Best of the Week
of Jan. 31, 1999


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Jan. 31, 1999, as selected by Y? These postings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from previous weeks, also can be found in their respective archives, which we invite you to browse. There, you will find questions that have received answers, as well as questions still awaiting responses. We encourage you to answer any questions relevant to your demographic background, as well as to ask any provocative question you desire. Answers posted are not necessarily meant to represent the views of an entire demographic group, but can provide a window into the insights of an individual from that group.

First-time users should first make a quick stop at our guidelines pages for asking and answering questions.

Question Code Key:

A=Age

GD=General Diversity

RE=Religion

C=Class

G=Geography

SE=Sensitive Matters

D=Disabilities

O=Occupation

SO=Sexual Orientation

GE=Gender

R=Race/Ethnicity

THE QUESTION:
A38: To parents: Why do you complain if your kids want only name-brand products?
POSTED FEB. 4, 1999
T. Flores <
ttjap@hotmail.com>, Oceanside, CA

ANSWER 1:
1) They're expensive. 2) The reasons for wanting them - "everyone else has them, I saw it on TV" - are shallow, and I expect better reasons than that for spending money.
POSTED FEB. 5, 1999
Andrew, 35, father of two <
ziptron@start.com.au>, Huntington , NY

FURTHER NOTICE:
Money. They cost more.
POSTED FEB. 5, 1999
31-year-old dad, San Diego, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Parents resent that advertisers are manipulating their children, especially in a way that causes the parents to pay an extra $10 to $50 per garment over equal quality but non-namebrand merchandise.
POSTED FEB. 5, 1999
B. Hale, father of four <
halehart@aol.com>, Hartford, CT
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THE QUESTION:
G62: Why does it seem that the French hate Americans so much?
POSTED DEC. 21, 1998
J.P.P., 28, MI

ANSWER 1:
Some reasons I've heard of (not only in France but also in my country): 1) They envy the United States for its power in foreign affairs. Especially in France, where people still believe in "la grande nation," it is unpleasant for them to see that the United States plays a greater role in international relations. 2.) People become angry because American people are not as interested in their country as they are in the United States. For example, I felt a little angry when an American teenager asked me if there was a moon in Germany (no fun). 3) Some (especially older) people feel threatened by the American culture that is assimilated by their own country. This is more important in countries with a strong national self-esteem like France.
POSTED FEB. 5, 1999
Phil, 19, male, Germany <
pmal42qgmx.net>
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THE QUESTION:
G23: I'm a Southerner and would like to know why it seems a higher percentage of people from New Jersey are rude. I work in an environment where my coworkers and I deal with a lot of people. Most of us agree that those from New Jersey are the rudest people we come across. Why is this?
POSTED AUG. 3, 1998
Kristen, Charlotte, NC

ANSWER 1:
I have lived in New Jersey 20 years (we moved here when I was 2) and have never really found my neighbors, friends or co-workers to be particularly rude. I think you might be mistaking our fast-paced lifestyle and need to get things done quickly as hostility. I was fortunate enough to view the difference between life in the North and the South when I spent my first year of college in Virginia. I found that although people were extremely friendly (yes, more friendly than in New Jersey), everything (including service in restaurants, traffic and just people in general) was horribly slow. I think it is very important when communicating with new people to consider their background (where he or she is coming from) before making a generalization about that person.
POSTED FEB. 4, 1999
Nic, 22 <
nicole_1976@hotmail.com>, NJ
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THE QUESTION:
R446: Why do so many of the white Americans I meet tell me what nationality they are, often going into detail, saying they're 1/24th Icelandic and so forth? I know many Indians, Russians and Jamaicans, and I have usually found out their backround by accident.
POSTED SEPT. 4, 1998
F.S, 24, female, African, Madison, WI

