goods, Uber — are lounging in their rooms and tapping out requests for service from their parents. “Can you bring my charger?” “Did you wash my black shirt?” “Do we have any good food?”
In Melrose, Gayle Saks got a text from her 16-year-old asking her to lower the air conditioning. “It’s freezing in here,” the girl wrote, from her bed.
Saks took immediate action — and it wasn’t hustling to the thermostat. "Seriously Amanda???!!!” she texted back instantly.
“I would rather have that human face-to-face contact,” Saks said. But then she thought a moment. “Or maybe not. Maybe it’s easier this way.”
Vicki Skoler, a Brookline mother, also regularly receives texts from her offspring. “It’s never ever been about something urgent,” she said. “It’s ‘Where’s my shirt?’ or ‘Can you walk to the grocery store and get me fruit?’ ”
Skoler expressed the opinion that in-home texting is the “ultimate symbol of laziness,” and then addressed her high school sophomore in absentia. “Come speak to me like a human being.”
But Isaiah Ramsey, 15, doesn’t consider it rude to text his mom for a bacon and egg sandwich (hold the cheese) and a bottle of water. “It’s just like I’m talking to her,” he said.
Ever since the first teen refused to look up from his phone to say a nice hello to his grandmother, the thumb-based form of communication has gotten a bad rap, demonized for robbing kids of the ability to make eye contact, or be present.
But some parents, spouses, teenagers — and therapists — are finding that texting can sometimes actually make a household run more smoothly (when parents aren’t outraged by their children’s chutzpah, that is).
In fact, parents who were initially horrified at the seemingly impersonal communication mode have not only made their peace with it — they’re deploying it themselves.
“It’s the only reliable way to reach them when they’re upstairs,” said Remi Dansinger, a mother of three in Newton “They are always looking at their phones — at Snapchat or Instagram — so they can’t pretend they don’t see my messages.”
(Note to the Prince pasta company: If you remake your iconic spaghetti commercial again, Anthony’s mother shouldn’t lean out of her North End window yelling “Anthony! Anthony!” She should text him a pasta-and-tomato sauce emoji.)
In Cambridge, therapist Kyle Carney said this type of family texting plan can remove the emotion from otherwise charged interactions, over, say, college-admissions prep, or wardrobe choices.
“In a face-to-face conversation things might break down,” she said.
Carney likened texting to another comfortable platform for parent-child communication: the front seat of the car, at night, with both staring ahead into darkness.
But with Uber and other services driving teens around, and kids holed up in their rooms on their devices, the opportunities for relaxed conversation are dwindling, she said.
Deborah Offner, a Newton psychologist who specializes in adolescents, said texting can be helpful for parents: “You can edit.”
But as Offner knows from texting with her own adolescent, there’s also risk. “A couple of times I thought my daughter was being sarcastic, but she wasn’t,” Offner said. “And when I didn’t use an emoticon, she took my message to be harsher than I meant it.”
But in many cases, texting is preferable to the alternative: yelling. These days, when a teen storms into his room and slams the door, he doesn’t scream “I hate you!” from the other side. He texts it.
In Needham, one mother said texting has changed the volume — literal and emotional — of arguments with her teenage daughter. When the girl is upset, she retreats to her room and texts mom “all her thoughts on what I did wrong.”
“I love it,” said the mother, who asked to remain anonymous — so as not to get an angry text from her child. “I can text her back, and we don’t have a grudge match.”
As in-home texting proliferates, standards for what’s acceptable — and what’s just too absurd — are changing.
In Belmont, Benita Gold appreciates that her son at least has the decency to text from a different floor. “My husband does it from the next room,” she said. But in truth, he’s driven by fear, not laziness. “Yesterday he texted me that I had to make an appointment to meet with our tax accountant,” she said. “He knows I hate to prepare for the meeting.”
Many people consider texting so seamless that it doesn’t feel like an interruption — not even during a Patriots game, as Braintree hostess Sharyn Fireman has learned.
When she verbally offers a guest a beer while the Pats are running a play, she said, “The hand goes up — no talking!
But when she texts the offer, from her seat on her big couch — to a guest on the very same couch — she gets a text response right back.
Even as room-to-room texting becomes normalized, Carney, the therapist, captured the strangeness. She graduated from high school in 1969, she said. “And I can’t imagine ever relating to my own parents this way.”Beth Teitell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.