Category Archives: Work

How much I loathe “How R U?” & “Wassup?”

As I stepped inside the elevator at 6:30 pm, a colleague leaving work at the same time asked me, “How are you?” with a smile that sparkled.

It sounded as odd and out of place as “good morning” to me at that time of the day.


Swallowing my tears, I pushed myself to utter the socially acceptable answer to the question.

“How are you?” Asked he again with his eyes sparkling this time. Apparently, my voice was too feeble to be heard or too damp to be believed. He probably expected me to return the question with a big, bright beam.

I’m good! Didn’t you hear me say so? Had there not been a dam blocking my throat, I would’ve protested. Yet I simply whimpered again, I’m good.

Were I allowed to tell how I really were? Were I allowed to give any alternative answers other than ones that exuded optimism and confirmed how good I was feeling?

“How are you?” is one question that I find even more imbecile than “how was your weekend?”. Not only does it not help to initiate a meaningful conversation, it imposes absolute social obligation on the respondent to comply. 

Does the following dialogue sound familiar?

A: How was your weekend?

B: It was good…You asked me that 3 times today.

A: Hey how’s the coffee?

B: It’s good…Your friend just asked me the same thing. 

What does “how are you?” help to accomplish? Perhaps the one question that outshines “how are you” in vacuity is “how’s the weather?”

Say that I responded with “oh I feel terrible today.” He’d probably feign with sympathy, “oh how come?”

Where would that lead anyway? Pouring out all my personal feelings to someone who is not your best friend is probably not the most judicious choice.

Another variation of “how are you” is “what’s up” or sometimes known as “wassup?”, which allows a lot more flexibility and creativity in your answer. However, the fact that it is an open question tends to throw some people off guard. Instead of multiple choices, “wassup” can be just as challenging as a question that appears on an essay exam. The typical answer “I’m good” no longer applies here, unless you don’t mind coming across as uncool.

A friend of mine echoed similar discomfort in responding to “wassup?”

“I just don’t know what to say when people ask me what’s up!”

You’re not alone. “How are you” might not lead anywhere, but at least it’s within the comfort zone of most people, whereas “what’s up” poses risks that delight only the unbridled spirits .

Anyhow, both are way too ambiguous. A greeting that I’d feel most comfortable with, other than statements like “hello”, must be specific to the needs of the respondent and take into consideration of the present context. It has to be tailored to the respondent’s interests in order to bring out any genuine response.

The majority, unfortunately, are not that considerate or percipient, to customize legitimate questions just for you. That’s why they often resort to the prepackaged generic ones: “how are you?”, “what’s up”, or variations of either one.

And that leaves the rest of us frustrated and me, frightened.

An equivalent of “how are you?” in Chinese is “have you eaten yet?”, which plagues me just as much, and makes me wonder if a so-and-so’s auntie expects me to have 10 meals in 3 hours?

Why not just say “hi”?


Office Affairs = a Matter of Power Imbalance?

The scandals between a male boss and his personal secretary have been told countless times that they cease to be scandals and start to smell stale. What about affairs between an older lady boss and her subordinate?

Older men prefer younger, pretty girls. That is out of the question. Older women prefer younger, cute boys. That seems to be the trend in Singapore and perhaps anywhere else that practices gender equality.  It doesn’t technically violate society’s standards until these preferences invade the work space.

A huge proportionate of managers and directors in Singapore are female. It’s great news to aspiring female leaders or career-oriented young women. Sadly, with the reversal of power, same sins are committed behind the office walls – that is if you deem them inappropriate. We witness similar patterns of office affairs where certain female bosses would leer at their male assistants, give preferential treatment, and eventually take action based on mutual consent. Female superiors most likely have a better shot than their male counterparts at obtaining this mutual consent. After all, most young male assistants wouldn’t hesitate to jump at ready-at-hand opportunities like this one.

However, different mindsets buttress the same type of “sins”.

Whereas female assistants fall for male superiors in pursuit of power and money, male assistants are more interested in exploring the mature beauty of their female superiors. Their thirst exactly feeds the female superiors’ vanity. Taking pride in their ability to “charm” young boys, they believe that youth and beauty are still on their side. Furthermore, with not much of a real life they tend to seek excitement in the unusual or the forbidden, which is why everyone in the world is bored enough to have extramarital affairs. On the contrary, those who keep personal love affairs out of the office sphere tend to have more access to stimulation in other forms – such as traveling.

Like businessmen in China who embark on business trips involving nightclubs and making new encounters,  some female superiors also like to dabble in office affairs. Perhaps this is their only break from stress at work. Work is their life and their way of fulfilling their life. Where else do you expect these busy folks to mitigate the stress when the amount of leisure available is dangerously deficient?

Irregardless of their newfound financial and emotional independence as they rise to power in their career, many of them still can’t break free of their own vanity and their role as sex objects. Or maybe they don’t want to break free. It’s deeply ingrained and it is natural for women to desire sexual attention. That is why Princeton, Cornell, Yale kids have repeatedly appeared on ANTM (American Next Top Model) and Harvard-educated Sonia Dara chose to pose for the cover of Sports Illustrated. She rose to fame not because of her intelligence, but because of her external beauty. Most people in the world are blind enough to confuse the two that they start applauding “Wow a beauty with brains! How rare!”

Human nature will never change no matter how hard we try, and thus we’ll never be able to achieve absolute gender equality – as in assigning same values to men and women – unless we first change how we fundamentally perceive ourselves.

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