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Why single girls need the Internet to decode guys' text messages

Last Saturday - or early Sunday, more accurately - an attractive woman in her 30s randomly asked for my advice outside a downtown Toronto bar. The guy she had been "casually dating" for months had texted her earlier in the night, asking her to meet him outside at 2 a.m. She traded pajamas for stilletos and walked 20 minutes in the cold for this guy.

It was 2:30 AM, and he was a no-show. She had called him seven times (!), and texted - wait for it - 14. "Should I go home? Should I go in and try to find him?" she asked me with hopeful eyes. What I told her is exactly what you're thinking: He's not into you. Run, don't walk, do not pass go. Go home - and do not, under any circumstances, return future communication. (I doubted she'd heed my advice, but I optimistically recommended she read a little book called The Rules.)

Why was such a seemingly awesome woman doing such a thing at such an hour? And why was she seeking a stranger's opinion? I couldn't stop judging.

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My mindset completely changed when I stumbled upon a fascinating new website called HeTexted: Women upload screen shots of their text-message conversations and ask strangers about what he "really means" - or they can "ask a bro" for advice.

My favourite? A text from a guy telling a girl that "last night was mad real" and that he left her keys "in the potted plant." Call me harsh, but I am quick to click the "he's not into you" button (oh, there's a button for that). But texts like this from one brutally honest gent, where he tells his lady friend she's " an enhancement" to his life but he doesn't "base his world off her," have the ladies totally confused. Is he ending it? Is that a compliment? Does he want to see her again?

The existence of the site initially sounds as if it would instantly obliterate feminism (poor little girls can't figure out men! they need our help!) but after spending an inordinate amount of time perusing - and okay, asking a bro for advice of my own - I sympathize with these women.

Reaction to the site and the "desperate" ladies who frequent it has not been kind: "I cannot believe that this site exists," tweeted one critic. Commenters on the Huffington Post chastised the women, most echoing this sentiment from commenter "jonny dipstick": "Wow these women have serious issues. I can't imagine dating someone that ridiculous."

Others offered sarcastic, holier-than-thou advice: "I have a brilliant idea, if you can't understand the text message...CALL THEM!"

Frankly, I couldn't disagree more. Who among the single, dating, smartphone-wielding crowd hasn't stared at a text message from the opposite sex and pondered: What does this mean?

Call me crazy, but if you phone a guy immediately and ask "what he really meant" by that text, it's game over. And in the social-sharing culture of posting every article we like, every event we're at, every meal we eat, it's no wonder these oversharing ladies are looking for anonymous, unbiased advice.

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I've had many conversations with successful, attractive women in Toronto about what it all "means": He commented on an article you posted to Facebook, he liked your profile pic, he texted a smiley face. Seriously.

My advice? If between the witty banter and the Facebook"likes" and the emoticons, he's not lining up a next date - time to move on. But please, do upload that text.

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About the Author
Editor in the Opinion section

Amberly McAteer is an editor in the Opinion section at The Globe and Mail. She has been a homepage editor, online editor and community editor in Features - including Life, Travel, Style, Arts and Books. She's written columns about her quest to run a 10K and find the perfect dog. More

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