It’s only hair people!


I don’t understand why what Black women choose to do with their hair is such a major topic of conversation. I obviously did not receive the memo informing that me that a simple hair do would reveal so much about my pride in my race or femininity.

The hypocrisy of Black men regarding this topic is just breathtaking. I have read so many online conversations where Black men have stated that they hate weaves/relaxed hair and they wish that women would keep their hair natural. In cyber space these men are only too happy to flex their afro centric credentials. However, in reality these same men are only too happy to fall at the feet of the Beyonce and Rhianna’s of this world. Although equally wonderful, the likes of Erykah Badu, India Arie and Lauryn Hill do not adorn the same amount of men’s bedroom walls.

Not to be outdone, academics are also jumping on the hair bandwagon. Earlier this year a study came out linking agents in relaxers to causing uterine fibroids in Black women. Apparently, Black women are more likely to have fibroids and the majority of these women happened to have relaxed hair, it seemed logical to the researchers at Boston University to connect the two. This thinking is so flawed that I don’t understand how these academics were not embarrassed to utter such nonsense. Black women are probably also more likely to use cocoa butter on their skin. According to this faux science should we also point the guilty finger at the humble cocoa bean as the sole cause behind uterine fibroids? This research was extremely irresponsible, trying to incite panic using the flimsiest correlations as a base for its findings.

The Boston University research had such a condescending tone to it, implying that Black women are so vain and foolish that they are prepared to endanger their health just to change the natural state of their hair. It would be disingenuous not to admit that the relaxer kit was created to remove the natural kink in afro hair and assume a more European appearance. In 2012, the motivations behind Black women self expressions are extremely varied and diverse. I refute any attempt to lump us all together. For the last ten years I have relaxed my hair and currently sport a weave. Convenience and speed are the driving forces behind my choices. Just because I am not sporting an Afro it doesn’t mean that I am renouncing my natural Black beauty. With or without a weave, I doubt that I would ever have to clarify that I am a Black woman.

That said it does sadden me that in some quarters there is a rejection of natural hair. Some Black women claim that they believe that they cannot wear their hair naturally in the corporate environment. My sister and many of my friends happily wear their hair naturally in the workplace. Sadly we still hear phrases such as ‘nappy hair’ to describe natural hair, particularly by other Black people. Only those lacking in self worth would see their skin or their hair as being inferior. This toxic way of thinking needs to be curtailed. Every human being should be proud of who they are. Black women should have the confidence to express themselves without seeking permission. It is also important that we put our choices in context. Relaxing my hair is not the same as putting mercury on my skin in order to lighten it. All women use various methods to change their appearance from dying their hair, using weaves (White women use them too) to having radical haircuts. The line is crossed when you are prepared to damage your body in order to change your appearance permanently. For anyone who is affronted by my weave unless they are prepared to come to my house and braid my hair on a regular basis, I respectfully ask you to keep your disdain to yourself.

All women should embrace self expression. I resent any man trying to get involved in this discussion as it implies that they get a say on how we look and that somehow we should seek their approval. I like to look nice but I get to decide what I wear and how I wear my hair. Getting Black women and women in general to focus on their looks is the original smokescreen. It’s a feeble attempt to distract women from focusing on their empowerment. The modern woman has bigger fish to fry and at the end of the day, it’s only hair.

Please let me know your thoughts


Think like a human


Last week saw the U.S release of the film ‘Act Like A Man’, which has been produced by comedian Steve Harvey who penned the book ‘Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man’. I have never read the book and have no intention of seeing the film. I always thought it sensible to take advice from experts in their field. If I were in need of financial advice, I would happily take on board the thoughts of Bill Gates or Donald Trump. I don’t see the logic in taking relationship advice from a man with two ex wives that he cheated on throughout the entire marriages. What authority does he have to advise anyone on the state of their relationships other than being a celebrity?

In researching for my film, I have come across a few Black male dating/ relationship experts. I am very dubious about those who have had turbulent love lives. If you don’t know what it takes to have a long lasting happy relationship/marriage what real advice can you offer? I recall reading an article that Harvey thought he had learnt valuable life lessons after cheating on his ex wives for years. If he felt that why didn’t he write a book instructing men on how to treat their wives? Why choose women as his target audience? The answer is simple; we live in a society which is used to telling women that there is something wrong with them.

