Best of the Week
of March 10, 2002

Best of Week Archives

Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of March 10, 2002, as selected by Y? These postings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from previous weeks, also can be found by accessing Y?'s database using the search form, or, in the case of answers posted before April 24, 1999, in the Original Archives (all questions from the Original Archives have been entered into the database as well). In the Original Archives, as well as in the database, you will find questions that have received answers, as well as questions still awaiting responses. You are encouraged 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.

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Question:

Do blacks feel physical pleasure differently than whites? In sex, food, warmth and other physical pleasures and desires, it appears black people are somehow hungrier for the pleasure than white people. How can this be? Neurotransmitter differences? Seratonin uptake?

POSTED 3/14/2002

T.C., Philadelphia, PA, United States, Mesg ID 314200295857

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Question:

This is an issue I've asked about in the past, and it's popped up in our workplace again. We have sections where the workload far exceeds the personnel, and some supervisors are pushing their employees not to take a lunch break. The last time the issue surfaced, they almost had a riot on their hands. At my boss' request, I researched the issue and told them they were setting themselves up for a major FLRA class-action. You can't work people 50 hours a week and not give them a break. They're still trying to find a loophole, and I think at a minimum they'll lose good people and play hell getting any replacements worth a nickel. 'Y?' participants have provided me excellent feedback in the past; I'd like to hear from management and labor folks on their experiences with this problem.

POSTED 3/14/2002

Alma, Kempner, TX, United States, 48, Female, Methodist, White/Caucasian, Lesbian, contract employee, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 314200293752

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Question:

I am a 17 and a black male. I've been dating my girlfriend of a different race for about five months. My family doesn't have a problem with it. But hers do. They believe that if God wanted people to mix, He would have made us all the same. In the beginning it wasn't that bad, but now it's just frustrating. I don't know what to do. I love her and don't want to let her go, but if this keeps up I don't know how long I can take it. What can I do to help out? How can I help change their minds about me? I'm really lost and starting to get scared that I won't be able to handle this and dump her over it. And that's not a good reason for anything.

POSTED 3/12/2002

Ethan B., Rochester Hills, MI, United States, , <EbPlyaPmp@aol.com>, 17, Male, African Methodist Episcopalian, Black/African American, Straight, Student, Less than High School Diploma, Middle class, Mesg ID 311200241408


Responses:
I've been in your situation, and I know how frustrating it can be. You don't say how much time you've spent around her parents, but I would like to suggest that you and your girlfriend find ways to spend time at her house and with her parents. I know the normal tendency would be to avoid them because you feel they don't approve of you, but I think the opposite tactic would work better. You seem to be a nice young man who really cares about their daughter. The more chances they have to see the two of you together, see you getting along, see that you treat her respectfully, etc., the better it will be. Also, sometimes people make judgments about an entire group of people because they don't know any individual members of that group. Then when they get to know a person and find out he's nice, he's interesting, he's fun or whatever, they start to realize that we are all more alike than we are different. Scientifically there is no such thing as a different race because we are all members of the human race. That race thing was made up by people who wanted to create social classes. Remember that we are all God's children, He made all of us, He didn't make any mistakes, and the truth is, if He hadn't wanted us to get together, He would have done something to make that impossible. So her parents are misguided, but perhaps by getting to know you better and realizing that you sincerely care about their daughter and about their feelings, you can be the person who makes a big difference in their lives and releases them from prejudice.

POSTED 3/12/2002

Sara, Oakland, CA, United States, <SaraStitt@compaq.net>, Female, Mesg ID 312200284248


The first thing that you could do to help anyone change their minds is to present yourself in a respectful manner. I read your post and you reminded me of my nephew until I saw your email address, which looks like it reads: 'Playa Pimp.' I don't care what color my daughter's boyfriend may be, if he's advertising himself as a pimp, I don't want him anywhere near. You seem like a sincere young man, and ultimately it will be up to her to deal with her parents if she feels the same. Hopefully, you are good to her and her parents will see that and come around.

