Best of the Week
of May 3, 1998


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of May 3, 1998, 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.

 

THE QUESTION:
C3: I have heard single friends and aquaintances (basically white-collar, middle-class people) say they would prefer not to date blue-collar, working-class people; that numerous differences in values and goals are just too difficult to overcome to try to make such a relationship successful. Moreover, an invisible boundary line seems to separate union workers from salaried employees, even if earning similar incomes. How common and valid is this attitude? I would like to hear from others about their experiences - good or bad - with dating or maintaining romantic relationships with people from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
POSTED MAY 6, 1998
DykeOnByke, engineer <
DykeOnByke@aol.com>, Southfield, MI

ANSWER 1:
I was raised in a white-collar, middle-class family, but despite their expectations and my own, I was always more attracted to men who worked with their hands. I am now happily married to a blue-collar man, and we each value the very different strengths the other brings to our partnership. My female friends who are married to white-collar men almost universally envy me: My husband never stays late at the office; he flawlessly repairs and maintains our house, yard and car; and most important, he's never too busy or too distracted to spend time with me. Having tried it both ways, I wouldn't trade him for all the C.P.A.s in the world.
POSTED MAY 9, 1998
A. Morgan, Houston, TX

FURTHER NOTICE:
The stereotype is that white-collar workers are greedy and self-serving and that blue-collar workers are hard workers with no formal education. Neither is true; I certainly consider going to school for five years as hard work as some of the things blue-collar workers do.
POSTED MAY 9, 1998
Rob, white <
innvertigo@aol.com>, Southfield, MI
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THE QUESTION:
R228: As a lifelong Southerner, I have always had a strong attachment to Confederate symbols such as the Confederate battle flag, and I have always revered them. However, after watching the news the other day, I saw a bunch of racists using those same symbols to provoke black folks. My question is: Do black folks feel agitation by these symbols? If so, how much? I have always seen them as part of my region's unique culture and history. I am no racist, nor do I associate with those who are. I understand some fools use them, like they use the cross and the U.S. flag, as racist symbols, but that isn't what it is about to me or anyone I know. I would appreciate any comments and would like to hear from Northern black folks and Southern black folks to see if there is a difference between the two.
POSTED MAY 2, 1998
Wallace, white male <
tdbuk@juno.com>, Suwanee, GA

ANSWER 1:
I have no problem with private people and organizations using the Confederate battle flag or any other symbols of the Confederate States of America. But I do have a problem when those symbols are used in whole or in part by governmental entities. From my reading of history, the Confederate States of America was founded for the express purpose of protecting the institution of slavery. Therefore, I believe it inappropriate for a nation whose government is supposed to be "of the people" to allow any governmental entities to display these symbols. Referring to the idea that "all men are created equal," Alexander Stevens, Vice President of the Confederate States of America, stated, "Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon, the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery - subordination to the superior race - is his natural and normal condition."
POSTED MAY 7, 1998
Jay B., black male, first-generation Yankee <
jayboyd@ameritech.net>, Detroit, MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
As a white male and Southerner, I for many years saw the Confederate battle flag as part of our heritage. But the more I have studied relationships between people of different colors and cultures, the less I want to do with a heritage built on hate or racial superiority. Americans have to foster dialogues that promote healing. Flying a flag with this history will not get people talking. We may all come in different colors, genders, sizes and shapes, but the things we share, our hopes, dreams, desires and families, make us all human. Don't promote hate. Live understanding.
POSTED MAY 9, 1998
Mel M., equal opportunity advisor and counselor, <
dadymel@aol.com>, Jacksonville, FL
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THE QUESTION: 
GE3: Why do most women seem to prefer older men?
POSTED MARCH 21, 1998
Christopher D., 22 <
alphacentuari@mindspring.com>
Arlington, TX

ANSWER 1:
A few reasons come to mind. Men who are in their thirties and forties are usually more mature than men in their twenties. They will call a woman when they say they are going to call (a concept that twenty-somethings have yet to grasp), and generally treat a woman better. By this point they are established in a career/job and are not still floating around. Not to say that money is an important issue, but a steady job is an attractive quality in a man. And unless these guys are going through a mid-life crisis, they appear to be a little more forgiving if the woman's body is less than Baywatch-worthy!
POSTED MARCH 24, 1998
Colleen, 26, Ontario, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE:
Coming from a woman who is 22 and is dating a man who is 36, I think women are attracted to older men because they are established in their careers, lifestyles, etc. They know what they want and how to get it. Younger men are too worried about what kind of beer the local bar is serving. Older men are more secure in letting a woman be a woman.
POSTED APRIL 30,1998
Stephanie P. <
Stephiep@hotmail.com>
Ann Arbor, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
It is not true that all women prefer older men. I generally dated men (and married a man) older than me. I was divorced at 37 and found men younger than me quite attractive. Men in their early 20s often have trouble finding a woman young enough to appreciate their charm, wisdom and worldliness, yet old enough to do the same stuff they do. In your mid- to late 20s you will find your range broadening, I believe.
POSTED MAY 4, 1998
Pam S. <
palema@downcity.net>, Willimantic, CT