Women are bombarded with 400 to 600 adverts per day with 9% directly relating to beauty (Source: Media Scope). The beauty industry thrives on the insecurities of women; you’re too fat, too skinny, too old and too frumpy etc. With this backdrop it makes perfect economic sense why these ‘relationship experts’ target women. They use the fact that they as male have legitimacy to speak for the entire male population. They don’t conduct extensive research, just rehash a few conversations at the bar or the barbers and suddenly they are a bona fide expert. Harvey presents his information as ‘inside knowledge’ of the male psyche delivered in comedic little chunks. Too many women swallow this whole without question. They provide these entrepreneurs with the perfect malleable audience, waiting to be told what is wrong with them and how they need to improve.

Harvey’s work is aimed at Black women. We are a group who find ourselves under an intolerable level of scrutiny. On one hand we are always compared negatively to women of other races or completely ignored by mainstream media. To add insult to injury our main detractors are Black men. Apparently we are too loud, too dark, too aggressive, too stuck up, too fat and the list goes on and on. It is beyond pathetic that we have prominent Black comedians, rappers, entertainers and so called relationship experts who so easily mock the women who most resemble their mothers and sisters yet, they have the nerve to expect us to purchase their latest CDs/books/films.

I am always curious as to why the burden of creating successful relationships is placed squarely on women’s shoulders. Why don’t these love gurus write books telling men how to treat the women in their lives? Are men totally exempt from bearing any responsibility in making a successful relationship last? Society still sees a long term relationship as something women crave and what men try to dodge at every opportunity. This thinking undermines both sexes. Women do not need relationships to validate them and men are not so emotionally stunted that they do not want to be in happy fulfilling relationships.

It’s really not a surprise that there is plenty of scope to financially exploit Black women’s insecurities. I don’t belong to the doom and gloom brigade telling Black women that there is a man shortage. I think that is simply not true or only particular to Black women. I have many single female friends of every race, who have the same complaints about meeting decent guys. I wish I could explain why, it would probably make me a rich woman. I think that there is a seismic shift occurring between established gender roles and aspirations. I think that these changes within the Western world are largely positive as women and Black women in particular have greater opportunities today than ever before. However, I think that it has made expectations/interactions between men and women more fluid than say a generation ago. We all have more choice regarding dating/marriage/life options. Perhaps it’s the increased level of relationship options that makes it harder for everyone to make a choice in the first place.

Black women should fully exploit greater dating opportunities within and outside our race. However, there are a large number of Black women who only want to date Black men. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Half of my relatives are Black men and I love them dearly, well most of them. However, the main problem is that there are not enough eligible Black men to go round. That is the biggest stumbling block for Black women looking for a Black partner. It has nothing to do with how long you withhold sex or if you uphold a set of dating rules. If these Black male relationship experts really want to do Black women a favour, they need to address Black male unemployment, imprisonment, child abandonment and the acceptable blatant disrespect given to Black women. Steve Harvey and other ‘dating experts’ would make loving relationships within the Black community more likely if they encouraged Black men to continue with further education, and to become loving husbands and fathers. I suppose that philanthropy doesn’t offer the same financial returns that book and film deals do.

What all women need to remember is that the final say is in our hands. We decide where our money goes. It is important to question the motives of those who claim to be offering help. Until the likes of Steve Harvey are able to make one woman happy for at least 25 years, he does not have the authority to tell anyone how to manage their personal life. Patriarchy puts women under a continuous spotlight, encouraging us to vie for male validation. We don’t need to pay attention to men pretending to have women’s interests at heart. Their only concern is for their expanding bank balances. We all want quick fixes for the difficult areas of our lives. Following a set of rules offered by a comedian is not going to help people ascertain whether someone is a good match or not. We are talking about finding a life partner not training a puppy. Ultimately, I don’t need to think like a man, in order to find and keep one. Surely the trick is to think and behave like a loving human being.

Please let me know your thoughts


Where is the love?

