Monday, July 30, 2007

Do I fight against going gray?

I was stopped at a red light when I lowered my visor to tease a stray lash out of my eye. As I started to raise the visor back up, I did a double take.

Where did all that gray hair come from?

I was staring so hard at my head, I almost missed it when the light turned green. I knew the gray hairs were coming in, but damn! I had hoped to go gray starting with a dramatic, Bonnie Raitt-type streak in the front, not a hairline riddled with white, seemingly overnight.

It didn't help that over the weekend I rented a movie called "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone." It's an adaptation of a Tennessee Williams novel -- and really, one shouldn't have anything to do with Tennessee Williams without popping a Valium, washing it down with scotch and then moping around in a silk peignoir. I had none of those things. Watching a movie about a woman who's so deep in mourning for her lost beauty and youth that she takes up with a gorgeous, expensive Italian gigolo (with disastrous results, of course), did nothing to improve my mood. I dragged off to bed, fingering my white-tinged hairline and wishing for that scotch. I was supposed to go out with friends that night, but I was suddenly glad our plans had been postponed. Logically, I know that a smattering of gray hair isn't going to keep men from chatting me up (and if I did, I wouldn't want to be chatted up by them anyway), but emotionally ... I was bummed.

So I'm seeing my hairstylist tomorrow and I've got to make a decision. Do I talk to her about covering the gray? Or do I just get that trim?

In a marvel of timing, the Observer's Style section devoted a cover story to this very topic on Friday. But the chick they featured in the main photo -- she's decided to go gray -- looks great. Her silver strands blend so perfectly with her ashy, reddish brown ones, it almost looks like an artsy dye job. Meanwhile, my hair looks like white polish on brown dress shoes. Like Halloween ghost paint that refuses to wash out.

I come from a family of women who change their hair colors with their moods. And while I dabbled with dye in high school (I went honey blonde when Salt-N-Pepa did it, then I was a redhead for awhile), I really like my natural hair color. It's a medium brown that gets blonde highlights when I spend lots of time in the sun. Women used to come up and ask how I got the color. No woman has asked me lately. Must be the gray.


Readers, I need your advice. I always said I would let my hair go gray when it was ready, but that was before it really started going gray! Have any of you faced the same predicament? If so, what did you decide to do?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

6 hours in 1 car with a 13-year-old

I recently drove to Alabama to visit family, and came back with an unexpected passenger: a childhood friend's 13-year-old daughter. The girl's father lives near Charlotte, and she wanted to squeeze in a visit before school started.

After I'd agreed she could come along, I immediately began to fret. Over six hours in a car with a 13-year-old? How would I entertain her? Surely my iPod Shuffle's lineup of soul tunes, '80s hair metal and the opening strains of "Carmina Burana" would have her politely asking to be dropped off at the next rest stop. So we'd have to actually converse. What on earth would we talk about?

I was even more panicked when my old friend dropped off her daughter for the trip. Daughter? With her perfectly-applied lip gloss, glamorous sunglasses and Dolce & Gabbana purse (courtesy of daddy), she looked more like a 18-year-old young lady than a 13-year-old child. Still, her mom tucked her into my passenger seat with a kiss and a "now, you mind Miss Deirdre," (I inwardly groaned at that) and sent us on our way.

The first few minutes were deeply silent, with only the hum of air conditioner and her rustles through that costly little D&G purse. Then we began to make small talk. And then, since I'm forever curious about relationships of any kind, I seized upon her stray comment about a boyfriend her mother knew nothing about.

The floodgates opened and she talked nonstop for the next six hours.

Even in the era of e-mails, texting and cell phone minutes, some things never change; the kids still pass notes in class and hang out at the skating rink and meet up at the movies. What I found most fascinating was her claim that she's already had five boyfriends. After more questions I remembered that there's really no dating when you're 13; there's only "going with" someone (now it's also "hooking up"), and "talking to" someone, and rotating names in one's mental file of crushes. The girl talked of one boyfriend she'd secured when her best friend called the guy and asked if he wanted to "go with her." He said yes and bam -- it was a done deal. Break-ups are just as arbitrary, handed down over the phone or via note or e-mail, or simply by ignoring the other person until they get the message. "Cheating" can be as simple as a boy having a conversation with another girl. It's all fluid and experimental and surface-level; young ones practicing an adult game.

