“Hi, How Are You?”

So a couple of you have asked whether I plan on keeping you up to date on my “adventures” with the online dating Web site I joined a month ago.

I said unless I had something funny to write about, I wasn’t planning on chronicling it too much.

I’m not sure if what I’m about to write counts as being “funny”, rather than a peeve I’ve developed while using the site (which, as of lately, isn’t very much, due to my intense work schedule).

As with most of these sites, if someone’s interested, they’ll send me a message, via the site’s e-mail service.

But in my experience so far (with two exceptions), the first e-mail consists of the following:

“Hi how are you?”

That’s it.

Possibly a variation or two.

But that’s generally the entire message.

I usually try to send more than a line in response. ‘Cause I’m a talker. That’s what I do.

But sometimes I’m just tempted to write back, “Fine, how are you?” And then just stop.

I don’t MIND if someone starts their conversation with, “Hi, how are you? My name is _____.” But at least add a few mores lines or somethin‘.

One guy that wrote me actually said, “I noticed that we have some of the same things in common …” And then he asked me a couple of questions.

THAT impressed me.  That’s PROBABLY how you’re supposed to do things on that site. I dunno. But THAT makes me want to write back to that person, to offer more information, y’know? And I did.

But others – to me, it seems – apparently need a bit of work.

I exchanged numbers with one guy I talked to, based on a Hi-how-are-you e-mail.  A day or so later, while walking to work, I heard my phone beep. The guy had sent me a text.

“Hello,” he wrote. Period.

After making fun of him out loud, I wrote him back. “Hi,” I texted. “How are you?”

“I am fines,” he wrote. (Not a typo.)

After a deep breath and rolling my eyes, I texted back, “So, what’s up?”

“Nothing,” he responded. “What are you doing?”

“Going to work,” was my short reply.

“Ok then,” he responded. And that was the end of THAT conversation. To be fair, we did talk later that week, but only because I ended up calling first, just to avoid any more four-word texts.

Another time, guy wrote me a message while I was logged onto the Web site. His first e-mail was “Hi how are you?” as his first e-mail. I looked at his profile and crinkled my nose. But I decided to give it the old college try.

And Lord KNOWS I tried my best to get a conversation going.

By the third exchange, he was all like, “Give me your MSN please.” Just like that. All he offered up in conversation was that he was about to go to bed, because he had to work the next day.

Needless to say, I responded to his MSN request by asking, “How about e-mail instead?” He never wrote me back. (Which is fine by me. Aggressive little man.)

Look, I’m not looking for poetry or a  life story in the first e-mail.

But I don’t think I’m being completely unreasonable when I say it WOULD be nice if besides an opening line, there were another two or three lines to go with it, because I’d be more likely to engage in conversation … possibly more.

I also realize that, if it bothers me so much, I can just ignore these one-line messages.  

But I’m still at the stage where – at least until I meet them – I’d like to give them a chance. 

And hey – perhaps in real life these guys are actually very talkative. 

But if I’m doing most of the work in a conversation where only typing is involved …

Am I wrong in thinking I’ll be the one doing the work in a face-to-face conversation?

The “Good Hair” Struggle

(**WARNING: EPIC post**)

“Oh my oprah show so good today!” read the text message my friend sent me last Wednesday. “It’s about hair!”

Little did I know exactly what she was talking about, until I got home that evening and spoke with my mother, who saw the same show.

I’m not a regular Oprah viewer, mainly because I’m running around at work. But on that particular episode, she spoke with Chris Rock, who’s been making the rounds as of late, promoting his soon-to-be-released documentary, Good Hair.

The film screened at the Toronto International Film Festival a few weeks ago – which was when I first heard about it and took notice.

But the fact Oprah dedicated an entire hour last week discussing women’s hair – and primarily, black women’s hair – piqued my interest even further.

And, while searching online to watch the episode for myself, I surfed smack into the trailer for the film:

I have since managed to watch the Oprah episode online, and so many thoughts are running through my head. Where to start?