Photo Credit – Copyright New Line Cinema


‘Love and Basketball’ is one of my favourite films. Unlike most romantic dramas it doesn’t gloss over the fact that relationships are hard work. It is also one of the few beautiful Black love stories on the big screen. If an alien were to land on earth and watch the majority of Black cinema or mass media in general, he would probably deduce that Black men and women do not like each other very much. The majority of mainstream Black films portray dysfunctional interactions between Black people. Now I am all for tackling tough issues such as child abuse in ‘Precious’ or infidelity in ‘Why did I get married?’ What I don’t understand is why the Black community is so happy to perpetuate and buy into such negative images of themselves? Why are there so few examples of Black love in today’s mainstream media? Are these films not normalising dysfunctional behaviour and presenting it as some twisted version of Black reality?

The Black community is still plagued with incorrect and limiting stereotypes even in the era of supposed post racialism. In reality, Black women have increased their educational and financial opportunities. As a result, the stereotypes of Black women is developing from the overweight maid or finger snapping ghetto queen to the lonely, unapproachable, career woman. Another stereotypical Black female persona is the damaged woman who was either betrayed as an adult or abused as a child and this explains why she is always angry and pushes men away. The upshot is that Black women are either fat and undesirable or attractive and angry. Black men don’t fare any better. The tragic killing of Trayvon Martin only highlights the power of the stereotype that Black men are hyper aggressive predators. If the Black man is not portrayed as ‘get rich or die trying’ hustler the other typical stereotype is the bumbling feckless buffoon. The only threat that the buffoon offers is to his own self respect.

So if everyone in the Black community is completely dysfunctional it would stand to reason why there are low levels of marriage – we are all too crazy to settle down! This is of course hogwash. My parents have been happily married for nearly forty years. The majority of my Black female friends are also happily married to Black men. I have stated that in the UK and US Black men are falling behind Black women economically and educationally. This is making it harder for professional Black women to find suitable partners but it is far from impossible. In researching my film, I came across some bizarre and ridiculous ‘facts’. Apparently an educated Black woman has more chance of being hit by lightning than getting married. I also read statistics stating that 70% of Black women are single. When you remove the unmarried teens, divorcees and widows the figure is a lot closer to 59% (source Surviving Even then this number does not include gay women, cohabiting couples and those who don’t wish to marry.

The more educated Black women become the richer they become which leads to a greater say in society and changing the status quo. The hope must be that if Black women spend more time obsessing about their love lives, less time will be spent on becoming even more prosperous and influential. We live in a White patriarchal society where there are few winners and many losers. It is in these winners’s interest to retain the status quo. White women were fed a similar line a mere decade ago. I recall being constantly bombarded with medical reports stating that women’s fertility goes kaput after 35, the chances of ovarian cancer are raised if you haven’t been pregnant by your late thirties or that successful business women were more likely to end up married and childless. Career women were given a choice, choose either your personal or professional life – you can’t have both. This was scaremongering – pure and simple, an attempt to get women out of the boardroom and back in the kitchen. Unlike White women, Black women have always been expected to work. The lack of opportunities and exposure to high paying jobs meant that Black men and women both had to financially contribute to keep their families afloat. Today, Black women have greater choices and wealth creation opportunities. This should be celebrated not curtailed.

The advancement of Black women has class ramifications also. I have to admit that I am not the biggest Tyler Perry fan. I respect him for being a major player in the film industry and proving that Black enterprise can successfully sell to a Black audience. However, I don’t agree with the messages in his films. They typically depict a successful but cold businesswoman or a detached, damaged woman who falls in love with a salt of the earth janitor/ex convict/blue collar worker. Black women are effectively being discouraged to date/marry men with aspirations. It is not a matter of snobbery if professional women want to marry and date professional men. Should the expectations of Black women be less than women of other races? I doubt that Hilary Clinton would have given Bill a second look if he had been a janitor. As Black women continue to have greater options in life it will also raise their expectations of the men that they choose to have a life with. I don’t think this is a bad thing; hopefully it will encourage Black men to raise their game educationally and economically in order to attract women with higher expectations. To advise Black women to ‘date down’ is an attempt to sabotage their growth. This sabotage does not just affect women; it prevents the whole community from moving forward. It is ridiculous that Black women are deemed to be snobs just because they have higher aspirations; surely it is just common sense to want a man in your life with common aspirations? Opposites attract but similar people tend to stay together.

