I won’t say why, but I’ve come to suspect that pictures of gorgeous young women, scantily clad, adorn the cell phone home screens of many young men. Not pictures a girl lets her boyfriend snap while she does a sexy pose, and not a favorite photo a girl sends to her boyfriend, but photos posted on the Internet and available for admiring, gawking at, comparing to other photos, or downloading to your home screen, to awaken to every day. It seemed strange to me. If someone’s on your phone, wouldn’t you know that person? In my innocence, I leaned close one day recently to get a better look at a young man’s screen. “Who’s this?” I asked. The astonishing answer was, “Don’t know.”
After my surprise at this digital equivalent of the poster girl or calendar girl of past years, I decided such a photo on a phone is not so shocking. You need something there. If you’re not a horse-crazy girl then who can blame you for being a girl-crazy boy? Some people are crazy about their kids. I know a man who put his daughter on his screen and updated the photo every two weeks, when according to the custody agreement he got her for a weekend and took a whole new batch of photos. It was as close as he could get to living with her. Every morning when, bleary-eyed, he picked up his phone, she appeared. Every night when he put his phone on his dresser, she was still there. This went on until she grew up and they fell out, whereupon he replaced her picture with one of his recently deceased father. He and his father had had a violent argument shortly before his father’s death. “Yes,” he told me, “I think about him every day.” How could he not, I wondered then, and who, I wonder now, does he currently believe he should think about daily?
I’ve known people who put their pet in that prominent place. Or a famous painting, a beautiful sunset, a soccer star making an impossible goal, wild horses—how can you choose? I had my brother on my home screen after a friend sent me his profile picture from Spanish National Radio, where he works, asking me if he was any relation. The picture served double duty—a plug for my brother’s blues program and a cheery reminder that I have someone, too. I thought he’d be pleased, but maybe he thought it was creepy. I also thought my mother would be pleased, me appreciating her son, but she never said so. So when I got a new phone, I left the screen as it came. Generic, impersonal. Like those gorgeous girls—swirls and shapes of color that had no name and meant nothing in particular. The difference is nobody asks me, “What’s this?” staring at the picture for a clue. If someone did, what could I say about the three swaths of color like a flag on my screen? Not much. Not team colors, nor colors representing certain highly held ideals. Nevertheless, though I can’t put a name to the design or figure out what’s so special about it, or even consider it mine, personally, I am fond of it. I couldn’t say, come to think of it, exactly what the three colors are, no more than those young men could tell you the color of the girl’s eyes. Yet, as any of those young fellows might answer, if the picture is good enough for other users, it’s good enough for me.
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