Somehow, tonight at my friend Ilene’s birthday party dinner, the topic of emoticons came up.

Daimian told us he just wasn’t into emoticons. Stanley agreed he didn’t like them either. I felt such joy to find my compatriots–other people who are opposed to emoticons on principle (what that principle is, other than snobbery, I’ve never really been sure). For years I DISCRIMINATED against anyone who used emoticons, as in, wouldn’t even go out with them! As they became more and more pervasive I had to soften and allow that a lot of guys, especially guys in the tech field, use them. I recognize that tone is a difficult thing to convey in email and sometimes they do have their place, when irony, friendliness, or humor is not clear. I try to accomplish this with words: “ha ha.”

I told Daimian and Stanley that I never use emoticons, but I might have been lying. I might have used one once or twice but it was extremely rare and only if I was dating someone who used them regularly. And professionally, of course. Now that I am creating community among teens and twentysomethings (being an ancient 34) at, I’ve picked up one that I can live with and even sort of like: “<3”, which it took me 30 minutes of diligent searching to learn means “heart.” At first I thought it meant sideways ice cream cone or bum.

Stanley admitted that he had used an emoticon recently and even in a text message. Double whammy, wow! His roommate brought someone home and the next day he didn’t get to see him so he texted him “Have fun;)?” He describing this as having sent “semicolon, closed parens. ” “You mean you sent him a wink?” I asked. I found it hysterical that he couldn’t even call it what it is. He had such a look of remorse and regret on his face. “Why did I do that?” he said was the feeling. “Did you feel a wave of self-loathing?” I asked. He nodded yes. I wondered what a self-loathing emoticon would look like.