It’s frustrating how readily the Black community receives and spreads this way of thinking. I recall as a child the furore which surrounded ‘The Crosby Show’. There were members of the Black community who cited that it wasn’t authentic enough, that the majority of Black people were not doctors and lawyers. I don’t recall hearing White people residing in urban areas complaining about the plausibility of ‘The Waltons’. Why do we as a community reject positive images of ourselves? Why can’t we have an ideal to aspire to? Why are we so prepared to accept broken relationships, criminality and mediocrity as our reality? I am straight out of suburbia, not Compton – does this make me any less Black? I refuse to accept that my ambitions and aspirations should be limited because of the colour of my skin, even if that information is coming from other Black people.

Women of all races should expect to have fulfilling relationships. I will not bow down to the naysayers who want Black women to believe that there are no suitable men for us or that we must settle for any man who shows an interest. Yes there is a lack of eligible men in the Black community. I hope that the advancement of Black women will put the onus on all Black men to do the same in equal numbers. If that doesn’t work there are men of other races for consideration. Accepting the status quo means that there will be no advancement in our community. We should celebrate what Black women have achieved in spite of all the obstacles before them. What’s really disappointing is that the majority of Black owned media rarely promote positive images of Black people. They tend to accept stereotypical images. If we accept these mediocre versions of ourselves, how can we hope to achieve or prosper? If we don’t expect to see loving images of ourselves on the big and small screens, it helps build the false belief that loving Black relationships are only for the lucky few. Black women must expect to be loved and must be free to be successful in their professional lives. Yes there is a lot a false statistics out there but as Flava Flav so eloquently put it ‘Don’t believe the hype!’

Please let me know your thoughts


The trouble with love


Love…. It’s what we all crave and makes the world go round. Why is it so hard to find and harder still to keep? I interviewed a woman for my film that came up with a very interesting concept. She said that people expect ‘microwaveable relationships’. This is where love can be put it on full power for a minute, left to stand for thirty seconds and ready to go. If modern love is now all about instant gratification, it stands to reasons that people expect an upgrade every 18 months.

Modernity has brought speed into every aspect of daily life. Food takes a minute to cook, purchases can be made with a single click, and everything can be uploaded or downloaded in less than a second. This insatiable desire for speed clouds the way we see our emotional relationships. Our lifestyles may have changed over time but human nature hasn’t. Long lasting bonds between people doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to get to know someone properly. I am always bemused when people claim to be in love in such a short space of time. How can you possibly be in love with someone you don’t know? Love requires true knowledge of another person; lust simply requires desire and a lot less information. The problem is that the lines between the two have been blurred. If I desire you, I must have you and therefore I must love you. For some people, relationships are like acquiring a car or handbag where the thrill is all about obtaining a new commodity and then it’s on to the next adrenaline high.

In modern relationships the focus is now about instant chemistry, the attraction, the sexual thrill and the fireworks. In the past I have been guilty of that way of thinking, expecting to hear fanfare from the heavens when I met my Mr Right. Effectively we are encouraged to base our relationship choices on what our eyes and sexual organs tell us. It’s not that I don’t trust the lower regions of my body but I know that a washboard stomach is more sexually stimulating than a trustworthy character but the latter is more important in a long term partner. If we focus on the superficial, how can we expect to have deep and meaningful relationships? I am not advocating for people to date people that they are not attracted to. Sexual attraction is important as it separate friends from potential lovers. It just can’t be the only filtering system we use to weed out the compatible from the incompatible.

When it comes to love, two should be the magic number. I don’t understand why people date individuals to curry favour with others. Once the number of people in your relationship exceeds two, it’s fair to say that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. The person needing the external validation is making the relationship all about them and their issues. To have a beautiful girlfriend or a wealthy boyfriend means that I am desirable, that I am ok. If you are doing all the taking, what exactly are you offering the other person? You are also limiting your partner by focusing on one small aspect of who they are. No one is just defined by their looks or status. You have not taken the time to figure out what makes them unique as a person. If you ignore the various facets of their character you are effectively having a relationship with a stranger.

While I am in full rant mode, I blame the entire rom-com film industry for making relationships seem so easy. This is a seriously misleading fantasy. To truly love someone is hard work. As Chris Rock once said ‘You have never been in love unless you have contemplated murder’. We are all stubborn and selfish creatures. Loving someone requires so much compromising, listening, trust, patience – the list is endless. All you can hope is that you choose someone that is worth the effort. Real love is such hard graft because the process should make you a better person. If what you have is real it should bring about growth. To grow you need to make yourself vulnerable to embrace a new way of being and loving. It is not easy and will take most of us a lifetime to get it right.

