Best of the Week
of April 4, 1999


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of April 4, 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:
RE150: As a 21-year-old female who was born Jewish but never practiced, I am beginning to explore other religions in hopes of finding one that suits my beliefs. I am considering Catholicism. Do Christians see converts as "true and equal Christians," or will I never be truly accepted as one of them?

POSTED APRIL 8, 1999
Kate, 21, female, Ithaca, NY
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THE QUESTION:
SO114: What do you think is the origin of homosexuality?
POSTED DEC. 30, 1998
Yael B. 14, (heterosexual) <
xyz_il@yahoo.com>, Beer-Seva, Israel

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
It seems as though the main argument relating to homosexuality is "You are born with it" vs. "it is a choice." Anyone with any sense knows that no one would choose to be gay. I don't understand how one could be "born gay," but I cannot say it is not possible. I don't understand gay people who say "I knew I was different when I was five." No one knows anything when they are five, especially regarding their sexuality. I am a firm believer in the power of psychological conditioning, and I believe most gay people are so because of the environment they grew up in. I believe I am gay because my mother was the figure I was closest to and most dependent on as I was growing up. My father is a wonderful man, but I didn't connect with him in the typical masculine father/son way, and because of that, he has always been sort of distant. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to me that I am gay.

My first memory of noticing men is when I was in the sixth grade. I have, however, become interested in a new theory that homosexuality is related to the amount of testosterone in the mother's system while the fetus is developing. I believe it is possible that this chemical difference can determine one's sexuality. But I pretty much believe that everyone is born bisexual, and that environmental and upbringing factors determine which way one will lean. The most important point I can make, though, is not to dwell on what made you this way. When I was coming out to myself, I eventually realized it would not help me to try and figure out what made me gay, but that I should accept that I am this way and that it is part of who I am. It has made all the difference, and I am perfectly content with who I am as a person.
POSTED APRIL 7, 1999
F. Mann, gay male, <
Dr_aftershave@hotmail.com>, Raleigh, NC

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
Predominantly, I believe it's genetic. Twins studies have shown genetics play a part in everything from color preference to political leanings. (I can't buy the "distant father/strong mother" theory because that wasn't the case in my family.) Sexuality is something innate in all advanced life on this planet, so if you believe in a Creator, then I guess you'd have to conclude God is the originator of homosexuality - which doesn't invalidate the scientific view in the least.
POSTED APRIL 8, 1999
Michael, 37, gay white male, relaxed Methodist <
txmichael@worldnet.att.net>,Houston , TX

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I disagree with people who say that because they identify with their mother, that they are gay. When I was growing up, I did not want to become like my father. I identified with mother. That has molded my character to be more emotional and caring, but not to make me homosexual. I find women easier to talk to, and enjoy their company more.
POSTED APRIL 8, 1999
Ronald V., 46, male, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
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THE QUESTION:
GE131: I was wondering why some men with hair loss grow it long on one side and comb it over the top. I know it's probably traumatic to lose one's hair, but do men who do this really think nobody else notices that? They look just fine without doing it.
POSTED APRIL 7, 1999
Kellie L., 25, female, Medford , OR

ANSWER 1:
I am going bald and keep my hair cropped short. However, I rarely see the top of my head and am surprised when I do at how bald I am. So some men may actually not realize how they look. But the answer to this question might be to turn it around - why do women wear make-up, when it is obvious they are wearing it and would look better without it? In both cases, it's just an individual choice to try and look better. In the case of bald men doing this when it obviously looks strange, it may be fashion sense: You don't see too many men wearing Armani suits with their hair combed this way.
POSTED APRIL 8, 1999
Steve, 42, male and follicly impaired, Houston , TX

FURTHER NOTICE:
Well, there is long and combed over the top, and just combed over. For me (I am going bald) I am used to getting my hair cut a certain way, and combing it a certain way, and it is just a hard habit to break. But then I don't intentionally let my hair grow long to do this. I happen to also not like getting my hair cut. I'll let it grow until it gets down over my ears, then have it cut back up over my ears. This way, I can go longer between haircuts. Usually, I just tell the barber/hairdresser "up off the ears, and short all the way around." What this actually gets me is reasonably short hair on the sides, but a little longer hair on top. They don't like bald people in barber shops, I guess. Anyhow, I'm not particularly picky, so I just live with it, and comb my hair the way I learned as a kid.