Well … the thing is, there are people out there who don’t see what the big deal is. It’s just hair. From a biological/clinical standpoint, the stuff we as women make such a fuss over is the dead part that sits on our heads – not the thousands of live follicles embedded in our scalps.

But for women – and to a degree, black women (not all, but a fair number) – it IS a big deal. It’s about as deeply embedded as those follicles. It’s been about feeling good about ourselves and feeling beautiful, not ugly, as history has dictated to us over the ages. But that quest for outer beauty has driven a number of us to spend hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars doing it.

It’s also driven us to these standards that not only don’t fit, but that we continually inflict on each other – the idea that “good hair” is long and wavy, even straight, not short and tightly curled.

Regarding the program: I’m glad to have watched it. Some of the stuff they discussed wasn’t new to me. But the value-added parts of the program included talking to someone who’d recently cut off her hair in favour of a natural style and has taken a lot of flak for it (singer Beyonce Knowles’ younger sister Solange – also a singer), and a segment dedicated to what some white women do with their hair. (Hey, most of the audience was white. If you’re going call women out on their beauty secrets, might as well do it across the board.)

It was also surprising for me to hear my own mother – who’s worn her hair in a natural style for close to four decades – tell me she had absolutely no CLUE how lucrative this industry is … nor about the number of things black women – not just in the United States, but here in Canada and other countries abroad – do to their hair every day.

About the documentary: the subject matter, again, isn’t completely foreign to me. I’ve heard it discussed, albeit in smaller circles, and I’ve seen another documentary about black hair, done on a smaller scale about eight or so years ago. (The focus was slightly different, though.)

But I’m glad that Chris Rock decided to venture out and do this for a North American audience. I’m especially impressed that he’d do so, both as a black man, and as a father of two young daughters, who wanted to understand EXACTLY what they will probably do to their hair when they’re older.

Watching the trailer and the Oprah episode has had me thinking about my own experiences in dealing with my hair.

I remember as a kid, having my hair plaited every morning before school by my mother (whom I’m sure HATED it), right up until the time I was 12 years old.

While visiting relatives in Jamaica the summer before seventh grade, I made my transformation little kid to bigger kid with a visit to a local hairdresser and an introduction to permanent relaxer – the “creamy crack” referred to in the documentary trailer.

For a while, THAT was a ritual, too. Between grades 8 and 12 – I kept the EXACT same hairstyle, with what little hair I had crammed into a scrunchie, and a slightly limp curl at the front.

(To this day, the only time I could even attempt to guess what year I’d taken my high school picture depends on which side the curl was sitting in the photo.)

Then, when the bother of spending hours maintaining my straight hair was getting to me, I decided to cut my hair shorter.

In my university days, I dabbled in a little something called “Wave Nouveau” – not quite a perm, but not quite a Jheri curl, either.

By the end of school, I’d had enough and cut it all off.

The years between then and now have been a blur. I’ve grown it out, put it in braids, straightened it out (not chemically, but using a hot comb and flat-iron – in itself, NOT healthy to do regularly) and back again.

I remember that one REALLY bad braid job I’d gotten done at a place in Yorkville, that had the tracks of hair dislocating themselves from my head after just a week. I looked like I was wearing the hair of a poodle I’d just scalped.

And that other time, when I’d pressed my hair straight twice in one month, and was stuck for weeks at a time with clumps of DEAD STRAIGHT hair that I’d have to tuck into my curly ‘fro.

Which brings me to the present. As you can see in my “About” picture, I’m wearing braids. The hair is not all mine – it’s synthetic, mainly because human hair is (a) more expensive and (b) not something I could bring myself to wear.

I alternate between wearing a long style and doing the same version with my natural (considerably shorter) hair.

But for the past few months, I’ve thought about going back to the shorter style I’d worn nine years ago.

As it is, I’m LAZY when it comes to my personal beauty regime – I don’t really HAVE one. And as things get busier, it would be so much easier to maintain.

But so many thoughts have been swirling, making me say to myself, Not just yet.

Committing to a short hairstyle. It may only be hair, and it will grow back. But it’ll take a LONG TIME. And while having short hair will require less effort, looking feminine in other ways – wearing dangly earrings, more make-up, etc. – will require more.

