Dear Ann Cannon • I may be the only spouse/significant other with this problem: My husband reads phone emails and messages, checks game scores and reads “urgent” news releases constantly. I have accepted his phone connection — except when he is eating a meal or at a social gathering with a small number of people. He also does this at church — but that is between him and his God.
I think it is insufferably rude to sit reading his phone while at a restaurant with four other people. He always has an excuse — “it’s a text from your daughter,” “just checking the score of the Utah game,” “just noticed this message from the bishop.” He may read for two minutes or for 10 minutes or more. I have asked him politely; I have begged him. I have been angry and insulting. He occasionally apologizes and puts his phone away, but does not stop. I’ve explained it is like taking out a novel and reading while having dinner with five close friends. He does not agree — he thinks he’s invisible.
Am I overreacting? He is a grandfather and a successful professional — but this seems like boorish behavior and sets a terrible example for our grandchildren. Help! Suggestions?
Dear Embarrassed • Ugh. Cellphones. I feel like they’ve taken over our brains — not unlike the Borg in “Star Trek.” Everywhere I go, I see people glued to their screens, oblivious to the physical world around them. I worry about what this is doing to all of us, but there it is. Cellphones are here to stay.
Now, to answer your questions. No, I don’t think you’re overreacting. Your husband is NOT invisible. And yes, it IS rude to pull out a phone at the dinner table. You’re essentially telling the people with you that they don’t matter and that their presence bores you.
How can you get your husband to use his cellphone less? I floated this question among friends and associates and they all said the same thing: Sadly, he won’t change his behavior until he sees a compelling need to do so.
When and if this happens, there are plenty of great suggestions online for breaking a cellphone addiction. (See? Your husband isn’t the only one with this problem.) He can delete time-sucking apps. He can leave the house with a phone that’s not fully charged, which will encourage him not to use it unless strictly necessary. He can use an app to monitor how much time he’s spending on his phone. He can put his phone on airplane mode so he won’t be tempted to look at incoming messages.
But again, he has to do this for himself. My advice to you? While I don’t usually advocate nagging as a strategy, I would keep reminding him that his behavior when he’s with others socially is problematic. And if that doesn’t work, hide his phone before you go out to dinner.
Dear Ann Cannon • I know that you’ve worked as a bookseller in the past. Do you have any suggestions for getting boys to read? My 10-year-old is a smart kid, but getting him to read is a real struggle right now.
Dear Mom • While I don’t think books should be labeled as “boy books” or “girl books,” I will say that over the years I’ve met more young reluctant readers who are male than female. So what’s a mother to do? Try finding some nonfiction (almanacs and record books, for example) that your son will like. Too often we think that only novels are “real books.”
I’m also a fan of graphic novels, which are essentially hardback comic books. Illustrations can help the reluctant reader dive into and follow the story. Check the pages of any book for “white space” — wide margins and shorter paragraphs help move the reader’s eye down the page.
These are a few quick suggestions. Check with your local children’s librarians for more suggestions, as well as specific title recommendations. Good luck!