So how can you be sure if someone is worth loving? No one wants to waste all that effort on a dud. Simply, take the time to get to know them. Even then there are no guarantees – things change, people change and often not at the same pace. Love may be many a splendid thing but it is not an instant thing. We live in age which is obsessed with self and instant gratification even at the expense of others. We spend too much of our time expecting good things to come to us without any struggle or limited effort on our part. I don’t believe that love hurts and if a relationship is diminishing you, you need to escape pronto. We are all too precious to allow anyone to waste our time and break our hearts. If love is not making you better it will only leave you bitter.

How does this tie in with Black women and marriage I hear you ask? Well Black women don’t come from outer space; we too are exposed to the same mass media messages. Love as an ideal has been commoditised and sexualised. A lot of men and women mistake sexual attraction as the foundation for a deeper connection. Love is depicted as the pleasure of the individual and not a sustainable union between two people. My mother always advised me to find a man I liked to talk and laugh with. After the sexual dust has settled talking is what long term couples will do most. If we as a society have a skewed view of what love is how can we hope to find it, cherish it and keep it.

Please let me know your thoughts


Black is beautiful dammit!


I believe that self esteem is the foundation for happiness. Self esteem provides us with the knowledge that we have worth, the confidence to take risks, the strength to fight our corner and the wisdom to walk away from bad situations and people. Without this self esteem, we leave ourselves defenceless against the whims of others and lack the conviction to lead the lives we deserve.

I often marvel at the innate confidence that a lot (and sadly not all) of black women possess. I say this because it is a miracle that it exists at all. Black women are under a constant barrage of negative imagery almost at every turn.

I am truly sick and tired of the European version of black beauty which the mainstream media champions. I do not need to have fair skin, slight features and long hair to be considered beautiful. The likes of Rihanna, Beyonce, Vanessa Williams and Halle Berry have become the acceptable face of black. It is undeniable that these women are all beautiful but these women are all of mixed parentage/heritage. Why should black beauty have to have a European makeover in order to be recognised as beautiful? At the end of the day this nonsense still peddles the rubbish that only white beauty is true beauty and the further you are from that ideal the further from beautiful you become. It also perpetuates that women are still just commodities and our value still lies in our bodies and faces.

Over the summer a Japanese psychologist, Satoshi Kanazawa came up with a report stating the black women were the most unattractive group of women on the earth. What I found very interesting is that this crackpot’s views were published in the major newspapers even though it had been rubbished by the psychology community. Perhaps the article was published because it actually promoted a widely held belief? To be honest I thought it was garbage to begin with and advised anyone with sense to completely ignore it. What really saddened me is how many Black women actually take this foolishness on board. I had a debate with a Black woman about this report and she agreed with its findings saying that she does find lighter skinned women more attractive than her. This was an intelligent and articulate woman and she was taken in by this. I base attractiveness on the arrangement and symmetry of facial features – skin tone has nothing to do with it.

Black women are known for our fuller lips, small waist to hip ratio (hourglass figure), big thighs and large bottoms. Unfortunately I am lacking in the ‘junk in my trunk’ department but I think that three out of four aint bad. If these features are so awful why are so many women of other races ruining their faces with lip filler, frequenting tanning beds, stocking up on fake tan and marvelling at JLO’s butt?

What is it about Black women that seem to terrify the mainstream media? I remember watching a piece on TV about ‘Hitch’ (rom-com featuring Will Smith). The movie executives ruled out a Black female lead for Will Smith as they feared it would alienate White audiences. Eva Mendes as a Latin American actress was considered a safer, more inclusive choice. What I want to know is it what is so ‘alienating’ about Black women? I suppose I should also put that question to almost every male hip hop artist, rnb singer and black sportsman. I just don’t understand why you almost never see a dark skinned Black woman in a music video (as the love interest) or on the arm of rich Black sportsman? I remember having to do a double take when I first saw Michelle Obama. I couldn’t believe that she was a Black woman! Something is very wrong when you are surprised that a man of colour is married to a Black woman. It is frustrating to think that Black men also believe the hype that somehow Black women have less appeal, status than other women. In the UK Black men are eight times more likely than any other race to date and marry interracially. In a study led by Tamas Bereczkei at University of Pecs (Hungary), his findings suggested that men are typically attracted to women who resemble their mothers. Why are Black men the exception to this rule in such huge numbers?