POSTED 3/12/2002

Samm B., Boston, MA, United States, 37, Female, New Age/Metaphysical, Black/African American, Straight, artist, 2 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 3122002115456


Let me guess: your girlfriend is white, possibly full-figured and probably blond with straight hair. No coincidence. This is the type of woman most black men choose. And let me guess another thing: you grew up around a lot of black people and have a lot of black friends, but your girlfriend 'just happens' to be white. Tell me something: do you find Caucasian (white) features more attractive than black features? Just curious. Of course this could be a rare case of true love, but I find this other dynamic in many, if not most, black/white relationships I've come across.

POSTED 3/12/2002

Mike, Detroit, MI, United States, Male, Mesg ID 3122002124103

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Question:

Why do white people feel the need to control all aspects of life and not to accept the contributions of others - until they witness or claim these contributions for themselves?

POSTED 3/11/2002

Daniel A., San Francisco, CA, United States, 27, Male, Black/African American, Straight, Musician, Over 4 Years of College, Lower class, Mesg ID 311200294235


Responses:
What kind of question is this? I thought I read in Y? Forum's policy that you publish only questions that merit discourse and elicit responses that aren't based on racial bias.

POSTED 3/14/2002

J.G., Culpeper, VA, United States, 37, Male, Baptist, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 3142002103249


You've asked an excellent question, one that I've pondered for the longest time. Although I would say most middle-class and upper-class whites on an individual level try to not exert that type of behavior, as a whole they definitely do, whether they realize it or not. Why they do this - perhaps it may have historical roots. For instance, when one studies medieval history, the whole goal of the Anglo-Saxons was to 'command and conquer.' They wanted to broaden their boundaries, a desire going beyond race. It seemed as if violence was a quicker solution to obtaining lands than diplomacy. And in a way, they were right, because violence can cause a fearful respect. And when the gun was invented, things got worse. I think this initially is what got whites to possess their 'power trip,' because they were able to basically wipe out or enslave civilizations. And so consequently the remnants of the conquered civilizations (minorities) started to view whites as being better, because they had all the wealth and power (even though it had been stolen from others). Despite all this, I think non-whites or minorities are the largest contributing factor to why whites continue to power-trip. This is because minorities always subconsciously feel whites are superior. In fact, name a race that doesn't in some form or fashion show this thinking. From posts I've seen on Y? Forum, all people of color discriminate based on light skin/ dark skin preferences. Japanese people portray their media with white features, even though most of their population is Asian. Blacks seem to associate being educated, successful and grammatically correct as being 'white,' but have a less positive stereotype for themselves.The list goes on, and when white people observe this behavior, it reinforces the idea they are better. White people will never be able to see other races' individuality if these groups continue to act as if the white way is the right way.

POSTED 3/15/2002

Kristina, Washington, DC, United States, <kfount500@aol.com>, 21, Female, Christian, Black/African American, Straight, 2 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 312200243222


I don't know. I recognize what you're talking about, and it sounds right. I think that perhaps our progress is partially, vestigially motivated by an inferiority complex from a thousand or so years back, when we were being exploited and conquered.

POSTED 3/15/2002

J. Fleming, Chicago, IL, United States, 28, Male, Atheist, White/Caucasian, 2 Years of College, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 312200255038