FURTHER NOTICE:
I think the idea that different nationalities or ethnic groups have certain characteristics is part of that. For example, I might attribute my temper to my Scotch-Irish forebears, and my stubbornness and practicality to the German part of my ancestry. Is this true? I don't know. Another consideration is that many Americans are taught to be proud of their heritage so as not to disappear into the melting pot. If you know the history of your family, you have a better perspective on who you are.
POSTED FEB. 4, 1999
Molly S., 38, white immigrants' child, Phoenix , AZ
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THE QUESTION:
D24: If you are being introduced to someone and they are unable to shake hands - they are missing their right hand or their right arm is paralyzed - do you wait to see if they offer their left hand, or should you leave it at a verbal greeting such as "Nice to meet you"?
POSTED SEPT. 4, 1998
Michael G., single male, Seattle, WA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
The habit of shaking hands is one I would be very happy to see disappear. It is not obvious that I have had joints replaced in my hands, but it can be very painful if someone uses even a medium grasp. I simply do not extend my hand for a handshake, but do I ever get some strange looks - especially if the other person puts out their hand. Sometimes it gets really tiresome having to explain, but I just keep on doing it. So please, if it looks as if someone is not going to shake hands, there's probably a good reason. You're right - a great smile and pleasant comment such as "It's good to meet you" will do the trick just as well ,if not better.
POSTED FEB. 4, 1999
Regis <
maeve@golden.net>, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
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THE QUESTION:
SO122: Why do some gays feel compelled to "come out," and others do not? For example, why couldn't Ellen Degeneres just be gay and keep it to herself? I think most straight people are confused by this "need" to come out.
POSTED FEB. 2, 1999
S. Colson., 28, white male straight, married <
smcolson@key-net.net>,Mt. Jewett, PA

ANSWER 1:
Quite often, celebrities and people in the public eye decide to "come out" before someone or something does the job for them. For example, everyone has known in gay circles that Ellen was gay, so it was no secret. Same goes for George Michael, Nathan Lane and many others. Tabloids and other publication revel in "outing" celebrities. It sells papers. Also, Ellen's attempt at "straight" comedy in a film was a flop; everyone knew she was gay, as it had been whispered for years. Others just want to make a statement and sometimes even set an example. Teenagers and young adults confused over sexual identity often identify with people in the public eye and are often influenced by them. I feel sorry for people who wait until later in life to come out. I knew I was gay at 20 and came out then and have never felt uncomfortable about it.
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
Rick T., gay male, Cambridge , MA

FURTHER NOTICE:
It doesn't surprise me that many straight people have difficulty understanding "coming out." There's nothing analogous to it in the experience of most heterosexuals. This is because it's an almost universally held assumption in our society that unless you say otherwise, you're straight. And coming out is "saying otherwise."

People come out for many reasons. More and more, it's because many gay people have grown tired of pretending to be something they're not. Being in the closet is humiliating, and it's hard. It's hard to constantly lie and dissemble, to change the subject when the topic of dating/romance comes up with family, friends, co-workers, etc. It's profoundly alienating not to be able to be honest with other people about such a fundamental aspect of one's life. You feel that other people don't really know you, and that consequently they can't really love you. My decision to come out to my parents was based in part on my awareness of a certain distance that was growing between us. I felt as though I was cutting them out of my life, pushing them away. When I did come out to them, it was a tremendous relief. They accepted me for who I was. It was worth the risk of rejection. I would rather be hated for who I am than accepted for who I am not.

Coming out may also be seen as an act with deep political implications. By being out, you implicitly reject the idea that being gay is somehow shameful, and the concomitant notion that discrimination and persecution of gays is acceptable. Being out can help to break down certain stereotypes. It can change hearts and minds. Many people with hostile feelings toward gays have been forced to re-examine and change their attitudes when they learned that a close relative or friend was gay. The homosexual is no longer an alien "other" who can be easily demonized, but a person who is known and loved.

Imagine if you had to hide the fact that you were married, had a girlfriend or children. Some people expect gays to do something very similiar. And many of us do. But it's a hell of a way to live. Ultimately, it's no gurantee of being left alone. There are people who will attack us no matter how discreet we are. It's better to stand up for yourself.
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
Robert L., 31, gay male, Los Angeles, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
There is coming out to society, and coming out in the sense of admitting to yourself that you are gay after many years of denial. For many, this release from repression is an amazing feeling akin to a religious conversion. I'm not surprised that a gay person may want to share this publicly. There are also political aspects to coming out. I didn't "come out" in public, but occasionally I'll do something like show affection to my boyfriend in public, and the reaction is the same as if I'd gone round with a t-shirt saying "I'm gay" on it. As a married white male, you don't need to come out. You can turn and kiss your wife in the shopping center and no one will notice. It's all a question of perception.
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
Ben S., queer Caucasian male <
bscaro@hotmail.com>, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
It's not a question of having a "need" to come out, it's a question of having a need to live one life instead of two.

