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For today's couples, cell phones put the mess into messaging
Raleigh News & Observer


August 25, 2006

She remembered it fondly enough, seeing as how she referred to him as "Mr. Smooth" in open court - the nationally televised kind.

They met in a breakfast joint, she explained to the judge, and were standing near the counter waiting to be seated. The waitress asked if the pair were together. He said, "not yet," and asked for her cell phone.

Cell-phone tips and figures
Raleigh News & Observer

Want to keep your cell phone from ruining a relationship? Remember to:

- Pay the bill on time, especially if the phone is in the name of your significant other.

- Erase any text messages, photos and call-log entries that might raise eyebrows.

- Refrain from using your cell phone to strike your boyfriend upside the head. Don't throw it at him, either.

- Avoid borrowing a phone from your present girlfriend if all you intend to do is call your former one.

By the numbers ...

67 million: Mobile phones purchased in the United States during the first half of 2006

3: Times former model Naomi Campbell has faced legal trouble connected to alleged assaults-by-phone.

816.6 million: Worldwide sales of mobile phones in 2005.

5: Number of days in the July trial of a Missouri man accused of shoving a mobile phone down his former girlfriend's throat. He says she tried to swallow it to keep him from seeing whom she had been calling. She testified she was so drunk she couldn't remember. The jury deadlocked. The judge declared a mistrial.

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

She gave it to him, he programmed his number into it, she called him about a week later and they went on their first date.

Cell phones, you see, can bring people together. But it's the bills that bring them together in court.

So that's why they were standing on the set of "Judge Mathis," sharing their broken-relationship woes with the country. She said he owed her $390 for the cell-phone bill. He said she owed him $1,895 for scratching naughty words on his car.

Watch any of the reality court shows and it probably won't be more than a few minutes before a cell-phone issue pops up. For all of the good that these phones bring, they sure do get between boys and girls.

Part of that may come from the sense of privacy that cell phones afford, said Emma Taylor, one-half of the advice duo Em & Lo.

During the days of a single, shared home phone, everyone in the house knew who was speaking to everyone else. Now, many of those calls are private.

"There are numerous ways that you can cheat using a cell phone," said Taylor, who helps dole out relationship and sex advice at, and is co-author of a number of books, including "Em and Lo's Rec Sex: An A-Z Guide to Hooking Up."

For the record, when Em & Lo receive queries on snooping on a significant other, they generally advise against spying. "It's a slippery slope," said Taylor, who lives in New York City. "Sometimes you can't help it, but if you really suspect that your boyfriend or girlfriend is cheating, the only thing you can do is ask."

Not all cell-phone battles end up in court. Mark Ware of Raleigh, N.C., barely escaped injury a few years ago after an ex let go of her anger and her cell phone, simultaneously. We'll let him set the scene:

"I came home a little late one day, and she just threw the thing at my head," said Ware, 28, still sounding baffled. Barely missing his ear as it whizzed by, the flying phone poked a hole in the wall. "She whipped it pretty good."

Badgering from collection agencies, coupled with his late arrival, led to her frustrations, Ware said. She was talking to a bill collector when he came through the door. How would things be different if her aim had been a little better?

"That's something I'd rather not think about," he said, remembering how he later had to patch the hole. "That was some pretty strong drywall."

As for the couple who met at the breakfast bar, their story morphed from a cell-phone flirtation into a live-in relationship and then toward threatening phone calls, stalking outside the barbershop and baby-mama drama.

She accused him of sleeping all day and not paying the bills. He accused her of being clingy and blamed the root of the problem on his attraction to her cleavage. The judge laughed and ruled in his favor.

"I think she's still in love with me," the victorious man said confidently during his after-show commentary, looking directly into the camera. "Whoever is dealing with her now, I feel sorry for him. Get out while you can, buddy."

And change your cell-phone number.


Staff writer Matt Ehlers can be reached at mehlers(at)
Distributed to subscribers for publication by
Scripps Howard News Service,

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Ketchikan, Alaska