Everyone seeks to control his or her environment and optimize their own circumstances, regardless of race. If you feel as though you are powerless, your perception that others seek to 'control all aspects of life and not to accept the contributions of others' takes on additional meaning and force. Whites I know don't think about the world this way. They try to do the best they can with conrolling whatever they can, and let the rest go. Whites spend one percent of the time spent by blacks thinking about race and 'control.' Blacks should stop wasting their time so focused on white 'control' issues and face the issues of black 'control.' An example might help. Young black males typically think of education as a 'white' thing. Yet education allows anybody to place things in context, help get a handle on probable causality, and therefore 'control' their environment better. Yet because doing well in school is viewed as acting white, and therefore selling out to the 'power structure,' young black guys are often willfully ignorant. As to the contributions of others, I cannot say what you mean. If you are talking about the Afrocentric interpretation of history, for example, then much of that argument is sheer nonsense from a factual perspective. It is self-defeating posturing without substance, put forth in the vain attempt to make a people feel better about themselves. The wellspring of the dominant culture worldwide (i.e. democratically-oriented, market-based economic systems firmly grounded in empirically demonstrated causality beliefs) is fundamentally Eurocentric. Not completely so, but fundamentally so. This is not to say that other systems don't have a measure of validity. Neither is it to say that other ways of going about things may not serve the individual or society better. It is simply that, at this point in human history, other systems lack the global success and worldwide appeal of a fundamentally Eurocentric model. At one point in history, for example, Arab-based Islamic culture held the preeminent position as the most appealing system. No so any longer. People everywhere want to eat, be sheltered, entertained and so forth. The Eurocentric model works better to satisfy these needs, and is therefore more appealing. Demonstrably more appealing.

POSTED 3/15/2002

T.C., Philadelphia, PA, United States, 49, Male, White/Caucasian, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 3142002102915

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Question:

If you've grown up in luxury (multi-millionaire family) and enjoyed the finer things in life all your life, would you work as, say, a waitress or security guard if misfortune hit and your family found itself broke? I'm not talking about people like struggling musicians or actors who have an unexpected hit or two and are suddenly rolling in dough, then lose it all in a wild lifestyle. I'm talking about people who come from families who have been rich for generations. How low would you go if the money disappeared?

POSTED 3/2/2002

missjohn316, Washington, DC, United States, 29, Female, Christian, Afro-Caribbean, Straight, administrative assistant, Technical School, Middle class, Mesg ID 2272002103933


Responses:
I don't think they'd know how to handle that situation. More than likely they would panic, because they know they won't have the luxuries that they were accustomed to. In the long run, they wouldn't have any type of job skills to get a decent job because they figured they had no need for those skills. Also, considering how sensitive people are lately, they would probably commit suicide because they know they wouldn't dare lift a finger to work and have an 'I'd rather die, than work' mentality. Although not all familes exhibit this type of behavior, the small majority that does didn't prepare for the future, if something should happen and the money disappears.

POSTED 3/12/2002

Chris, Los Angeles, CA, United States, 24, Male, Asian, Straight, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 33200213430


How low would I go? I don't consider waitresses or security men to be 'lower' than doctors or lawyers. Lord knows I've run into waitresses and security guards who are politer than doctors and lawyers I've known. For me, manners, compassion (and maybe learning) are the only yardsticks of class. In the United States, we have no real 'upper echelon' that consists of families who have been in the upper echelon for generations (like in Europe), but we do have a lot of people who WISH they were high class. Here it's usually measured by money rather than background, which is pretty dangerous when you equate having money with 'high' and having none with 'low.' I would equate having heart with 'high' and having none with 'low.' This is why I work in the non-profit sector, making much less money than I would doing the same job for corporations or the government. I come from a dirt-poor background, mostly because none of my family seems to be able to fit into the machine. I've worked at fast food and cleaning, and I've got to say, it does suck, because people use you to make themselves feel good. 'She's only a waitress, and I've got a diamond ring,' etc. I wouldn't feel bad about working as a fast-food robot again if I were hard on my luck from an aspect of prestige. My mother taught me that any work done well has dignity. Rather I would feel bad about working as a fast-food robot because its so boring and dead-end. I'm not rich, so maybe this isn't the answer you're looking for, but I do think that if I became rich, I wouldn't want my modest lifestyle to change too much. Money can't buy happiness, and that's the truth.

POSTED 3/12/2002

Amber, Barrow, AK, United States, 29, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Development, Lower class, Mesg ID 36200243922

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Question:

What are people in France like? What kind of customs and courtesies are there in France, such as greetings, visiting, eating, gestures, personal appearance, group meetings, traveling and communicating interpersonally?

