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Sri Lankan Relationships in the 90s

I was attending a work training about the different age groups in a workplace, and I was particularly chuffed about being called a ‘Millennial’ – having been born between 1981 and 1996, apparently, we view the world differently far differently than others. We were a delightful mix between the old and new.
If you were turning 14 or 15 years when the Millennium dawned, you had a bit of both worlds. We saw traditional and mixed it with contemporary, especially if you were Crushing on someone back then. Today I had to use a landline – and get this – it took me ten seconds to understand how I had to punch in the area code followed by the number. I was slightly nostalgic for those years of relying solely on these devices before owning my Nokia 3310.

1.    Texts

If you grew up in a Sri Lankan school, you most likely went to one that wasn’t co-ed. You smuggled in a mobile phone which typically belonged to your sibling, and showed your peers what a text or an SMS was. You were marvelling at this brick-like device – You mean you can text boys with this? Who can see this? How long with the SMS take to reach him? How do you type ‘I love you'? So many questions, such curious minds. You had to learn how to work that keyboard. You had to work to send an SMS out; your fingers had to work along with your brain until you were out of credit 3 texts later because each SMS cost Rs. 15 plus taxes in 2001. Having an argument with your SO meant that you spent your entire week’s allowance on ‘reload cards’.

2.    The Missed Calls

Even if you were 15, your parents still considered you to be incapable of making any life choices. You were allowed to write your O/Levels, but you weren’t allowed to talk to the ‘O’-pposite sex. Desperate times called for desperate measures – we had to come up with our codes. A call with a singular ring meant, are you awake – the call was coming in the next 5 minutes. A call with two rings meant, ‘I love you’ or ‘I miss you’. This was the original of the fabled oxymoron, ‘missed calls”.

3.    The Landline

I can only imagine how few teenagers know how to dial a number on a landline. Back in the day when Sri Lankan teenagers were not allowed concepts like ‘privacy’ and you were smacked sore for banging your door or being grounded for a month for speaking back, you had to rely on your best friends to channel your calls. You pretend you were talking to your friend, and continue with an imaginary conversation until you dial your SO’s number – but oh, your mother smelled the rat and you were forbidden to use the landline for the rest of your teenage years.

4.    The Letters

Love letters were a thing in the early 2000s. Mainly because texting a 200-character SMS would have cost about Rs. 3,000 and you were still capable of penning your thoughts. Now, your parents who didn’t understand boundaries opened everything that had your name, so you had to ask your friends to mail it to your friend who had cooler parents.

5.    The Group Dates

You weren’t allowed out alone with your friends. A parent had to chaperone you to any event. If you were out with friends on a movie date, your definition of a date would be sitting 5 rows away from your Crush without making eye contact for 90 minutes. You can be dating for 6 months as a teenager during the early 2000s without ever speaking to your SO in person.

6.    The Tuition Class

I don’t know if this still happens, but back then, your tuition class was a date. Your choice of classes could solely depend on your Crush’s locality. You would even come an hour early because you had designated seats facing each other, behind each other, or next to each other. This would often signify commitment. This was as ‘public’ or ‘Facebook official’ as we had to get.

7.    The Messenger

Now I am not talking about the App; way before this came on a mobile device, we had physical messengers – our best friends, school van friends, your siblings, their siblings, cousins, you would have even used pigeons if you had to. This is when you had all forms of communication cut off and you had to rely on good old ‘Chinese Whispers' to get your message across, and just like Chinese Whispers, the message is subject to distortion too.

The good news is, a year or two later we all owned our personal mobile device, but let me guarantee you that that the ‘hunt' felt better when there were fewer tools in use. For couples that have weathered both seasons, kudos to you. If you're a Millennial like me, who still has old ‘love letters' in a box, our habits are going nowhere.

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Isuru Weerakoon said…
Found this on /r/srilanka, awesome post and awesome blog!
Ms Confidential said…
Thank you, Isuru :) I love hearing feedback!

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