Best of the Week
of March 21, 1999


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of March 21, 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:
GD65: To smokers: Why do you inflict your smoke on other people in public places such as malls, restaurants, bus stops, etc.? I don't like breathing cigarette smoke, but it seems like I don't have a choice sometimes.
POSTED MARCH 26, 1999
C.P., 21, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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THE QUESTION:
RE148: Do Christians think it's OK to study karate and other martial arts, even though they're so rooted in non-Christian, Eastern religions?
POSTED MARCH 26, 1999
Norma S., female, Amarillo, TX
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THE QUESTION:
O40: To actors and actresses: Is it possible to play a role in which you are falling in love with another person, and not have that affect you emotionally? I know it is a job, but the kisses that can curl the toes of audiences must surely curl your toes, as you are an actual participant.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
Ronald V., 45, male <
draugas@mailcity.com>, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

ANSWER 1:
I'm an actor who studied under Lee Strasberg for four years. It surely is possible to play a steamy love scene and not fall in love. In fact, you could very much dislike the other actor and still pull off a steamy scene. Actors trained by Strasberg use a technique called "substitution," whereby we sensorily (through sense memory) create someone in our personal lives and imbue that person upon the actor we are playing the scene with. After we're done we can get up and walk away from it and, though emotionally involved as it may be, we know we "created" it and it's not reality.
POSTED MARCH 26, 1999
M.P. <
muz1113@yahoo.com>, Los Angeles, CA
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THE QUESTION:
R627: Why is it that such a seemingly large percentage of black people can dance very well?
POSTED MARCH 10, 1999
Kenneth, male <
larse005@csusm.edu>, San Diego, CA

ANSWER 1:
I think it is a matter of priorities and practice. I am black, and for a long time I couldn't dance. At first I couldn't even keep the beat. I used to think my sister had all the rhythm genes in the family. But not being able to dance really bothered me, so I kept trying. I would go every weekend to the clubs, and instead of doing what everybody else was doing, I just started moving with the music. Now I can dance just as good as she can; in fact, I think I dance better than she can.
POSTED MARCH 24, 1999
Brigitte, black female, Inglewood, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
I just cannot think of anything blacks cannot do very well. While there will be certain activities in which one may see proportionally more or less black involvement - the degree being substantially influenced by a variety of economic, social and cultural considerations - I cannot think of any in which there is a black presence but no black excellence.
POSTED MARCH 24, 1999
Floyd L. , 58 , African-American male <
lastchild@worldnet.att.net>, Memphis, TN

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
This is just another urban legend. Blacks are actually terrible dancers. As explained in the seminal documentary about the film career of legendary white dancer Fred Astaire, Yo! Yo! Pump up the Muzak!, blacks cannot waltz, tango or polka worth a darn. Frustration reached the boiling point in 1962 with the embarrassment of Chubby Checker's lack of vertical amplitude while doing the twist. Rather than yield the dance floor to more graceful whites, however, resourceful blacks decided to take over the music industry, and achieved their goal following the breakup of the Osmonds in the 1970s. Blacks then doggedly led pop music through one failed chapter after another - disco, punk, metal, grunge, Weird Al Yankovich - until finally finding something they could dance to - the music you see on MTV today. If you tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on, we can all finally put this black dancing myth to rest.
POSTED MARCH 24, 1999
B. Hale, the only bad white dancer in the U.S.A. <
halehart@aol.com>, Hartford, CT

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Well, this cracker can't dance. A gym teacher once told me there are two types of muscle tissue: short twitch and long twitch, or something like that, and that how much you have of each is genetically determined. These tissues have different functions (fine movement, strength, etc.), and this explained why there were a whole lot of really good runners from certain areas of the world. I think - and who knows, because I got this sort of secondhand and without any proof - that those of African descent have more of one of these kinds than Anglos, and maybe that has something to do with it. This could all be hooey, too. I have no idea.
POSTED MARCH 25, 1999
Lorelei, female, Georgia cracker <
kmarlowe@roanoke.edu>, Macon , GA

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I think the answer is in the culture. In white culture, children are taught that singing and dancing are for girls, and that sports are for boys. While girls are sent to ballet, boys are sent to Little League. Any child who dares to cross these gender roles is labeled a sissy or tomboy. In black culture, dance and singing is a respected art form with no gender roles attached, and used in church, in the family, and socially. There are no restrictions on it, so it is allowed to develop.
POSTED MARCH 25, 1999
Craig, 35, gay white male <
cmorris@loft.org>, Minneapolis, MN