The current hostile climate for homosexuals, as well as the fact that we don't look any different from straights on the surface, tends to make us want to hide our real desires. The pressure is enormous to conform to "normal" sexual practices, even when those practices are unnatural to oneself (and yes, sex with a woman would be unnatural to me - the fact that it isn't for straight men is irrelevant). However, as I've just pointed out, conforming forces us to do things that don't come naturally. And as anyone who's ever tried to go without food, water or bathroom breaks knows, nature always finds a way to assert herself eventually. So most gays who "stay in" actually lead double lives, and satisfy their natural desires secretly. Those of us who "come out" make the choice to take whatever abuse society dumps on us, so we can live one life - our natural one instead of two. It's unfortunate that many of us lose our jobs and homes because of it, but most of us eventually are happier living as we were made to live. For the record, I'm one of the lucky ones who's mostly been supported, so I can't speak of loss from personal experience.
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
Brian W., 25, gay white male, Champaign, IL

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
"Coming out" usually begins with coming out to oneself. Once a person realizes they they are gay, they may or may not be accepting of this new information. Either way, there becomes an increasing awareness of exactly how much our world is geared toward heterosexuality. This is a difficult thing to explain, but when talking about what you did over the weekend, or when someone enthusiastically offers to "fix you up" with someone, you become hypersensitive to all the lies you are creating. This becomes more and more stressful, and often leads to a decision to publicly come out.

Many people fear (with good reason) the repercussions of telling others, but once people have a strong support system, they either hide within that system or decide that hiding is no longer an option. Ellen tried to keep her orientation to herself, but the public (including the gay press) hounded her so much that she finally had enough. For me, and for many others, this is an immensly freeing act. If you can imagine what it would be like to hide your wedding ring, and not "admit" that you found women attractive, and to grow up having your parents talk about how wonderful it will be when you find the perfect man, you may begin to have some insight into the need to come out.
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
Chris C., 39 <
tankgrrl29@aol.com>, Lisle , Il

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I feel compelled to reply as a straight woman with a great number of gay friends. Why in the world would our very open, very normal friendships, which include discussions about work, clothes, Clinton, wine, travel, hangovers, etc, not include references to our significant others? That just doesn't make sense. You know your boss' spouse's name, and you do ask about friends' girlfriends/boyfriends/spouses when you run into friends on the street, right? You know these people's names and their roles because they are important to your friends. I's that simple. To leave such a huge portion of one's life in the dark, in the closet if you will, would be a great, dark burden to carry around. After all, if you can't tell your friends, who can you tell?
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
Kat, single white female, straight but gay friendly, Birmingham, AL

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
Let's assume same-sex relationships were the norm. How would you feel if you had to lie every time someone in the office asked you about the ring on your ring finger? Or if you had to make up a lie that the woman in the photo on your desk was your sister and not really your signifcant other? Every time you wanted to hold your girlfriend's hand in public, people gave you looks and many people would treat you differently. How about if every time you're hanging out with your friends and see someone attractive, you can't show interest because your friends are not straight? Imagine having to constantly live a lie and change the gender of your pronouns and be careful of what you say about your personal life at work and even in your social life. Plus, men and women are expected to follow gender-enforced stereotypes and act a certain way and like certain things; i.e. women are not supposed to enjoy working on cars and guys are not supposed to be ballet dancers, and all that. We have to come out of the closet to express who and what we are and to be free and get rid of an extremly unhealthy load of stress, or else we are doomed to die in a "don't ask, don't tell" world.
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
D. Meerkat, 26, male, bisexual, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
Was there any particular reason you felt compelled to "come out'' as a straight, married person? Couldn't you have just kept that to yourself?
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
Andrew, 35, out of the closet as a straight, married person <
ziptron@start.com.au>,Huntington , NY

FURTHER NOTICE 8:
Heterosexuals don't have to come out because it is assumed that you are heterosexual unless you indicate differently. Many gay, lesbian and bisexual people feel the need (and pride) to "come out" so they won't have to "hide" anything. And, coming out acknowledges our very existence. For example, what I did this weekend, with whom, who I am dating, who I am living with, etc. And why shouldn't Ellen come out? There are millions of closeted gay/lesbian/bi people (youth especially) who need to know that they are not the only ones out there. But, please remember, Ellen can afford to come out. The everyday person still today, in 1999, fears losing their job, losing their parents' love and being rejected from everyone, including their house of worship. Coming out is cathartic for most people and can be the beginning of a wonderful journey.
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
Sheila, 49, lesbian, gay/lesbian/bisexual counselor, <
Hopeteens@aol.com>, West Palm Beach , FL

FURTHER NOTICE 9:
Do you have a picture of your wife on your desk? Do you hold your wife's hand in public? Do you bring her to company parties? Did your friends and family celebrate your commitment at a wedding? Do you talk about your relationship with friends? Do you ever comment to your friends about how attractive you think a particular woman is? Do you sign posts on Y? Forum as "white straight male, married"?