And yet, this 13-year-old has a good head on her shoulders. She earns great grades, plays on the basketball team and has a tribe of friends she calls her "brothers" and her "sisters." She has a poise and a confidence that I never had as a teenager, and I applaud her mother for raising such a well-balanced child. She told me about a boy who, after she repeatedly turned down his invitations for movies and such, had gotten frustrated and called her "fat." ("I'm not fat, I'm thick. There's a difference," she told me she'd replied. Connoisseurs of the curvy black female form can testify to the accuracy of that statement.) He'd also punched her in the face, she added. I was mortified at the lack of home training on his part, but she breezily explained she'd thrown him across the room. He hasn't bothered her since.

With all this talk of boyfriends, I was getting antsy. Just what was she doing with these boys? But when I asked if she'd ever kissed any of her boyfriends, she said "NO" so emphatically that I believed her. Later in the conversation she shared that she and her best friend "sister swore" that they would remain virgins until they got married.

"A sister swear, that's SERIOUS and important," she said solemnly. "You can't break it. Ever." Her naivete was endearing -- and my sigh of relief was so great ("she's not putting out!"), my foot almost slipped off the gas pedal.

By the end of the trip we were listening to her mix CDs and she was showing me her favorite dances. When we pulled into the parking lot to meet the waiting car, she piled out, all giggles and energy. She gave me a big hug when I handed over her bag. "I had fun!" she announced.

I waved as I pulled away. I was exhausted. But I had fun, too.

Friday, July 20, 2007

One heckuva dating quandary

Alisha: Relationships are all about give and take -- on many different levels. Here's an example: You've got two girls (or two guys) to decide on whether to start dating exclusively. One chick ranks as a 9.5 on a scale of 1 to 10 (attractive, has great character, sound judgment, is honest, has the same values as you, etc.) -- except you're not sexually compatible whatsoever.
The other ranks as a 1.5 (not good looking, has character flaws, poor judgment, different values from yours, is untrustworthy, etc.), but it's the best sex you've ever had.
Who do you pick and why?
Deirdre: My gut reaction? Don't date either of them exclusively. That way, you can search for someone who's compatible to you on all levels.
Alisha: C'mon, that's no fun. You have to choose one or the other here; so who is it?
Deirdre: Sigh. I gotta be honest. I'm feelin' frisky, so I would love to choose the guy who'd give me the best sex I ever had. Just for, like, two weeks, tho! And I'd make sure he got tested for STDs and AIDS, and I'd hide all my valuables. Heck, I wouldn't let him come to my house at all. After the two weeks, I'd get back to the search for the more compatible man I was talking about. And I'd be in a great mood.
Alisha: This is a tough decision -- one I'd have to view in two ways. If I'm looking to settle down and find a mate to have kids with, then I'd go for the 9.5 and the bad sex, but if I'm wanting to date around, it would be difficult to pass up the mind-blowing love-making. Hint: Just turn off the lights since the 1.5 might not be too pretty on the eyes.
Deirdre: I agree on going with the 9.5 for the long haul. If you love someone and the two of you are committed to making the relationship work, I believe there is no bad sex -- only sex that needs improvement. So if a person has every quality you want but the sex isn't up to par, you shouldn't let that keep you from pursuing something serious. There's so much more to a relationship than sex.
Alisha: To play devil's advocate, I'm sure there have been quite a few marriages that have ended because the sex was a complete mismatch. Intimacy and affection are keys to happiness.
Deirdre: Of course! I would add to my earlier statement that there has to be communication. People can't assume sex difficulties (or money issues, or family problems) will eventually just "work themselves out."
Alisha: I have to agree with a friend's response when I posed this hypothetical situation to her: "Bottom line: Incredible sex isn't worth dating a boring troll."
Deirdre: Well, dang, when you put it like that, I'd have to agree! But I wasn't really talking about dating the troll, per se ...