Looking exactly like my mother. I love my mother. But HEAVEN forbid someone should say, “Your daughter looks JUST like you.” OH, the FACE she makes.

The perception it’s political. Politics has NOTHING to do with it. As far as I’m concerned, I made my “political” statement long ago when I decided never to go back to chemical relaxers. Now, it’s about convenience and what’ll make me look cute.

Dealing with people at work. I’ll be spotted from a mile away. Then there’s having to deal with certain white co-workers, who may not be sure how to deal with a look that’s so … different. I remember having a short hair cut one summer … and one woman I worked with (whom I don’t particularly like) acknowledged the change by calling it a “fresh style for summer.” I’m sure she was being nice. But part of me has always thought it was the fact she was secretly finding a way to visually cope  and was saying to herself, OH MY GOD SHE HAS NO HAIR

Travelling could be troublesome. By now, Canadians have heard about the case of Suuad Hagi Mohamud, the Canadian woman stuck in Kenya for three months because officials didn’t think she looked like her passport photo. My hair is “long” in my passport photo. Try being the customs officer looking at Long-Haired Me in a photo and then looking up at Short-Haired Me. If you’re enough of a prick, you could have a field day. To avoid trouble, I may have to go through the rigamarole of changing passports or other important pieces of ID, just so my appearance matches.

The people – and men – I may attract because of my short hair. I mean, amongst my friends and such, it’ll be this cool thing for the first while. But how many men actually like women with short hair? On Oprah’s show, Chris Rock said men DO NOT CARE about that sort of thing. Hmmm. REALLY? All the guys I know seem to like women with hair longer than four inches. Not that I’ve had the greatest track record with guys.  But my fear is that the pool (which isn’t huge to begin with) will shrink because I’ll be written off for not having a long, flowing mane.

I realize my hair doesn’t define ME as a person. And I know that making such a drastic change should be done for me. Not for my friends, my co-workers, potential suitors, or anyone else.

But I’m human. And I think about these things.

That’s not to say I’m never cutting my hair. I’m pretty sure I’ll do it in the next year. But for myself and lots of women, the mental commitment is the hardest part – not actually going to the salon or barbershop.

As my epic post draws to a close, I only ask two things:

(1) Love me for me, not what is or isn’t on my head. For a lot of my friends, they’ll probably respond by saying, “Well, DUH.” But still. And, oh yeah – unless you’re one of the special people in my life that gets a free pass to do this – please ASK before you put your hands in my hair. It’s kinda in the same vein as the rubbing-a-pregnant-woman’s-belly thing.

(2) If you get a chance, consider seeing this documentary. I’d bet you’d be enlightened. Chris Rock said he didn’t just make this for the black community, but for EVERYONE, so they can understand. And hey, what brings people together better than understanding?

A “WTF?” Art Moment

Well, speaking of the arts …

While people were milling around looking at contemporary art in Toronto Saturday night …

Prime minister Stephen Harper made a guest appearance at the National Arts Centre’s gala in Ottawa.

And this is what ensued:

I’m sure a bunch of you had already seen this. But I just finally watched it today.

And, um, yeah.

I really don’t know what to say about this. Except that my right eye has started to twitch and I think I’m ready for a lie-down.

That might be completely coincidental.

But if you remember what our esteemed prime minister said about the arts when he campaigned during last year’s election – and the reaction it elicited – you’ll know why I find this a tad “whiskey-tango-foxtrot”.

But please, discuss amongst yourselves.

The Nuit Blanche Experience

I could hear the sound all around me, as my friend and I entered the Royal Conservatory of Music Saturday night.

It was one note after another, in the same key. But all the players involved – whether performing on strings, woodwinds, brass, guitars, or using their voices – would change notes.

One moment the “chords” would be soothing; the next, jarring; and still the next, just plain eerie.

That was the sound of art being made – one of scores of different contemporary art installations and exhibits being put on for Nuit Blanche, the 12-hour extravaganza that happens once a year here in Toronto (and at other times of the year in other cities right around the world).