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I like gospel music. Years ago, I listened to a gospel station every morning on my way to work. The company that makes Aunt Jemima syrup was running a gospel contest for amateur groups, and one performance was featured every day. You wouldn't believe what this stuff sounded like. It put to rest, forever, the idea that blacks have better rhythm, ears for music or any other talent needed to be a musical success. It also put to rest forever the idea that whites have other stereotypical talents. Those of us who do well at something do it well. Those who don't, don't. That's all there is to it.
POSTED MARCH 25, 1999
Jerry, 65, white male <
gmt@GTE.net>, Tampa , FL
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THE QUESTION:
GD64: Discrimination in the United States has evolved from white-on-black hate to Hispanic-on-black hate, black-on-Jewish hate, Christian-on-gay hate, etc. In other words, we have learned our bigotry well. Do people see this as a progression toward equality through trial and error, or as a downward spiral to a free-for-all?
POSTED MARCH 24, 1999
Alma, white lesbian <
pridewks@seacove.net>, Kempner , TX

ANSWER 1:
I do not think bigotry is, in general, practiced by one group on another (i.e. in one direction only) and I question whether bigotry evolves. Discrimination, on the other hand, has obviously changed over time with demographics, because in order to practice meaningful discrimination, you must have wealth and/or power. As ethnic groups move large portions of their populace into the middle class, not only do they acquire the wealth/power to practice discrimination for their own benefit (thus lessening the net effect), they also become defined into the norm, and thus less subject to discrimination from others. In that sense, I see a gradual creep toward equality. The bigotry of many whites, for example, toward blacks has always been more measurable, since they have had control over economic and social institutions through which widespread discrimination was practiced. But even today you do not have to dig too deeply into the archives of this site to find predictable evidence of some black Americans responding understandably to the bigotry they have faced with anger and resentment toward all whites.

As for evolution of bigotry, I guess I have always assumed that the racism toward blacks, Hispanics and Asians today is no different from the racism toward Irish, Italian and Eastern European Jewish immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries - the same ignorance-fueled fear and mistrust of anything or anyone different from yourself. Maybe if there is a difference, it is that while once it was socially acceptable to preach this hatred openly, today most people are sufficiently well-educated to know that doing so today even in vague and euphemistic terms risks making you a virtual pariah.

Finally, I feel compelled to address your use of the phrase "Christian-on-gay hate." There is nothing in Christ's teachings about hate. All these things have tragically been done by foolish and/or evil men in the name of Christ - but they are not Christian.
POSTED MARCH 25, 1999
Mark, 32, white male, married, Alexandria , VA

FURTHER NOTICE:
It's all just a variation on a theme that has existed since the dawn of civilization. Ever since the tribal period of our shared human past, when different tribes came into contact for the first time, the Us vs. Them mentality has existed and flourished. It does not matter how truly similar we all are. In the end, if we perceive differences, we believe they exist. Race is just the latest excuse for defining divisions that really result from cultural diversity. One tribe cannot understand the beliefs and rituals of another tribe, so it decides that the other, less understood way must be evil and wrong. This will continue in some form until the end of time. Only the nature of the division and the definition of the differences will change.
POSTED MARCH 25, 1999
John K., 25 <
the-macs@geocities.com>, Cranford, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I see racism in the United States as neither a progression nor downward spiral, but as a constant. Global racism has existed since different races first encountered one another. For instance, when the Japanese first encountered whites, the Japanese thought whites were dirty and disgusting. Arabs once figured black people were scorched and frizzle-haired because of the hot climate they lived in, and that the pale Northerners were not quite "done." They thought that only they themselves were just right. Racism is one of those unfortunate things that will continue through people's ignorance as long as there are different races.
POSTED MARCH 25, 1999
Cherie, female, former anthropology student, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Certain people have always (and probably will always) consider themselves better than groups of people who are different from them. I believe global communications are helping expose us to different cultures, opening our minds to diversity and making it harder for intolerant people to get away with crimes against others (i.e. the Ku Klux Klan, Matthew Shepard's murderers, etc.) What used to be covered up now makes national headlines. I think it's getting better.
POSTED MARCH 25, 1999
N. Smith, 44, white lesbian <
ranebow@iname.com>, Butler , PA
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THE QUESTION:
GE126: Is it really possible to "forgive and forget" when your spouse has been unfaithful?
POSTED MARCH 10, 1999
J., 40, TX

ANSWER 1:
I am only able to forgive and forget until the next argument. Then the unfaithfulness issue comes back, and there is a statement like: "You're the one who was unfaithful." I think that if you are in a relationship you really want to work out you should not tell if you've been unfaithful. It leaves the other with anger, disappointment and possibly guilt, and it does not help yourself, because you still have the guilt, too.
POSTED MARCH 24, 1999
HEvaRe, Tilburg, The Netherlands
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THE QUESTION:
G75: Why do some mainlanders still have no idea Hawaii is part of the United Staes, despite the fact that A) Hawaii has been under U.S. control for 100 years and a state for almost 40 years; B) Everyone can speak English; and C) You don't need a passport to come here?
POSTED MARCH 23, 1999
Reid S., 19, fourth-generation Japanese American, Kailua, HI