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Hopeless cry for help

A reader asked for my advice, and since I know her problem is a common one (many a woman will shout, “can I get an amen?” when they read this), I got her permission to answer her on the blog.

Q: I'm a 33-year-old, attractive, single, six figures, no kids, never married, never engaged, African-American woman. I'm living in Charlotte now and ready to meet a guy who I can get into a possible relationship with.

I've attended several events where I knew men around my age would be in hopes of meeting someone. Well, I guess I am a little "old school," because I like for the men to approach me. But after talking with some of the men on my job, they all say the same thing: if you want us, come and get us (in other words I have to be the man now and they are the girl). Its 2007 and the men have become liberated?!

Needless to say, I'm still single. I'm not sure if I should wait on them to make eye contact with me and wink or what. Should I also offer them my lipstick and bra? I'm confused -- am I the man or the woman and at which point should I act like the man or the woman? I have heard men say that they don't want a woman to be too aggressive ... OK. What do men want now?

Feeling Hopeless in Charlotte

A: Hopeless, girl, I feel you. I'm no relationship expert, but this topic has come up in conversations with my girlfriends, so I'll tell you the same three things I've discussed with them.

First: Never do anything that makes you uncomfortable. If you’re uneasy, that probably means you’re acting in a way that is not true to yourself. People often behave in a manner they think others want, which leads to relationships built on unsteady foundations. Case in point: You ask what it is that men want, but the question should be what do YOU want. Stay true to yourself and when you find The One, you'll know he loves you for you, and not some mirage you've created.

Second: That “if you want us, come and get us” stuff is crap. Plenty of dudes believe their own hype and think they're players worthy of being fought over. Men who are looking for meaningful relationships will at least try to bypass the drama (no accounting for exes and family issues). Hold out for a man who'll treat you the way you want to be treated.

Third: Here's the deal -- women already make the first move. Haven’t you seen those Discovery channel shows about male-female attraction? A woman uses body language to let a man know she'd be receptive to his approach. (Sure, some clueless dudes will hit on anything in a skirt, but most men will wait for a sign.) See a guy you like in a store, in a bar, at the gym? Patiently wait until you catch his eye, hold the glance for a second, then look away. At this point the guy is going, "hey, is she ...?" and he's checking you out to see if he might be interested. If he is, he'll wait for another glance, which you'll give ... and this time, you'll hold it for a beat or two longer than the last one, and smile. Or if you pass by him, either stop to say hello (if you feel comfortable doing that), "accidentally" brush against him and apologize (it's fake and you both know it, but it works) or simply keep walking, again with the smile. Any man will get the message and make a move if he's interested. If it looks like he's waiting on you to come to him, move on -- you prefer men who make the approach, so this one is obviously not for you.

Now, Hopeless, don’t offer a man your lipstick unless he’s a drag queen who likes the shade (but be sure to wear lipstick in a color that flatters your skin tone and tastes good, in case there are kisses). And don’t offer a man your bra unless you want a one-night stand (but be sure that it’s a nice bra, because pretty lingerie makes you feel pretty).

Don't feel hopeless, Hopeless: Dating is hard for most of us singles, no matter where we are. Stay positive and go with your gut. If I run across a great guy I'll let you know, because you, sister, are a catch!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

What the...?!

The first dance at this reception should've been "Thin Line Between Love and Hate," followed by the announcement, "is there a divorce attorney in the house?"

LONDON (AP) -- Scottish bride Teresa Brown's dream of a perfect wedding day probably did not include attacking the groom with her stiletto shoe and spending the weekend in a cell.

Police arrested the 33-year-old in the couple's hotel room in April while her wedding reception continued downstairs, prosecutor Alan Townsend said.

The distraught groom, Mark Allerton, 40, staggered to the front desk, clutching a bloody towel to his head, Townsend said.

