What's your 'but'?

Do you remember being a teenager, when the most important thing was your peers’ validation? I do, and I remember the day I sent out a text to my friends asking for the three words that, in their opinion, best defined the fourteen year old me.

By the way, for all the millennials out there, a text message was like a tweet you could send to someone you actually had the phone number of, and it costed you 25 cents or so. Luckily, phone companies would bring out special promotions, usually in summer, that allowed you to send a hundred text per day for free.

nice, but

Obviously, that’s when I decided to do my little survey.

So, imagine this early teenage girl, living in a world without hair straighteners, randomly texting you on a summer evening:

'Im doing a survey.Wot do u think of me?xxx’

Every letter and space was important, given the limited amount of characters available, and this factor showed in the results. As it turned out, I was 'nice', according to the popularity vote.

You see, if we had internet access on a personal device that didn't sit in a shared living room or a cold study room downstairs, or if we could use unlimited characters in a text, I am pretty sure there would have been more to their answer.

In fact, the real answer comes after that politically correct definition.

I am talking about the 'but' that, usually, follows a standard compliment, given a little pause. You know, 'she is nice... but a bit strange', 'so creative... but horrible taste in movies', 'pretty laid back... but never on time', and so on.

Back then one wouldn't waste a second text to add extra information. Even an affirmative reply was replaced with a one-ringer to save those 25 cents. And we grew up without the dreadful ‘dot dot dot’ when someone is writing. Even worse, the ‘message read’ followed by no answer!

People feel uncomfortable telling you what's your 'but' directly. On the contrary, when they are describing you to someone else, the 'but' is almost inevitable. And not necessarily a bad thing either. I would honestly feel more betrayed for a 'nice' said by a friend, than a 'but'. Also, peculiarities are more interesting than being accepted across a whole range of schoolmates you won't even remember the name of.

I should have asked my friends ‘what’s my but’.

Actually, no. No one should ever ask that to any teenager.

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