You Get 10 Chances to Answer a Missed Text
Collage by Emily Zirimis

The emotions solicited by a text that suggests you and its sender “catch up” are two-fold: Up top, you have the surprise and delight of hearing from an old friend; down below, you have the dread of a freshly-minted chore on your to-do list and the crushing reality that an entire friendship treacherously depends on your next move.


If you fail to get back to your friend right away, which you definitely did because I’m talking to myself right now, don’t panic. This isn’t a quick one-two-punch exchange. He or she isn’t asking for your Netflix password! This response will require some calendar-checking and enthusiasm-finessing. What you can’t do is not respond, you heartless psychopath, not if you want to keep this friendship boat afloat slash preserve your reputation! (Still talking to myself.)

Below, I’ve crafted a handy guide as to the appropriate amount of groveling you ought to employ depending on how long it takes you to respond.

Chance #1: 30 minutes

Although 30 minutes is a full six hours in internet years, you do not owe your friend an apology for getting back to them a half an hour late. For all they know, you were busy calling your Senator about the latest fucking atrocity of a healthcare bill he or she was trying to pass, which makes you a productive member of society and your friend an inconvenient headwind on your path to salvation. You’re fine!

Grovel factor: 0

Chance #2: Two hours

So you let the text sit there for two hours. Not ideal, but you get points for leaving it “unread” in your Messages app. (If you die in the next few minutes and your phone is discovered, your friend will think you never even saw the text!) I’d say don’t even mention it. Your ancestors waited WEEKS for a telegram. Two hours is potatoes!

Grovel factor: 0

Chance #3: Twelve hours

Half a day is a minute, colloquially speaking, meaning you kinda fucked up. But you know what? Maybe you got the text when you were in the middle of a literally ground-breaking piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Education comes first and he’s a prolific writer. Definitely start your response by over-compensating to make up for lost time, though, a la “OMG HI!!!!!!!!!!”

Grovel factor: 2

Chance #4: One day

Mkay. It’s been a day. Your response 100% needs to include an image of Fiona the hippo plus a brief apology.


“Omg hi, I didn’t see you there. My apologies! I would love to!”

Grovel factor: 3

Chance #5: Two days

After not responding for two days, you cannot reply without an apology and a full-blown list of available times. You need to appear to mean motherfucking BUSINESS. Otherwise, you’re gonna look fake af, and your friend is gonna start thinking about that one time you bailed on her birthday drinks because you were “feeling introverted.” Not a good look.

Grovel factor: 5

Chance #6: One week

A whole week??? WTF. Okay. No. We can handle this. This reply will need to include more than a brief apology; you need a reason that elicits pity. Did you see this text during a fit of insomnia and forget about it until now? Did you drop your phone in the Atlantic Ocean while saving a drowning kitten? Great, please do share, plus suggested times, plus a fond memory you have with the friend.

Grovel factor: 10

Chance #7: One month

Someone call Olivia Pope. A MONTH?! Since your friend texted you, entire celebrity scandals have been predicted, occurred and left careers buried in their wake. Houseflies have lived and died since you last spoke! You better write this person a full diatribe that borders on poetic, plus a video message of you crying that explains that you’re available whenever.

Grovel factor: 50

Chance #8: Six months

Wow. You need to get your shit together. This is Defcon 5 and your relationship is hanging by a fucking thread. Send her a care package with everything you know she loves, up to and including literal raw cookie dough, with a hand-written note telling her you miss her and regret not texting back.

Grovel factor: 99

Chance #9: One year


If your response doesn’t include the above gif plus an Amazon link to your freshly-published work of fiction, don’t even bother.

Grovel factor: 1,000,000,000

Chance #10: Five years

Actually, I’m sorry for the misleading headline, you’re supremely and forever fucked.

Maybe just text back right away next time??????? YOU ARE THE WORST.

(Still talking to myself, by the way.)

Get more Humor ?
  • Kristin

    Since I have no life I always read text messages “now,” and have to let time lapse so people don’t think I’m too lame. Thank God “read” message notifications are optional.

    • Aydan

      never feel like you can’t respond right away! That’s how my friends know me now–they know that I’ll respond right away unless I’m at a meal or some other one on one (or small group) activity (I’m one of those no phones at the table, I’m hanging with you, you get my full attention people). And therefore, friends will invite me to last minute hangs or things on the fly (aka I’m encouraging spontaneity through my texting habits)! I hate it when I know someone has seen my text but has chosen not to respond and that way in the event that I do read it and forget to respond people are far more willing to forgive!

    • CeeEm

      this is me, and my friends are all Haley. I feel like the loser of the group!

  • Hayley


  • Lucy

    ❤️❤️❤️ Fiona ❤️❤️❤️

  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    ur brain is like a party!

  • lateshift

    On a related note: as a cusp baby – not quite Gen X, not quite Millennial – I find both phone calls AND texting/IM for all but actual time-sensitive reasons intrusive, a bit entitled, and annoying AF. And to be clear, I define “time sensitive” very liberally…if it’s about plans we have within the next 24-48 hours, or some event, emotion or development experienced within the previous week that feels notable to you, fine by me. If it’s “omg how are you haven’t seen you in forever??!?” or “i was thinking of getting together a Vegas trip for next summer, if you’re interested just LMK” or “lol check out this dank meme” and etc — NO. None of those things entitle you to DEMAND my immediate attention, which is basically what both calling and texting/IM do. I have a job and a life. Send it to me via email or Facebook or whatever, and I’ll check when I have time, and respond then. Maybe it’s old-fashioned, but there you are. #GetOffMyLawn

    • gracesface

      sounds like you need an auto-reply a la Tim Ferriss. 😉

    • Kiks

      I am probably about the same age as you, and I tend to agree. Husband always gets mad at me because I leave my phone on Do Not Disturb all the time. I just don’t need to be constantly within the reach of anyone/everyone. Sometimes I leave texts, even from people I love, for a day or more. Only exceptions are my mom and my husband.

    • Cordelia

      Agree. All of my close friends get back to me when they get back to me and I’m like that too. I hardly ever respond immediately. Sometimes a full convo can last a month – that’s also how far we have to plan in advance for anything too. My boyf is like the anti-Chri-, I mean antithesis of me and has to text his friends at all times about nothing, respond right away to everyone and text me a billion times until I respond. And he is older than me and the tail end of Gen X; I don’t get it.

  • Alicia Valentin

    omg literally 24 hrs is my limit unless someone texts me the next night like ‘omg my son timmy was sooo sick, id love to get together for X’ versus BLATANTLY ignoring me which is what my bf’s friends do b/c they’re so great…

  • Jackie Homan

    Hahaha #3… I was just assigned to read a Ta-Nehisi Coates article for class and pretty sure I’m on like hour 8 and only halfway done

  • Ciccollina

    Every time I look at my phone I wince with anxiety. I leave it on silent in my bag all of the time and my friends know that there is almost always a minimum 3 day wait on a response. You gotta set expectations right off the bat people, and never apologise for not wanting to spend yet another five minutes glued to your goddamn phone.

  • Samara E Jones

    I forgot to text a friend back for a week and I ended up just sending them a link to this article and letting him know that I’m the worst but that ManRepeller is helping me work on it.

  • Rebekah

    Question: do the same rules apply to voicemails?

  • Hate being on the phone all day. It’s so exhusting to constantly answer on every little message. So I usually end up pushing it for a day or two.
    Sorry not sorry. Life is too short. If you need me, call me.