"He indicated that his wife had struck him over the head with a stiletto heel," the prosecutor said.

Police found Brown, a real estate agent's assistant, sitting on the hotel room bed, surrounded by broken glass.

Brown told police she and her husband had "been accusing each other of different things," the prosecutor said, without going into details. Brown said she hit him on the head because he had taken a hold of her, he added.

Brown's lawyer Stuart Beveridge said the newlyweds began throwing things at each other after an argument in their room turned physical. He said Brown had been on antidepressants at the time and had been drinking.

"She and her husband are still together although this incident has not helped," he said, adding she is receiving counseling.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Warning signs a breakup is near

So you and your significant other can't stop fighting. The arguments started out over big things, issues that any couple should discuss, but now your fights focus on where you're going to dinner and why you didn't call when you got home two hours later than expected.

They all seem to be silly, petty arguments that make you wonder if your partner is trying to tell you something.

According to an article published Thursday on, author Elina Furman gives her top five signs you're about to get dumped. I think she hit the nail on the head with the "forgetting to call" sign.

What would be your top five signs?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Strangers calling us 'hun' and 'baby'

Deirdre: Something I've noticed: When the security guards downstairs -- at least a dozen years older than me -- say hello and goodbye, they use terms of endearment. "Darlin'." "Precious." "Doll Baby." "Princess." It doesn't bother me; in fact, it usually makes me smile. But when younger guys address me as "baby" or "boo" or "sweetheart," it really bugs me. Does stuff like this ever happen to you?
Alisha: Sure. In fact, it happened Thursday at Bruegger's Bagels. The guy fixing my bagel kept calling me sweetie. Each time he said it, I melted. It was, um, sweet.
Deirdre: How old do you think he was?
Alisha: He made some comment that he's been married 10+ years, so ... I thought he looked 35.
Deirdre: Hmm. I don't know how I would feel about that. I think that in general, men in their 50s and older use terms of affection because that's the way they were raised -- with a protective, almost paternal, attitude toward women. But younger men, especially those under 35 ... they've been raised with women as their equals. So for them to use such a term (especially if they are strangers) can be almost insulting, because it seems more of a conscious act.
Alisha: It's not an age thing at all. On the whole, it's an issue of men being courteous toward women. If a 19-year-old guy, who is mature, calls me "sugar," then I'm going to smile and think it's cute. Just because a man grew up in the 1950s doesn't mean he's more apt to use terms of endearment versus boys who were taught good manners by their parents.
Deirdre: I agree with your last sentence, but I don't think I'd be smiling if some 19-year-old called me "sugar." I'd probably raise an eyebrow so high, I'd get a cramp in it -- I'm old enough to be his mom! I don't think that's respectful.
Alisha: Possibly. I guess it depends on the situation. I thought you, having grown up in the South like myself, would have adjusted to men using such terms?
Deirdre: I didn't hear the terms much from strangers during my years in California, so it's more obvious to me now. Also, I've become more sensitive to it as I age. I think I'm just irritated by men I don't know calling me "baby" and looking at me, as an old friend used to say, like "they want to put me on a plate and sop me up with a biscuit."
Alisha: If you're walking down a street, and a construction worker screams over the machinery, "Hey baby, what's shakin'?" then that can be construed as just rude. But, if I'm getting my oil changed and a guy says, "Car's all done, love." Then I'll just say thank you.
Deirdre: Is this mostly a female thing? I wonder if guys are ever bothered by being called "hun" by women they don't know.
Alisha: Men aren't left out. Have you never been to a truck stop before? The ladies at the counter are always calling those fellas all kinds of names.
Deirdre: It probably washes right over them.
Alisha: Affectionate nicknames are acceptable in my book, as long as they're not a disguise to subjugate me as a woman.
Deirdre: I don't want to leave you thinking I find all men younger than me insulting when they use nicknames. For example, there's a guy at work who looks about 30. When he sees me he always says "how you doin', love?" It gives me a little thrill because of the way he says it -- it's confident, there's an awareness that we're not giggling preteens but a man and a woman ... yet there's nothing skeezy about it. What bothers me about some men and their "baby's" is they come across as ingratiating. Assuming intimacy when there is none.