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I am currently with a man five years my senior and I can honestly say I would have trouble being with anybody younger. Sometimes I have difficulty with him being as young as he is. My mother has repeatedly told me I should date somebody closer to my age or younger. I find older men extremely attractive and more confident in themselves as well as their partners. They also have their experiences in life to pull from while conversing or debating, and I'm sure I'm not the only female who enjoys a good verbal sparring. Also, an older man who will stand by you while you find the niche meant for you and who helps you expand yourself is always nice.
POSTED MAY 7, 1998
Diana M., 23 <
Ktastrophe@aol.com>, Charlotte, N.C.
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THE QUESTION:
R237: It seems to me that black males generally have better physiques than white males. Is this true, and if so, why?
POSTED MAY 3, 1998
R.M., white female, Jacksonville, FL

ANSWER 1:
I don't know if you are referring to the general population or to sports figures. Many of the black and white males I know have terrible physiques. I don't think one group has a better physique than any other group. If you are finding that black males are in better shape, you need to broaden your sample of men. As a long time gym member in three different states, I have found that the black male members are in worse shape than the white male members.
POSTED MAY 4, 1998
Jas, black male <
themoas@aol.com>, Pensacola, FL

FURTHER NOTICE:
I would tend to disagree with Jas' post. As someone who has worked out in many different gyms over the past 20 years, I have found that the percentage of black men with great bodies is far greater than that of white men. But this type of personal opinion is not really useful. I believe the questioner was inquiring whether blacks had an advantage over white men when it comes to getting in shape. One must be careful to avoid broad generalizations and stereotyping in this area, but it is known that the races differ in their muscle/fat ratio, with races from tropical climates having lower body fat than those from colder climes, who evolved with higher body fat for protection. What this means is that a greater percentage of black men would be able to add lean muscle mass without adding fat than is true for white men. This is most clearly evident in bodybuilding competitions. While white men and black men place equally in contests in which bodybuilders use steroids, in contests where drug-testing is firmly enforced, blacks far outplace whites. While one might say that this results from social and cultural realities (who dedicates themselves to the gym and who doesn't), the fact that this discrepancy is not seen in contests that allow steroids indicates white men need growth-enhancing drugs more often than do black men in order to compete.
POSTED MAY 6, 1998
Mark M. white <
marknyc@hotmail.com>, New York, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I think it is important to take into account the degree to which public perception has been shaped in the last 25 years. Since the early 1970s, one of African Americans' first significant post-civil rights successes has been the integration of American professional sports. Some sports now have a 50 percent or higher percentage of black athletes. This is a powerful media image, and one that can create in the mind of the public a perception that African Americans in general exhibit the qualities that are most seen in the sports/media. I would say that African Americans are no healthier relative to other cultural groups, only that their public image is currently dominated by an image of the black athelete.
POSTED MAY 6, 1998
Michael <
msmacharg@aol.com>, Washington, DC

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I guess I'm not really asking about black males who work out in gyms or who are sports stars. I'm talking about the general population of black males and white males that I see in everyday life. In that situation, I tend to see many more black males with good physiques than white males. So it's not an observation I'm deriving from the media (I don't watch TV) or from a small sampling, but from what I'm seeing around me day to day.
POSTED MAY 6, 1998
R.M., white female, Jacksonville, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
To Mark: You made some good points, as each race has had to adapt to the local environment in which they lived. However, even though genetics can give you the potential, hard work and dedication are still the only way to succeed. For the average black male, genetics don't seem to be helping at all when it comes to trying to "get lean." I wasn't talking about "bodybuilders" as you noted, just the ordinary guy coming from work who hits the gym for a quick workout. I tend to agree with Michael that the media has given a perception that blacks have better physiques than the general population (it's hard not to see this in magazines or newspapers). Although R.M. states it's what she is seeing around her, I would like her to give specific examples. I could make the opposite case in my town, where I find more white men working without shirts on (taking advantage of the warm sun) than black men, and the white men have good physiques. I would have to look just a little bit harder, and I probably would find just as many blacks with good physiques.
POSTED MAY 7, 1998
Jas, black <
themoas@aol.com>, Pensacola, FL
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THE QUESTION:
R229: Why do Asians who know English insist on speaking their native tongue when talking to one another?
POSTED MAY 2, 1998
Kevin, Dearborn, MI

ANSWER 1:
I've read two other similar question about this (R176 and R169), but I hope it's OK to add some more explanation. First, and most of all, I have to emphasize that speaking in one's native tongue/language is much easier, more convenient and practical. Most of us learn English (and other foreign languages) to be able to communicate with people from other countries, but we certainly have no intention to use it as our daily language. No matter how well you master a foreign language, you'll always find it easier (and more comfortable) to communicate and exchange ideas using your native language. So if I'm speaking to someone with the same native language, why should we speak in English ? We'll have to do a "double-thinking" (translate my ideas into English, then translate what my partner said in English), and in the process, it's very possible one of us will misunderstand what the other said. Not to mention that each language has words and terms that don't have the exact translation in English, making it even more difficult and impractical for me to make myself understandable to my partner. As for manners, I think it should be enough if we have excused ourselves. By the way, I know many people from English-speaking countries (United States, Australia, etc.), who work as ex-pats here. These people can speak my language very well (some are even married to natives who often don't speak English), yet when dealing with me, they insist on speaking English once they find out I speak English. Why ? Because it's easier for them.
POSTED MAY 4, 1998
Chi Yu, 26, female, Indonesia