I think there are some men who really do feel they are putting one over on you - that it makes them look like they have more hair than they really do. In my opinion, if done well, this can work to a degree. But it has never been my intention to decieve.
POSTED APRIL 8, 1999
Kyle, 33, single white male, WASP, balding <
kyle.brown@bently.com>, Carson City, NV
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THE QUESTION:
RE149: If, as it is written in the Bible, God sees the end from the beginning, then what possibly can be changed by prayer? Isn't prayer an assumption the God has made a mistake and needs to change the future (which has already happened as far as God is concerned)? Does God really make mistakes?
POSTED APRIL 7, 1999
G.P. Axe <
gpax@spacestar.net>, St. Paul, MN

ANSWER 1:
A man on a tall building can see two cars that are about to collide. If he has a cell phone, he can warn one or both of the cars to prevent a collision. Knowing the end from the beginning doesn't mean that it has already happened. Prayer is primarily communion with God. Answered prayer isn't God changing His plans to suit someone, but God meeting our needs by means we wouldn't normally consider. A mechanical breakdown of a delivery truck can occur in the middle of nowhere, or by an orphanage in need of food. God doesn't cause a truck to break down; poor maintenance does. But He can use events to meet others' needs.
POSTED APRIL 8, 1999
Ronald V., 46, male, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE:
This question shows that you have been doing a lot of thinking, which is great. I think the problem you are having is putting too much responsibility on God. Imagine you were a teacher, and your kindergarten class went to the playground. You told your class that they could do what they wanted, but you were there to help them. One kid fights everyone and bullys the other kids, and says he doesn't have to listen to you. Another kid is having a fight with someone about who got to the swing first. Finally, they go to you and say, "We both say we were here first. What should we do?" You give them an answer they can agree on, and they become more mature. The next time this happens, they will act more grown up. That's all prayer is. God gives free will, and you allow God to intervene, making you a little more like God.

As far as seeing the future from the beginning, it also says that God is in the past, present and future. Time is simultaneous. However, I believe the future is different in that it is always changing, depending on what we choose to do. In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge sees the future, but by changing the present, he also changes the future.
POSTED APRIL 8, 1999
Craig, gay white male, 35 <
cmorris@loft.org>, Minneapolis, MN

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
There is little mention of God being omnipotent in the Bible. This concept emerged later when certain European rulers wanted to embellish their authority by promoting the concept of God controlling everything, and thus if I'm in charge it must be because God wants it that way. The Bible has many examples of God trying things that don't work out that well, implying that God is not all powerful or all-knowing. Examples: Adam and Eve in the garden, God trying to intimidate residents of Israel to make way for the Jews. This is discussed in a recent book by Greg Easterbrook titled Beside Still Waters.
POSTED APRIL 8, 1999
B. Hale <
halehart@aol.com>, Hartford, CT
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THE QUESTION:
SO132: To straight high school age or younger readers only: What have been the primary influences regarding your understanding, beliefs and comprehension of sexual orientation? Parents? Peers? Religious teachings? School? TV? Reading? Internet? What are those beliefs, and how have they changed (if any) since your earliest awareness that not everyone is heterosexual? Has first-hand exposure to gay friends or family members influenced your beliefs?
POSTED APRIL 5, 1999
DykeOnByke, 48, soon-to-be lesbian grandmother <
DykeOnByke@aol.com>, Southfield, MI

ANSWER 1:
Most of the understanding I have gained about homosexuality has come from knowing and interacting with homosexuals. Now that there is a growing population of teenagers who feel comfortable expressing their sexuality, I interact and communicate with teen homosexuals on a daily basis. Though I've been brought up in a Christian community that in general is "against" homosexuality, I have learned that a human is a human, and sexual preference, just like physical appearance, disabilities, age, race, or any other discriminating factor, has nothing to do with the goodness of a person's heart.
POSTED APRIL 7, 1999
K. Baker, Raleigh NC