If you said yes to any of these questions, tyou are an out heterosexual. Did you ever ask yourself why you feel the need to do these things? Of course not. So why should a homosexual? Can you imagine what it must be like to fear for your safety because you hold your wife's hand in public, or fear for your job because you place her picture on your desk, or not be able to marry her because some right-wing Congressman might think you're a pervert? The discomfort you seem to feel around out gay people is nothing compared to what it feels like to not feel free to do basic, human, everyday things like holding your partner's hand.
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
Rhiannon, 28, likes to hold hands in public <
rock0048@tc.umn.edu>, Minneapolis , MN

FURTHER NOTICE 10:
Do you speak of your wife/girlfriend to co-workers? (Simple things like what you did over the weekend.) Do you hold hands in public or kiss in the movies? Can you go dancing without drawing stares from strangers? Did anyone think it perverted for you to marry the woman you loved? Do people insult you or vandalize your property because you are heterosexual? Do they threaten you with physical violence or beat you because you like women? Do you worry about your bosses firing or not promoting you if they find out you are heterosexual?

We come in all flavors, just like the rest of the world. We can be quiet, flamboyant, ignorant, open-minded, selfish, compassionate, etc. I'm disturbed that some people judge me on my sexuality instead of my personality or accomplishments. But I will not hide. I will participate in conversations and include my partner; I will hold her hand if I feel like it; I will not be tucked away in a closet. If that makes you feel uncomfortable, you are part of the reason Ellen came out. We're everywhere, and we do not want to have to hide.
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
Nancy <
ranebow@iname.com>, Butler , PA

FURTHER NOTICE 11:
Sexual orientation is not exual behavior. I don't talk about my bedroom activities at work; that is inappropriate and unprofessional. It is also, in some cases, sexual harrassment. But, I need to be able to openly worry about my wife when she's sick, praise her when she gets an award at work, laugh about our differences, share our occassional arguments and live my life as freely as any heterosexual. It's a matter of dignity
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
Alma, openly gay white lesbian, federal employee <
pridewks@seacove.net>,Kempner , TX

FURTHER NOTICE 12:
If at any time homosexuality is the assumed norm, and you are forced to either hide your heterosexuality or openly profess it to be recognized for who you are, then you might begin to understand.

That having been said, there are some differences between simply "coming out" and what I call "coming out with a vengeance." Ellen took her "coming out" as an opportunity to attack everyone possible with allegations of homophobia. She still maintains that people who did not like her show or failed to think it was the best sitcom ever,were homophobic. She also continues to say that she and Anne Heche are discriminated against, despite the fact that they get twice as many offers a day as the average actress with similar name recognition. This is the same person who openly fondled her partner during a public dinner with the President, something that even straight couples would avoid. Is that simply "coming out"?
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
John K., straight, 25 <
the-macs@geocities.com>, Cranford , NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 13:
The classic response to this question is why do straights feel they have to flaunt their heterosexuality by holding hands, hugging and even kissing in public, let alone discussing furniture, wallpaper, landscaping and other things that convey that they share a household, and worst of all unabashedly displaying pictures of their children and their marriage ceremonies at their cubicle. Why can't they just keep this private stuff private?
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
B. Hale, straight <
halehart@aol.com>, Hartford , CT

FURTHER NOTICE 14:
There is nothing in straight (heterosexual) experience that compares to "coming out." Straight men and women have no need to hide their sexual orientation because in our society it is always assumed one is straight unless he or she says otherwise. I don't want people to assume I am straight any more than you would want people assuming you are gay. Why is it that if you walk hand-in-hand with your wife no one gives it a second thought, yet if I do the same with my partner, it's considered a militant and subversive act? Lesbians and gay men have and always will comprise a significant portion of the population, and it is only by "coming out" that we demonstrate through example that we are just as loving, decent and productive members of society as our straight counterparts. For you to suggest we need to stay in the closet indicates you think less of us than that.
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
Chuck A., 39, gay male <
PolishBear@aol.com,>,Spring Hill, WV S