What say you, readers? How do you feel about terms of endearment from strangers?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Rejection Hotline a real time saver

You’re in a bar with two of your best buds. The music is pumping, the dance floor is packed and you’re looking good in your designer jeans.

You find a gal you’re attracted to and you strike up a conversation. Everything is going great – until this potential take-home’s stock drops like it’s October 1929. Her ex is on probation and oh, she lives at home with mom, dad, grandma and three ferrets. Next!

But, she asks for your phone number. You don’t want to hurt her feelings, you just want out. So you grab a bar napkin and write down: 704-264-2861. Good night chickie, and good luck, you think to yourself.

You have just provided what I think is the coolest innovation, The Rejection Hotline. The “fake” number gives callers a G-rated and humorous recording that expresses your non-interest in a not-so-subtle manner.

The idea, invented by RH Brands, LLC president and creative director Jeff Goldblatt, has grown since it started as a joke on an answering machine in 2001.

The Charlotte Rejection Hotline number receives around 10,000 calls per month, according to Goldblatt. He says the more than 100 numbers nationwide get about 2.6 million calls a month. Goldblatt estimates Charlotte’s number is slightly below the average for most cities because there are other numbers in close proximity, including Greensboro, Raleigh and an 803-area code number for South Carolina residents.

Back when I was single, I gave my real number to a real loser (or two or three, or ... wow, a lot). Inevitably he (or they ) would call three days later, and I’d make up some excuse for why I wasn’t interested. I wish I'd had this hotline number; it sure would have saved a lot of time in the excuse department.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Tiger stirs emotions, good and bad

I was e-mailing with some girlfriends about photos of Tiger Woods and his wife and new baby. While most of the comments were cooing and cute ("They'd better hide that girl. Angelina will try to adopt her!"), I found myself in an exchange with one good friend that I wasn't expecting. Here's an excerpt:

Me: I'm really happy for Tiger. I wish his dad had lived to see his granddaughter.
Friend: I'm not unhappy for Tiger, but I don't have enough love for him to be happy. ... As a black person, not just a woman, I've always felt rejected by Mr. Casablanca or whatever made-up race he decided he was. Yes, I accept the accuracy of it, however ... I knew then he'd never end up with a black woman.
Me: Doesn't matter to me what race he married. But I know I'm in the minority on that point.
Friend: It doesn't matter what race he married ... if I felt that someone black had had a chance.
Me: I refuse to hold that against him. So he's not attracted to black women. That's his choice. He lives his life, we live ours.
Friend: You're right. If only he weren't an example of so many men. It's hurtful to be the least attractive of women ...

At this point, I asked if I could mention the conversation on the blog. She said she didn't mind, then continued (the parentheses are hers):

Friend: You understand what I'm saying tho, right? Tiger simply magnifies the issue (or he's the most prominent example): Many men are looking for any ethnicity of woman except African-American. And usually I would say black. But there are many white men who find African women attractive (or end up with them), but don't like (never considered) African-American women.

I avoid this topic, because it depresses me. Black women are the least likely people to get married in America. We're the most likely to raise children alone. And as far as male-female relations go within the black community, some women get really pissed off when they see a black man with a woman of another race. They see it as selling out, or abandoning their race, or as just not giving black women a chance. (As an aside, author Joy Jones wrote a provocative Washington Post essay entitled "Marriage Is for White People" that was heavily forwarded and discussed among blacks. Check it out.)

Race doesn't matter to me in my search for potential partners. The way I see it, people have such a hard time connecting, let alone building committed relationships, that limiting yourself to a certain race may hinder your efforts. Yet I totally understand the desire and preference for people to marry within their race as well.

As I said to my friend, we live our own lives. We make the decisions that are best for us. But let's try not to hold it against others if they make a choice that we wouldn't.