FURTHER NOTICE:
My primary influence has been my parents. They are really such open-minded, loving people. It's funny though, because I don't remember ever giving a thought to sexual orientation when I was younger. However, as I grew up, and society taught me there was a "difference" between people, my parents' teachings have led me to as follows: Free love! Love is so precious and rare that if you are lucky enough to find it, hold fast and cherish it. Whether it is with men, women, kids, cats, dogs, the important thing is being happy. To most of my peers, being gay wasn't "cool" and so the boys tormented a guy friend of mine. He and two relatives are the only homosexual people I know personally, but that hasn't really affected me; I would feel the same way had I not known them. And congrats on becoming a grandma!
POSTED APRIL 7, 1999
Jennifer, straight, black, 17, senior, Brooklyn , NY

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
As a high school student who has not yet made up his mind as to whether he is straight, bisexual or gay, I have to say peer presure has been the most influential thing. I go to one of the top 50 high schools in the country (as rated by Money magazine), and from my friends, I am given the distinct impression that homosexuality is an "OK for them but not for us" thing. My parents have been very supportive, saying numerous times, both during and not during sex chats, that whatever I choose is OK with them. However, since I am the only male youth of my family name, my grandfather (father's side) is putting a lot of pressure on me to get married and have children at some point. I am Jewish and conservative, so the official religious viewpoint is "Homosexuality is a sin, but the least important one in the Bible" (I realize this may not be the official Jewish viewpoint, but it is what my Hebrew school teachers believe). I am still a virgin, so I have nothing physical to compare it with. Maybe I am straight, maybe I am gay, maybe I am bi. I do not know, and in the end, whatever G-d has blessed me to be, I will be.
POSTED APRIL 7, 1999
High School Sophmore <
the_prophet@bolt.com>
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THE QUESTION:
G76: I recently had a discussion with a woman who believed that the United States had stolen Texas from Mexico and that Caucasians and African Americans had no right to be here. Do Mexicans really believe Texas is rightfully a part of Mexico?
POSTED APRIL 5, 1999
J.D., 30, white male <
Spazdog30@msn.com>, Arlington, TX

ANSWER 1:
The first part of her assertion is historically accurate. In spite of what the myth of the Alamo would have you believe, Texas was stolen by force from Mexico by outsiders, namely Anglos from the United States. But as for Anglos and blacks not belonging here, I and every Mexican I know don't believe that. I do know most resent it when the media or Anglos refer to us as an immigrant group, when most of us are native. Our ancestors were here quite a bit before yours, so being lumped in with illegal aliens is wrong, both factually and morally. I don't know any Latinos who want Texas to be part of Mexico, either. Many of us have visited Mexico and don't care for the corruption or poverty. I wonder if you are misreading her anger over exclusion and racism in the United States to mean she wants to be back in Mexico, when actually she might simply want America to live up to its promise - that there be a true society of equals here.
POSTED APRIL 7, 1999
A.C.C., Mexican and American Indian <
bigi__@yahoo.com>, San Antonio, TX
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THE QUESTION:
R643: While watching a show on the U.S. Space program the other night, I was struck by the fact that all of the engineers were white males. Recognizing that the time depicted was the 1960s, I did some research and found that the engineering field is still dominated by white males. Data showed that while there has been some increase in women and minorities in engineering, engineering graduates are still 80 percent white male. This contrasts to fields like medicine and law, where white males now make up less than half. Why aren't more women and minorities drawn to engineering?
POSTED APRIL 5, 1999
Steve, 31, white male engineer, Houston , TX