FURTHER NOTICE 15:
I think it depends on what you mean by "out." Most of us "come out" to friends and family, but don't have a sitcom and publicity agent - nor want one. The problems generally tend to come from those people who have a problem with gays and lesbians - so when you show up to a function with your partner, they make a bigger deal of it than is necessary. (These are the same folks who call it "flaunting" to have a picture of your partner on your desk, but have no problem with their husband/wife's picture on theirs.) For most straight people, the discomfort factor has less to do with the person being gay than with uncertainty as to how they are supposed to behave.
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
Michael, 37 gay white male <
txmichael@worldnet.att.net>, Houston , TX
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THE QUESTION:
R575: Why do black people like to wear hockey jerseys? Hockey is a sport with more white fans than black. In fact, when my uncle, who is white, a hockey player and the son of a Canadian (where hockey is the national sport) wears a hockey jersey, some black people accuse him of wanting to be black. Why is that?
POSTED JAN. 6, 1999
Hayley, white, 28, straight, Chicago, IL

ANSWER 1:
Many African Americans wear them just as a fashion statement. That's it. If you wear a cowboy hat, does that mean you should immediately jump on a horse and ride off into the sunset? Clothes are just clothes. I've seen short, heavy overweight guys wearing basketball jerseys. Everyone knows that all basketball players are tall and slender, right? Also, remember there have been black professional hockey players as far back as the early 1900s. The first black to break through to the NHL, Willie O'Ree, played for the Boston Bruins and is still alive, teaching the sport to inner-city kids. And there are more black hockey players than ever right now (you've probably seen a few). And I myself used to watch Blackhawk games on closed-circuit at a local movie theater (thanks to cheap owner Bill Wirtz). I am very familiar with the sport and played it a little with my friends when we were kids. So don't assume that blacks know nothing about hockey and that it is a "white sport." And remember, clothes are just clothes.
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
Ken G., African American <
KennyG9@yahoo.com>, Chicago , Il
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THE QUESTION:
R268: My wife says blacks at her work have confided to her that blacks envy blacks who are lighter-skinned than themselves. They told her the lighter you are, the more desirable you are, and the darker you are, the less desirable. Has anyone else encountered this belief?
POSTED MAY 14, 1998
Dirtydog 53, white male <
dirtydog@globalsite.net>, Richmond, IN
(Similar question posted July 17, 1998, by Nancy S., 70, white, Ventura, CA)

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
There is a continuing problem in the black community with those of us who are considered "Color Struck" - a term that describes the obsession that some blacks have with being light-skinned, or their obsession with light-skinned blacks. The distinction of skin tone in our race dates back to slavery, when white slave owners often raped black women or kept them as concubines. As a result, mulatto (biracial) offspring were lighter-skinned. They were treated better than darker slaves, often receiving education, and sometimes their freedom, and other luxuries that darker blacks were not afforded. Consequently, within the black community, lighter-skinned blacks were viewed as those who were most like whites and were better than other blacks. Although it isn't as divisive as it used to be, black America does have some serious issues to deal with as far as the rift that was created among us years ago.
POSTED FEB. 2, 1999
Black Female
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THE QUESTION:
RE125: It's my belief that Missionaries have brought nothing but destroyed cultures and local histories to originally non-Christian communities, and that people in Christian societies are more promiscuous and live less harmoniously. Do these Missionaries have no respect for local cultures, which may have longer histories than Christianity?
POSTED DEC. 18, 1998
Joe C., 32, Chinese male, Fremont , CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
I don't particularly agree or disagree with the bit about promiscuity, but I feel very strongly that Missions are an intolerant practice. They go to happy people who are practicing their own culture, and take to them the attitude that they are ignorant savages who need "enlightenment." It's bad enough in the United States, where non-Christians generally have experience telling Missionaries to p--- off, but here in Israel they are starting to set up shop. The problem is, most Israelis have close family who have been murdered or killed in wars for their faith but have no practical experience with Missionaries and do not know how to deal with them firmly. To me, it's incredibly offensive to try to sell Christianity to a mother who lost a parent to Hitler and a son to Syria defending their Judaism.
POSTED FEB. 2, 1999
Jesse N., 39, Jew <
jesse.nadel@usa.net>, Herzliya, Israel
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THE QUESTION:
RE10: In light of Matthew 6:6, in which Christians are admonished not to pray in public view, how can ''vociferous" Christians justify the demand for open prayer in schools and in other public facilities?
POSTED MARCH 16, 1998
Scottie, Pensacola, FL