POSTED 3/2/2002

Heather H., W. Jefferson, NC, United States, <HAH_2000_18@yahoo.com>, 19, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, Full-time student, 2 Years of College, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 228200271828


Responses:
I've traveled to France four times over the past 10 years, and I have always found them to be generally friendly, curious about America and generous with their time. This is especially true in the countryside. Paris is a large city where you are more likely to be treated rudely, like you would be in a large U.S. city. The older French people still have fond memories of American GIs liberating their country. The younger folks are intrigued by American music and films.

POSTED 3/12/2002

Kenneth, Milwaukee, WI, United States, 47, Male, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Straight, writer, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 33200233004


Greetings are important in France. People would never dream of walking into a store and beginning to shop without greeting the clerk or staff. And one doesn't just say, 'Hi.' Everyone does this little ritual of greeting - it's really quite elegant. You'd say, 'Bonjour Madam' (always addressing a person with his or her title). If you do this, the French are so pleased (because they don't expect it from Americans) - they just light up. Even if you can't say another word of French, just use sign language - but add s'il vous plaît - that's 'Please' - and 'Merci, Madame.' You see: You don't just say 'thanks,' - you say, 'Thank you, Ma'am.' That much I can say with confidence. There's a lot more going on in French culture that is outside my experience.

POSTED 3/12/2002

Ann H., Chisago City, MN, United States, 40s, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, Communicaton, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 35200285105

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Question:

If non-whites (especially blacks) are seen as 'inferior,' then why do so many white people risk melanoma cancer just for the sake of getting dark? Does darkening your skin mean that you're not satisfied with your natural coloring? Why not be proud of the skin you were born in? Thanks for any insight you can give me.

POSTED 3/2/2002

J.B., Louisville, KY, United States, Female, Black/African American, Nurse, Mesg ID 32200254037


Responses:
I don't feel superior to other races. I go to the tanning bed and lie in the sun to get a tan because (like the skinny supermodel issue), people now generally feel that 'pale, ashy' skin is unattractive, due to the media. I don't like the way I look without a tan. I look pale and sick. My racial background is German, Irish and American Indian, so I have almost black eyes and naturally dark brown hair, with a red tint when the sun hits it. So when I'm pale I look like I've got the flu. Also, tanning is like smoking: you know it's dangerous, but the reality of the danger doesn't faze most people because you can't see the damage until it's too late.

POSTED 3/7/2002

Melissa, Lexington, KY, United States, 22, Female, Christian, Straight, Customer Service, High School Diploma, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 322002121454


I think many whites have a slight inferiority complex toward other races. Most other races have a culture that seems more self-expressive, and many of us admire your ability to survive and thrive in worse living conditions. Unfortunately, maybe 20 percent of whites do think other races are inferior, which I think gives minorities a negative impression of all of us. As far as your specific question goes, it might be difficult for a minority to understand. While you have black pride or Hispanic pride, there really is no similar sense of white pride. Whites don't see themselves grouped that way, and let's face it, white pride is associated with racism. Most whites want to stay as far from that as possible. In other words, whites aren't getting tanned because they want to be black; they're getting tanned because they think it is more desirable and looks better. It is really not a race question. They don't associate their skin being darker with being more black, but with looking more like that supermodel on TV.

POSTED 3/7/2002

Alex, Madison, WI, United States, 26, Male, Taoist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Computer, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 332002121247


This is a topic I've wondered about a lot. When I look in the mirror in summertime, after I've gotten some sun, I think I look much better than in winter, when my skin is very pale. I think that's just fashion, and I am subject to its influence, though you wouldn't know it to look at me, because it usually takes several years (now that I'm 50) for me to start liking something new. But eventually my tastes change, and if alabaster skin ever came into vogue, within a couple of years I'd be on the bandwagon (it would happen sooner than usual because of the health benefits, I think.) The other part of your question is even more interesting to me: Why is dark skin bad? I was astonished to discover that even in Sri Lanka, where I lived for a couple of years in the mid-'90s, and which shares a great deal culturally with India, darker shades of brown skin were considered ugly, and lighter ones desirable. In arranged-marriage advertisements for husbands and wives, 'fair' was a big plus. I once mentioned to a Lankan co-worker who was relatively very progressive that I tended to confuse two of my students because they looked very much alike to me. She responded with astonishment. 'But the one is fair and the other dark,' she said. This was such an important factor that she saw no similarity. I was once introduced to a monk in Thailand (where people often fluff white baby powder on their faces and arms after a bath, because, I was told, they like the looks of it) who hadn't had much contact with foreigners. When asked if he had any questions he'd like to ask me, he queried, 'Why do people from the West lie in the sun on the beach?' I was embarrassed to have to answer that. The truth is, though, that after living for a time surrounded by people of all shades of brown skin, I would often look at a white person and think, 'How ugly! Is that how I look?'