ANSWER 1:
I find that question strange because there are quite a large number of families of Asian background that encourage or even force their children, male or female, to go into engineering programs in universities. As a college student, I see many engineering students of Asian background at my school.
POSTED APRIL 7, 1999
Cynthia, 19, female, Canadian of Chinese descent, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE:
While I might dispute your statistics based on my own observations as an engineering student at Virginia Tech, I do think I have an answer to your final question. Consider that engineering requires a very strong background in math and sceince, depending on your field. It has only been recently that women and minorities were given the same opportunities to study these subjects in high schools. My mother, for instance, was advised to take "home economics" classes in high school (sewing, cooking, etc.), while the men took college prep courses. Now women have the chance to prove themselves. In addition, the quality of education varies in certain areas. The sad fact is that inner-city schools, where a great number of non-white children are educated, often offer less-advanced courses. They usually have to focus on getting students to pass basic skill tests or similar exams. Add to all of this the still-lingering problem of student tracking and things get worse. Non-white students have been traditionally steered into vocational programs rather than college prep, and that is only slowly changing.
POSTED APRIL 7, 1999
John K., 25, white male <
the-macs@geocities.com>, Cranford, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Possibly women are not drawn to engineering because it is not as people-oriented as medicine and law. Although there is a wide variety of fields in engineering, all are related to natural and man-made materials. There is no room for interpersonal relations except with colleagues, and only pharmaceutical engineering comes close to being perceived as helpful to others.
POSTED APRIL 7, 1999
W.D., female, 20 years in engineering field, PA
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THE QUESTION:
O47: I have quite a few health problems and visit doctors' offices frequently, and I am finding less and less personal attention from the doctors. I suffered with a painful distended abdomen for three months while doctors simply told me the pain was in my head instead of listening to my symptoms. Why does it take visiting numerous offices and dishing out mega bucks to find a doctor who will listen to you as a patient and person?
(Director's note: Y? would be interested in hearing responses from doctors.)
POSTED MARCH 29, 1999
27-year-old female suffering from Crohn's Disease, Erie, PA

ANSWER 1:
Some doctors are better than others - and so are their staff --so if you find a good one, stick with them! Unfortunately, the overhead of running an office and hiring staff makes many doctors see patients for no longer than five minutes at a time so they can see 40 or more people a day. Many offices need one or two staff members who do nothing but sit on the phone fighting with HMOs all day. To pay for that extra person's salary, more patients have to be seen - but the care is more rushed. It's a vicious cycle. We need to change what's going on.
POSTED APRIL 5, 1999
An RN, West Palm Beach, FL
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THE QUESTION:
R641: I live in a nice, but not fancy or rich, suburb north of Detroit. My brother recently had some of his work buddies (they are black) over to watch the NCAA playoffs. Three of the five guys were from the ghettos (their word, not mine) of inner-city Detroit and mentioned that they were very nervous about coming from the "City" to the "Burbs." Does this surprise anyone else?
POSTED APRIL 1, 1999
C.H.P., white, Metro-Detroit , MI

ANSWER 1:
I grew up in Detroit and never felt comfortable in the suburbs. I'm from a well-to-do, racially mixed section of the city, but you have to understand that Detroit is mostly black, has a black mayor, etc. So a lot of blacks aren't used to being around white people - just as a lot of whites aren't used to being around blacks. Also, you might remember the time that the mayor of Dearborn said he didn't want blacks in his city, and the tensions between the city and the suburbs, which are driven by race. Even though I grew up around all types of people, I dread going to the suburbs because I'm always afraid someone is going to shout racial epithets at me, or worse. Suburbs have never been very welcoming to minorities, and it might surprise a lot of white people to know that blacks are often very uncomfortable in situations when there are no other blacks around, just as whites are often terrified when they're the only whites around. Also, your friends probably like living in Detroit and don't see the suburbs as an "oasis" from the city.
POSTED APRIL 5, 1999
Black woman, 28, Chicago, IL

FURTHER NOTICE:
It doesn't surprise me. There's one suburb in the Boston area where the police have stopped black motorists driving through it so much that they have nick-named the offense "driving while black."
POSTED APRIL 5, 1999
Susan, black female, Boston , MA
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