I’d been a couple of times before, with different people. But this year, I had the chance to tool around with a friend who’d never gone, and always wanted to. The sheer distance between zones was daunting, but we thought we’d be ambitious and start early to see as much as we could.

I appreciate events like Nuit Blanche, because – like so many people in town – I don’t feel as though I have the time to truly immerse myself in art of any form – whether visual, musical or otherwise.

So I really don’t mind making the effort for something like this, even if I don’t understand all of it, or even like it.

And to be truthful, I didn’t like everything I saw. But that’s just my opinion. And that’s probably the best thing about art. It’s NEVER black-and-white. It’s whatever I think it is. And everyone is entitled to their own interpretations.

Aside from the enormous amount of walking I did (other friends, being downtowners, took to the streets on their bikes) it was nice just running into people, whether planned or at random.

And it’s one of those few times during the year in which you get to enter buildings you’d normally not be able to … or would have to pay admission to enter.

And really? On no other night would one be able to see huge construction cranes carrying out a slow “dance” once an hour in Liberty Village …

A gigantic silver balloon, shaped like a rabbit holding a carrot, just floating around in the Eaton Centre …

Carnival rides on Bay Street being operated by newly-downsized workers …

Or getting dance lessons from instructors at the Toronto Public Library.

And at the end of the night, when my feet were tired, and I tired of the crowds, I was satisfied with having gotten to do something different from what I’m used to.

I can only hope I can make another effort on my own … to take time out of my busy life, to take in some art in whatever form I can find it.


As I write this post, before me sits a black box.

And atop that black box is something that could either be seen as the best early Christmas present a working professional like myself could ever receive …

Or possibly the one thing that will slaughter any chance of a normal life outside of work …

A Blackberry.

In the years since it first burst onto the marketplace of electronic gagdets, I’ve happily gone through my adult life Blackberry-free, perfectly content to use my cellphone to (a) call people or (b) text-message them.

But since my recent job change, the new regime now requires everyone in positions like mine to have one.

Mine arrived sometime around 1:30 p.m. this afternoon.

The first few hours I had it in my possession, I just kept moving the box around my desk.

A bit later on, I did spend a couple of moments trying to open the box to look at it, but gave up pretty quickly.

Seriously? I was already having trouble opening the box. How was I going to operate the actual device?

Then I figured, if I had to wait 5 or so years to get one, I could hang on for a few more hours.

Which brings me this moment. It sits on top of the opened box, brand-new, the protective plastic coating still plastered on … and the various accessories – SIM card, holster, phone headset, etc. – sitting inside.

Part of me is fascinated by the whole thing. I mean, hello, pretty new toy. Who in this century, in this modern Western society, wouldn’t be curious?

Another part of me’s glad I no longer have to use my personal cellphone minutes to handle a barrage of calls and messages from seven different people while I’m out in the field.

But the largest part of me is eyeing this device with suspicion and anxiety.

It IS nicknamed The Crackberry for a good reason.

I’ve already seen people in meetings and walking through my workplace in the assumed position of Blackberry owners: head down, intently texting a response to whatever message they’re responding to.

That’s my worst fear: losing basic social interaction with my family, friends, OTHER HUMAN BEINGS, because my eyes are glued to that tiny monitor, and my calloused thumbs are pressing away at those TINY keys.

And what about “Blackberry-quette”?

Like, CAN I turn off my Blackberry at night so I can sleep? Or do I just leave it on so I don’t risk being THAT person: The One Who Missed The Call or Message in The Middle of The Night instead of getting out of bed and going to work?

(Well, perhaps that’s a bit far-fetched, but not completely impossible.)

Do I carry it with me at all times? Even on my days off?

I mean, when does it stop?

DOES it EVER stop?

Will I end up cross-eyed with arthritic opposing thumbs?

Look, I’m no Luddite, by any means.

But at a time in my life – and in 21st-century society – where I’m pretty convinced my attention span is now the same as a  five-year-old’s, because of  my work environment AND my habits  in the age of modern technology …

Will I lose it all to a device of mass distraction?