I am not against inter-racial relationships. That is not what this article is about. It is none of my business who people choose to love. I have a problem with the world seeing Black women as less than other women. Women are still seen as commodities where a beautiful White woman is considered the epitome of beauty and with dark skinned Black women at the very bottom. We live in a world where many Black men believe this hype and choose women who they believe will reflect or enhance their status. I have many friends of mixed parentage who felt that Black men were only interested in them because of their light skin tone. Conversely, I have friends who find themselves constantly snubbed by Black men because they are considered too dark. This breeds insecurity in Black women of every hue. It saddens me that this ‘self hate’ has created a booming trade in skin lightening creams. We still have a long way to go if some Black people think it is a good idea to put mercury on their skin in order to conform to a false and stupid notion of beauty.

‘So what does this have to with marriage?’ I hear you ask, everything is the answer. It is virtually impossible to find lasting love if you lack self esteem. Confidence has little to do with being a mouthy alpha male/female. However, it does give you a sense a self worth, an ability to believe you are deserving of love and gives you an idea of what real love looks like. I’m lucky, I come from a loving family, my dad believes that I am the best thing since sliced bread and my mother taught me to take crap from no one. What about other Black women who do not have that base? They are constantly undermined or ignored by society at large. In western society perhaps there is a pressure for Black men to prove their self worth via external means such as a fancy car, a high paying job and the right looking woman. Perhaps this pressure drives peoples’ choices. How can we hope as a community to be making the right romantic decisions if they are coming from a place of self doubt instead of self worth?

Please let me know your thoughts


Who’s bride is it anyway?


When deciding upon my first independent film, I thought it best to stick to a topic close to my heart. That left me with a decision to make my film either about food, shoes or men. At the time I had seen many articles on line stating that black women in the US and UK were the least likely to be married compared to other races. To add insult to injury many ‘reasons’ were given to explain this phenomenon, apparently we are too argumentative, too fussy, too materialistic, too overweight, too aggressive… I think you get the general gist. I even read another article claiming that an educated black woman of a certain age had more chance of being struck by lightning than getting married. Shoes and food no longer seemed that interesting.

These articles annoyed me on several levels. Firstly, it was the presumption that it’s every woman’s ultimate dream to be married as though it was some kind of prize or some badge of honour that we should all be aspiring to. That women are somehow passive spectators in the game of love waiting to be saved from spinsterhood. Being in a loving relationship is a wonderful thing but it does not define or validate who I am. Single girls are okay too and many have chosen to fly solo.

Secondly, I resent the implication that something is wrong with black women. I admit that as a black woman, I am slightly biased but I think that by and large we are awesome. If you were to read some of the material online you would think that we are anything but fabulous. Professional black women are shot down for having standards and wanting a man to have similar aspirations. Black women from lower socio-economic groups are caricatured as spandex wearing, overweight, promiscuous, gold digging baby mamas. The likes of Hilary Clinton or Kate Brady (UK female entrepreneur) can hold position of power without white women being labelled as a threat to white masculinity. Similarly, Kim Kardashian or Katie Price can have numerous sexual relationships without all white women being seen as sluts. If I hear one more man state that all black women are gold-diggers, I may tear out my weave. I doubt that white young women throw themselves at professional footballers because of their sensitivity, I am sure that it has more to do with their large pay packets. The question is why are black women given such a bad press and everyone else gets a free pass?

Thirdly, it really disappointed me that a lot of this cyber space bile was coming from black men. I know it’s not good to generalise but bear with me. I am sure that most of these men would happily state that they love their mothers dearly yet how come they have all this vitriol for women who most resemble their mothers?

At this point I know that many might think that I am anti-male raging feminist. I am not and have no desire to make film aiming to make all men look like misogynistic fools. That would be dull and untrue. However, it does seem that a lot of black men feel that they have the right to tell black women how to express their sexuality and that they should count themselves lucky if some dude wishes to make an honest woman out of her. That is just wrong on both counts.

Please let me know your thoughts.



P.S I am a feminist but I won’t be burning any bras.