FURTHER NOTICE:
Our Constitution was written by Christians and based on the Bible. Patrick Henry once said: "It cannot be too often repeated or too strongly emphasized that America was not founded by religionists, nor on any other religion, but by Christians, on the Gospel of Jesus Christ." Samuel Adams, Father of the American Revolution and a strong Christian, said after voting for the Declaration of Independence, "We have this day restored the Sovereign, to whom alone men ought to be obedient." In the Founding Fathers' day, the Bible was so central to the education of children that Thomas Jefferson mandated as President that every school child read it and Watts' hymnal. And speaking of our Constitution, we might not even have one if it weren't for 'ole Ben Franklin's plea for prayer in a hoplessly deadlocked convention in June 1787.

Despite these and other facts, the First Amendment and other parts of the Constitution have been twisted to say things they were never intended to mean. Perhaps this is why Christians and other groups are trying to defend their religious liberties. Remember, these "vociferous" Christians are not forcing anyone to participate in anything they don't want to. Besides, a little prayer never hurt anyone, wouldn't you say?

I wasn't born in this amazing country, but I would give my life in any war to preserve its greatness. People living in Cuba or China can only do as they are told by their governments, and in countries like Mexico, the government steals from its own people. You could say we have it pretty good here. Something has to keep our government in check, and that something has always been, as I see it, its accountability to God.
POSTED FEB. 1, 1999
Daniel V., 26, male, Latin, Cocoa Beach, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
The Constitution may have been written by Christians, but to say it is based on the Bible is unsupported by facts. God, as a word or a concept, appears nowhere in the body of the Constitution, and its only appearance in the Bill of Rights is where Congress is prohibited from making any law regarding the establishment of any religion. The Bill of Rights does not say laws favoring Christianity are OK; it says no law favoring any religion is acceptable. As for the statement that "a little prayer never hurt anybody'"- I'd disagree. If you're a kid in school who happens to be Jewish, Muslim or anything non-Christian, it's uncomfortable enough to be surrounded by a majority that's different from you. But it's another story when the state, in the form of the teacher, the principal or whomever starts in on the glory of Jesus our savior. The same applies with overtly Christian prayers at governmental functions. Here's the message: "Congratulations, Jews or Muslims! You've just been rendered an Official Outsider! Feel free to leave your own country - you're not welcome here."
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
Andrew, 35, Jewish <
ziptron@start.com.au>, Huntington , NY

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
As a Jew, I can't comment on what's written in Mark, or what Christian practices could/should be. But I am very distressed by Christians who advocate recital of prayers at public gatherings, especially at government functions, such as in public schools. There are many, many Jews, Muslims and others who are legitimately attending these functions, who are compelled to listen to prayers contrary to their beliefs. Christians ought to understand that each and every prayer offered by a Christian is fundamentally unsuitable and inappropriate for a person of any other faith. In my opinion, Christians ought to refrain from prayers where any of those in attendance are of another faith
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
Jesse N., 39, Jew <
jesse.nadel@usa.net>, Herzliya, Israel

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
Actually, the verse does not mean to "pray to yourself," as you may think It's better if I give you an example. Let's say two entertainers wanted to make a donation to charity. One decides to make this donation a media circus; he/she wants everyone to know how "giving" he/she is. The other entertainer makes the donation anonymously; he/she wants nothing but the happiness of the charity in return. Which entertainer would you believe really had the charity in mind? To me, the verse describes people who pray for people in a "showing off" sort of way. If you read the following verses of that chapter you may get the same indication. While there is nothing wrong with praying for anyone or even praying out loud, prayers of a boastful nature help no one.
POSTED FEB. 3, 1999
Demetris, 33, Christian <
demetris@earthlink.net>, Frederick , MD
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THE QUESTION:
R590: I've noticed that while white children often have black sports heroes, and certainly black children have black sports heroes, I've never seen or heard of black children having white sports heroes. Is it considered "uncool" for them to do so? Would they be thought of as a "traitor" to their race? POSTED FEB. 1, 1999
Ken M., white male <
kmatson@bellatlantic.net>, Philadelphia, PA