POSTED 3/7/2002

Fern, Boise, ID, United States, 50, Female, Buddhist, White/Caucasian, ESL teacher, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 33200212823


Being tan hides blemishes, which makes your skin look smooth and even toned. Also, it gives the illusion of looking in shape. You will notice that all bodybuilders are very tan. The reason is that dark colors cast more shadows, which tends to bring out muscle tone that on whiter skin you would not see as well.

POSTED 3/7/2002

K.Z., St. Paul, MN, United States, Male, White/Caucasian, Straight, 2 Years of College, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 34200241805


When most people worked outdoors on farms, pallor was a sign of wealth. Now that most of us work indoors, a suntan is a sign of having plenty of free time to lie on the beach, and thus of wealth. If color were the only visible difference between races, snobs might not risk it. But of course it is not.

POSTED 3/7/2002

Anton, Hayward, CA, , 41, Male, White/Caucasian, Straight, typist, 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 34200262418


I view getting a tan as equivalent to getting a new hairstyle or new outfit. It's a small way of changing your appearance or reinventing yourself. Also, I wouldn't agree that most whites consider darker skin tones 'inferior.'

POSTED 3/7/2002

D.C., Tulsa, OK, United States, 33, Male, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Chemist, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 352002114955


I agree that people should be proud of their skin and outward appearance. I think people who choose to take part in this process have serious inner problems. When people do this, they are not satisfied with themselves. I believe they are mentally off and don't have the understanding of what life it about. Life is about living with what you're born with and making the best of what you can, not trying to change everything you were meant to be.

POSTED 3/7/2002

Katie, Rochester Hills, MI, United States, Female, Mesg ID 35200263404


I never viewed it as getting skin cancer. I am of Italian descent and really enjoyed spending time with friends at beach resorts, clubs and house pools having drinks, laughing and relaxing. Yeah, my skin got darker, but my bone structure and secondary characteristics like hair texture never changed. I don't have cancer, but I do have fond memories of parties during the summertime, which I will never forget- even some great pictures. I don't believe whites getting sun has much to do with wanting to be a different race. Plus, it's a good source of Vitamin D.

POSTED 3/7/2002

Matthew, New York City, NY, United Kingdom, 43, Male, White/Caucasian, actor, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 36200250839


Sun tanning among whites is a socioeconomic thing. The tan differentiates the person from the working classes. If we look back to when the working classes spent most of their time working outdoors, pre-industrialization, we see that the skin color to aspire to was alabaster white. A tan or dark skin in general was seen as being the mark of the lower classes (possible the source of the original distinction between the fair and dark races). After the industrialization of the West, when the working classes no longer were tanned as part of their labors, the mark of the leisure class became a 'healthy tan.' The tan was the physical representation of the wealth necessary to have time to spend in outdoor recreation.

POSTED 3/7/2002

R.W.J., Sunbury, na, Argentina, 38, Male, Presbyterian, White/Caucasian, Straight, Consultant, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 36200274924


This gets asked all the time. I could point out that the desired coloring of Americans today seems to be of the Hispanic variety, which is why lighter-skinned black people are often preferred by other blacks, and pale-skinned whites risk all sorts of assorted nasties to tan. That's my stylistic side talking. There is a definite shade that people are going for, somewhere in the middle of it all. But to get more philosophical for a moment, racial prejudice has never been about color. I knew light-skinned blacks who were lighter than many of the Italians and Portugese I knew, yet were not accepted as readily. Race is a cultural state, not a physical state. The condition of race is much more important than the appearence of race. Hence the one drop rule in the old South.

