Elizabeth Day: The power struggle in my relationship

Sitting down to watch TV the other night, I was seized with a sudden panic. The reason for this burst of anxiety was that I had briefly looked at my phone and seen that it was almost out of battery.

Jenny Brough

‘Do you have a charger?’ I asked my other half, sweat breaking out across my brow.

‘Why?’ he asked quite reasonably, given that we were about to watch television, an activity not requiring the services of my handheld mobile device.

‘My phone’s almost out of battery!’ I shrieked.

The only charger within reach was being used by my boyfriend. He said I could take it if I needed it more, which is the definition of true love (that, and sharing the last slice of pizza even when it is technically his). I noticed that his phone had less juice than mine, but it didn’t seem to bother him.

So I plugged my phone in and it was only when I saw the reassuring lightning-bolt symbol flash up in the right-hand corner that I was able to relax. Of course, I wasn’t intending to use my phone for the next hour or so but, at the same time, I could urgently be called upon to, well, do something with it. There might be a crucial FaceTime I had to answer or an emergency email I had to reply to or an important Instagram post that I had to comment on with a heart-eyed emoji. The possibilities were endless.

I have come to believe the world is divided into two types of people: those who like to have their phones fully charged at all times, and those who let it dwindle perilously low. This is when a ‘low power’ warning message flashes up and the battery icon turns red. Then, if you’re really flying by the seat of your pants, it goes yellow, which as we all know is the colour of mortal danger.

I am clearly in the former category. I believe that keeping my phone powered up is a sign of good housekeeping, in the same way that I make the bed each morning and always put dirty teaspoons in the dishwasher. It would be slovenly to let it slide. Having become accustomed to using my phone for everything from making calls, taking photos and updating social media, to writing shopping lists, checking the weather and listening to music, it feels unimaginably reckless to let it run out of power.

I never travel without a charger and have invested in a portable battery pack, but even that stresses me out because I need to ensure that it, too, is constantly hovering around the 100 per cent mark. I suppose it’s because I’m the kind of boring person who never misses a deadline, who likes to have no unread emails in her inbox and who is already so freaked out by the random and chaotic nature of the universe that she seeks to impose illusory order on the things that she can control, rather than dwell on the things she can’t. Either that or I’m just far too uptight.

A quick straw poll among my friends revealed that those who let their phones slide into oblivion on a daily basis were also the people most likely to drive cars until the petrol-gauge needle went into the red. They enjoyed the buzz of it, while also having complete confidence that they would ultimately be OK. It’s why, I think, phone-charging habits are also generational: Gen Zedders, having grown up in a world of plenty, never expect a lack to be permanent and are more likely to let their phone charge nosedive.

I still believe in the power of a safety net (and then another net around the original safety net in case the first one breaks). It makes sense that my partner has a different phone-battery etiquette to mine as complementary life philosophies balance each other out. I worry and take precautions against things going wrong; he stays calm and is hopeful that things will turn out well.

The best part? We never fight over the charger.

This week I’m…


Little Fires Everywhere on Amazon Prime, based on the Celeste Ng book and starring Kerry Washington (above) and Reese Witherspoon.


With Evolve Daily Renew Facial Cream. Made in England with natural ingredients and – even better – it smells delicious.


A deep-tissue massage at home via Urban Massage. My shoulders are desperate. Available from 4 July; urban.co/en-gb.