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.)