POSTED 3/7/2002

Seamus, Charlestown, MA, Venezuela, Male, White/Caucasian, Renaissance Man, High School Diploma, Lower class, Mesg ID 37200220748


Many whites I know feel that having a nice, bronze tan makes you look attractive. Having really pale skin can make you look sickly and unhealthy. It's just like coloring your hair or painting your nails or getting a tattoo. A nice tan makes you look and feel better. I like to lie in the sun and get a tan, not because I want to look like another race, but because I just like the way I look when I'm tan.

POSTED 3/7/2002

Laurie, Detroit, MI, United States, 32, Female, Lutheran, White/Caucasian, Straight, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 37200282409


I think suntans as a status symbol for whites is a relatively new development. I think having a suntan represents the idea that you're rich enough not to have to work, so you can lie by the pool, beach, etc. and work on your tan. Before the early 20th century, I think a suntan just meant you had to work outside a lot, so you must be someone of a lower class. Now, as to white people's presumption that black people are somehow inferior: First, that's ignorant, of course. But, setting that aside, let's say that the person holding that belief actually does hold it. Fear of the 'other' - someone viscerally different from oneself and one's group - one's 'tribe,' if you will - is probably prompted by the most obvious cues first, so a difference in appearance is just that. The fact that, color-wise, there can be a vast difference in appearance probably provokes more fear than if there were just minor differences. I know I'm coming off all academic, but everyone - if they wish to become themselves, and not just another member of a group - has to get past certain things. They may be 'wrong' things, or they may be things that are bad but nobody's fault. If you dwell on other people's stupid behavior too long, you're wasting your time - your life. You want to know the best thing about being white in the 21st century United States? I don't ever think about what color I am. I don't do one damned thing because it might be good for other white people. I do try to do things that might be good for other people, but I never consider the fact that I'm white when I do them. So I'm lucky. In this world, in this time, I may be luckier than you. But you may be luckier than me in lots of ways, too. Just become the best YOU. People being what they are, if everyone were blind, there would still be lots of us who would figure out some stupid way to discriminate against others

POSTED 3/7/2002

Dan, San Antonio, TX, United States, <dryan1@satx.rr.com>, 49, Male, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Straight, Administrator, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 372002101515


I don't believe people who are white are trying to become non-white. You suggest the irony of someone who dislikes non-whites, yet tries to darken their skin. But no racist says, 'Know what I hate about Latinos? They are so darn caramel-colored!' They see a Latino person and associate them with negative behaviors. With whites and their own skin color, it's more of what is associated with a tan. It projects two things: health and wealth. It makes you appear that you spend a lot of time on the tennis court, swimming, playing baseball, etc., and that you have enough time to go out on your boat, go on vacations to warm places, etc. One hundred years ago, people did the opposite, because having tan skin meant that you made little money and worked in the fields. That's the reasoning, albeit pretty stupid and dangerous.

POSTED 3/11/2002

Craig, Minneapolis, MN, United States, 38, Male, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 3112002101703


I ask myself the same question all the time. I'm a motorcycle rider, surfer and soccer player, among other things, and spend a lot of time in the sun - and a lot of money on sun screen. Yet I have some inexplicable urge that if I get more tan, I will be more attractive, virile, sexy, etc. I feel social pressure to get tan. Any time I remove my shirt during a soccer game, I get the requisite comments (mostly from other white people) about the blinding white color of my chest. I'm afraid I can't help you out on the origins of this social pressure. I can tell you that I find my girlfriend's well-sunscreened, milky-white skin just as sexy as other skin tones from Asia, Africa and South America.

POSTED 3/11/2002

Peter, San Jose, CA, United States, 30, Male, Catholic/Buddhist, White/Caucasian, Bisexual, Corporate Instructor, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 3112002112026

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