ANSWER 1:
There is much to your observation. I believe this "phenomenon" that you observe may be directly related to basic human nature and to the heavily racially stratified society in which we live. It is human nature to identify with someone more "like yourself," whether that likeness is cultural or physical. In a society that has made a practice of devaluing black humanity (today most notably in its mass media), black children have few real heroes to choose from. They can most easily identify with the black sports hero, who, in spite of the deck being stacked against him, has risen to equal footing, if not dominance in some sports, with his white counterpart. Most white children don't live in a culture that promises them glass ceilings and discriminatory hiring practices, and that offers them a second-class citizenship, so they can feel comfortable choosing heroes of any color. This is not to say that black children never choose white sports heroes; they are not blind to the excellence of the likes of Joe Montana, Larry Bird, or Mark McGwire.
POSTED FEB. 4, 1999
Sam, 30, male, brown American, Toni Kukoc fan <
SamAlex67@aol.com>, Chicago , Il

FURTHER NOTICE:
While it may seem more obvious that back children have more black heroes in general, you need to look at the makeup of the professional sports leagues they watch. The NBA is 75 percent black, the NFL is about 60 percent black. So of cours they have mainly black role models. Baseball, a predominantly white/Latino sport, is just not as popular with most black people. I know some of those fans, however, according to their team affiliation, have heroes like Cal Ripken Jr., Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell.
POSTED FEB. 4, 1999
Erik, black male, 47 <
erikdb1@go.com>, Denver , Co

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I believe that years ago, when sports were white-dominated, that black kids did have white sports heroes and probably weren't shy to admit it. I am only 26, so I can't readily name any of them. I'm sure there are black kids who admire Mark McGuire and John Elway. We are, however, very supportive of our own, which might explain why it appears that we don't idolize (for lack of a better word) others. On a separate, but related note, have white men given up on playing in the NBA?
POSTED FEB. 4, 1999
R.G., black female, 26, Richmond, VA

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
It has been my experience, just in listening to the local black leaders, that blacks feel very strongly about black children having black role models. And as an outsider looking in, it seems to stem from the days of slavery. Remember, blacks weren't always treated as equals in this country. So today it is understandibly important that blacks have and want black role model. It spurs further success and heightens the heritage. What is equally important, though, is that blacks also be taught that it is OK to have a white, Asian, Hispanic, etc., role model. We should be evaluating the role model based on his or her qualities, not color. Given the proper course, role models of every color will abound, and if we're cautious about not rushing the process, we should be so lucky to end up with those of the highest possible qualit.
POSTED FEB. 4, 1999
B.Green, 29, Gloucester , VA

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THE QUESTION:
GE114: My teenage daughter wants to know: If a married man's illicit lover is called a "mistress," what is a married woman's illicit lover called? A "misters"? Where and when did the term "mistress" originate?
POSTED FEB. 1, 1999
Julie F. experienced mommy <
farel@worldnet.att.net>, NJ

ANSWER 1:
"Mistress" as a title can refer to just about any woman. According to Funk & Wagnalls New Comprehensive International Dictionary of the English Language, the contractions "Mrs." and "Ms." are shortened forms of "mistress." The definition of mistress then has four entries (paraphrased here): A woman in authority; a woman who fills the place of a wife, or a sweetheart; a woman who is well-skilled at anything; and a married woman in Scotland. The term comes from the old French word "maistresse," the feminine form of the word that means "master."

As you can see, the word can mean other things besides an illicit lover, and just about any woman can fit into the definition of a mistress according to Funk & Wagnalls. And, I suppose you could call a married woman's illicit lover a "mister," simply because all men are called misters. I can only guess that we know the term "mistress" primarily to mean a lover because we so often associate the word "wife" to mean a spouse.
POSTED FEB. 5, 1999
Stephen S., 31, married male, San Antonio, TX

FURTHER NOTICE:
The male equivalent is "gigolo." Mistress is a courtesy title, as in concertmistress for the first violinist if a woman. It's a more polite term than various slang words that could be used for the woman in an adulterous affair.
POSTED FEB. 5, 1999
B. Hale, paragon of marital fidelity <
halehart@aol.com>, Hartford , CT
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