ANSWER 1:
Most likely because they're dumb. I've been to Hawaii seven times and have lost count of the times I'd meet another tourist and ask where they were from and get the answer, "I'm from the United States." They never could seem to understand my answer that it was a strange response, since they were in the United States. Aloha, and hope to be back in Honolulu, USA, soon.
POSTED MARCH 24, 1999
Lewis <
Lengel@ix.netcom.com>, New York, NY

FURTHER NOTICE:
I grew up in Kailua, graduated from Kalaheo High School and traveled the world, and I have never met anyone who doesn't know Hawaii is part of the United States. People do wonder, however, if I grew up in a grass shack. As for "everyone speaking English," "pidgen" isn't really an acceptable form of English (and when your teachers, state politicians and local news anchors speak it ... need I say more?)

As a side note, the dislike for "haole" tourists by younger locals doesn't make Hawaii a prime vacation spot for younger travelers (if they can afford it), and the extremely high cost of living doesn't allow young people to stay in Hawaii after they graduate from high school. Hawaii has a lot of issues to remedy before it can expect people to embrace the idea of visiting or living there. Funny, it's "home," but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
POSTED MARCH 24, 1999
Kyle, 30, black Hawaiian male <
kyllr2v231@aol.com>, San Francisco, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Mainlanders know about Hawaii. It's New Mexico they think is a foreign country.
POSTED MARCH 24, 1999
B. Hale, People's Republic of Connecticut <
halehart@aol.com>, Hartford, CT

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I think mainlanders know Hawaii is part of the United States. I'm curious where you got that impression. As a mainlander who has never known anyone who did not understand Hawaii's place in the union, I suspect your impression is somewhat inaccurate. Given Hawaii's importance to the United States in World War II, everyone should know that it is a state. There's really no excuse for such scant familiarity with the nation as a whole, and I'm ashamed to think there are enough people like that to give you such an impression.
POSTED MARCH 24, 1999
D.M.M., 24, <
donikam@hotmail.com>, Charleston , SC

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
Perhaps many Americans do not know the names of all 50 states. For that, I give public education a failing average.
POSTED MARCH 24, 1999
Christopher D., 22, male <
ngc1977@hotmail.com>, Arlington, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
It's because many mainlanders are geographically ignorant, and not just about Hawaii. I have met people who think New Mexico is not part of the United States, that Alaska is part of Canada and that New York is more than just a city. I'd bet most people don't know the capital of their own state. I'd bet many are unsure what state they live in.
POSTED MARCH 24, 1999
Andrew, 35, male <
ziptron@start.com.au>, Huntington, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
Reminds me of a friend who placed a business call to a Texas company. She told the switchboard operator, "This is Portland, Maine." The operator asked, "Is Portland your first name?" That was back in the '70s.
POSTED MARCH 26, 1999
N. Smith, formerly from Maine <
ranebow@iname.com>, Butler , PA
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THE QUESTION:
R635: I understand that in Eastern Europe there are people of Tartar-Turkomen extraction who cannot blush. Their respones is to bare their teath in a grimace, which is often taken as smiling and causes misunderstandings. Does anyone know if this is true, and can you provide reference material?
POSTED MARCH 22, 1999
Ronald G., 67, male, Lithuanian <
gillen@nconnect.net>, Hustisford , WI
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THE QUESTION:
A42: To retired people: What do you do all day?
POSTED MARCH 18, 1999
C.P., 21, Montreal, Canada
ANSWER 1:
In short, anything we want to! Have you ever noticed how much cleaner our cars are, how nice the yards are, how we tend to go off for three or four days at a time? We also do things like woodwork, handweave, paint, pottery, act, crafts, remodel our homes, help others, etc. There are some who drink, sit at the TV and die soon. Lots of us spend years traveling in RVs seeing the United States up close and personal. Think of a number of things you would like to do, and then ask if you can afford to do them now; if not, that is what you would do when you retire. When I was in high school, I made a list of things I would like to do before I die. I've done all but two, one of which I will never do. Maybe I'll never die!
POSTED MARCH 22, 1999
C.F., Del Rio , TX

FURTHER NOTICE:
Wow. Where do I begin? My wife and I have questioned ourselves on how we had found time to work before we retired. I play golf 3 to 4 times a week, go fishing and netting, and am cleaning out our back lot (about 200' x 100') of weeds, trees and palmettos. When this is finished, I need to complete building a walkway around our house (we are on stilts) and then buy more oyster shells and finish filling in the driveway. Then there is church work (I am on the building and grounds committee) for a congregation of about 30 to 40 mostly older people. My wife plays bridge 2 to 3 afternoons weekly, serves as ombudsman for Florida nursing homes and is a member and secretary the local Historical Society, Garden Club and Presbyterian Women. Then there is the furniture I am refinishing and ... well, you know, on and on it goes. I am sure if you are thinking of retiring, there will be plenty of things to keep you busy if you look for something to do.
POSTED MARCH 22, 1999
Phil J., 63, male <
JPHILJONES@AOL.COM>, Port St. Joe , FL

