Ever since that dinner conversation (see entry for Nov. 4) about the annoying habit Americans have of saying “How are you?” when they greet you, I’ve been noticing how often people ask me that. I try to avoid answering the question and launch into conversation instead, but that’s harder than you think. The thing is, people who really know and care about me ask me how I’m doing and I ask the same of people I sincerely care about. These are people who would stop if I answered the question in any way other than “Fine” and people for whom I’d stop. In that context, it’s sweet – this habitual check-in with friends. I still get annoyed when I’m asked that question by people who have little interest in me; in the same way that I’m annoyed by small talk. But I’m strongly considering changing my opinion of this ritual we have checking in with our friends.