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I'm not sure what they do, but I wish they would take care of their grocery and other shopping needs during the weekdays, when most of us are at work. Why is it that they come out after 4 p.m. and on weekends to go to the stores and malls? This is a real hardship where I live (South Florida). Am I asking too much?
POSTED MARCH 22, 1999
D.S.J., 47, West Palm Beach , FL

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Can I add something to my original question? I would also like to know what retired people who are not rich do with their time. I know there are many senior citizens for whom travelling, renovating their homes, etc. is financially out of the question.
POSTED MARCH 22, 1999
C.P., 21, Montreal , Canada
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THE QUESTION:
GE128: Why do many women, even when strongly complimented on an attribute, soon change that attribute, if they can? For example, if you tell a woman you like her hairstyle, she will no doubt have her hair different within the next few weeks. You would think a compliment would have the effect of a woman trying to maintain that certain look. But I do not observe this to be true, especially in younger women.
POSTED MARCH 18, 1999
W.G., 35, male, Cincinnati, OH

ANSWER 1:
A lot of times women are competing with each other. From what I see, there are cliques everywhere trying to aspire to diva-dom. But usually, when women change something, it's just a way to change things up, something fun. For example, my greatest attribute was my hair. Then I cut it. It was definitely too high-maintenance. Now it's back to where it was before, and I'll keep my hair this way for the rest of my life. It's a cycle kind of thing, with outside influences. Looking back on what I did, trying to spite some people was part of it, and it was really cool to have shorter hair back then, the kind that was barely past your shoulders.
POSTED MARCH 23, 1999
L. Quinne, Hispanic female <
Reina_62@hotmail.com>, Blaine, MN

FURTHER NOTICE:
For me, it's not an intentional change. I've often gotten compliments on my "peaches and cream" complexion. Without fail, within a few days, I break out with acne! As far as hair (or hairstyles) go, my hair grows very fast. As soon as I get a cut and style I like and that looks good, it grows out within a few weeks. It's as frustrating to me as it is to you, believe me.
POSTED MARCH 23, 1999
Chip, 28, single white female, MI
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THE QUESTION:
R632: Why do some Asian people wear face masks when out in public? I am referring to the surgical or dust type mask that covers the mouth and nose. I assume it has something to do with germs or such, but I only see Asians doing this, wearing them on the bus, in the mall, etc.

POSTED MARCH 18, 1999
White male, 26, Santa Clara, CA

ANSWER 1:
I'm not sure if this explains the particular situation that you have witnessed, but some strict vegetarians are so thorough in their effort not to consume/kill other forms of life that they wear these masks to avoid swallowing bugs. I realize this may sound strange, but it ties into a complete and uncompromising respect for life as part of an entire religious belief system. I know this is practiced among Asian Indians, but I don't know if that is the population you have seen doing this.
POSTED MARCH 22, 1999
D.M.M., 24, vegetarian <
donikam@hotmail.com>, Charleston , SC

FURTHER NOTICE:
The people you have observed wearing masks covering their face and nose may belong to an Indian community that believes in not killing any germ or small insect accidently. They are known as Jains and follow the religion of Jainism. They also follow very strict dietary regimes and are vegetarian. They also finish their meals before dark so as not to intake any insect or any type of life form by mistake. The more strict followers walk barefoot so as not to kill any life under their feet.
POSTED MARCH 22, 1999
Nidhi, 24, Asian Indian <
nidhisood@hotmail.com>, St. Louis, MO

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I believe many people wear face masks due to the smog that accumulates in many large cities. In places like China that have populations in the billions, the air can become toxic, so face masks are required.
POSTED MARCH 22, 1999
Joe F., male

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
It is my understanding (from spending a year in Tokyo) that many Asians wear small white gauze masks over their mouths (and sometimes noses) when they have a cold or flu, so that they don't spread germs. I am not sure if this is effective, but regardless is a positive comment about many Asian cultures' consideration and care for all, rather than just for the self.
POSTED MARCH 22, 1999
Nate, male <
Vagetan@outnet.co.nz>, Auckland , NZ

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I learned, after spending two years in Japan, that the Japanese wore the surgical masks to avoid catching what the person next to them might have.
POSTED MARCH 23, 1999
Jerry, male <
gmt@GTE.net>, Tampa , FL

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
They wear them because they have a cold or the flu and do not wish to infect others. I live in South Korea and can attest to this. Humbly though, I only know this to be true for Koreans.
POSTED MARCH 23, 1999
Daniel <
djh0912@chollian.net>, Kangnung, Korea
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