FURTHER NOTICE:
If you're referring to Asians who are newcomers to the United States, my experience is that it's a matter of comfort zones. They communicate with each other better in their own language and cannot talk about more complex issues in English. If you're talking about Asian-Americans, however (those Asians born or raised mostly in the United States), the reasons can vary from 1) wanting to become fluent in a language that they lost, 2) a feeling of solidarity or 3) just plain wanting to keep their original heritage alive. I'll put it this way: Haven't you ever gone to an Irish festival, or Oktoberfest? Some otherwise American whites may want to speak in German or practice some ancient Gaelic, simply for celebration's sake. Many whites I know take French, German and Italian in high school and love to speak it among themselves. No complaints there.
POSTED MAY 4, 1998
David L., 25, Asian-American, Chicago, IL

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THE QUESTION:
SO24: Why do some gay men feel they
have to sound gay?
POSTED APRIL 18, 1998
Derek Y., Duluth, MN

ANSWER 1:
I think the answer lies in the question, "Why do some straight men feel they have to sound macho?" Sometimes, whether it is a gay or straight man, the reason is simply that he is advertising for a mate (or at least a sexual encounter). Other times, it may be that he wants to fit in with the others in the crowd. Or it may be that he is distinguishing himself from all the others (a need to be different). There are other times when the person simply has no control over how he sounds, whether that is a result of genetics, development or societal conditioning. I am a gay male, and among my gay male friends, I find examples of just about every reason noted above. I can also say this is true of my many straight male friends as well. You might also take into consideration that only in relatively recent times have gay men been allowed to be "out" to such an extent in public and truly be themselves rather than what the straight world demanded they be.
POSTED MAY 3, 1998
Dennis P., 48, gay <
buckets@flash.net>, Tucson, AZ
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THE QUESTION: 
GE23: Why is it that every time you have a sincere interest in a woman, you have to be a jerk to get her attention? If you are a nice guy, you end up getting taken advantage of, but if you are a miserable freak, they seem to call you every day until your phone falls apart. Should guys just act like morons to get women?
POSTED MAY 2, 1998
Adam, Brighton, MI

ANSWER 1:
Perhaps the more relevant question should be why are you attracted to women who are only attracted to men who treat them poorly. This is not meant as a criticism, but observation. Plenty of women want to date a nice man who is not always in a crisis. However, there are many women who thrive in crisis situations and want to "fix" or nurture the bad boys. This is not innate in every woman, but it seems to be so in your experience. Another thing to consider it the fact that you are pursuing women who do not want a stable relationship, so you would be better off to steer clear.
POSTED MAY 4, 1998
Sheila, 30, St. Louis, MO

FURTHER NOTICE:
Many women (and some men as well) like the challenge of trying to attract someone who is basically indifferent to them. That's why being too eager to please is often a tactical error. You don't have to actually be indifferent or unkind to get a woman's attention, but do be true to yourself. Have a life, do interesting things on your own. Don't drop everything to accept a last-minute invitation. Don't even agree that "Titanic" is the best movie ever if you were cheering for the iceberg. If you're not willing to brave her displeasure, you won't earn her respect.
POSTED MAY 4, 1998
A. Morgan, 33, Houston, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Adam, if you act like a moron to impress a woman, the woman you impress will, invariably, be a moron also. If you express a sincere interest in a woman, chances are she will respond in kind. I have never been attracted to a man who has acted like a jerk just to get my attention. You may need to start hanging out in places where you can be yourself with a woman, instead of where you feel you have to beat out the other guy who is making a fool of himself.
POSTED MAY 6, 1998
Kristen, 25, female <
kristenv25@juno.com>, Ypsilanti, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
There were times I had low self-esteem and thought I couldn't deserve a nice guy. I was treated badly by guys and didn't think I could do any better. Then I grew up. Nice guys can get noticed, and once I realized I didn't deserve to be treated badly, I wouldn't settle for anything less than a nice guy. It just takes some time. I had to get used to the idea that a man could truly want to make me happy. It was a lot different than my efforts to make a jerk happy. And you know what, a man wanting to make me happy made me happy. Hang in there. I think women want to be treated with love and respect even if they don't choose a loving and respectful man. There are other valid points, but I believe it is often an esteem issue.
POSTED MAY 7, 1998
M.Bower, 24, Macomb, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I think it's deeper than just whether women want a "nice guy" or a "bad boy." That's just the surface level. Both men and women look for those people to whom they are attracted. A "bad boy" might have a rebellious or obnoxious attitude, but nevertheless, I've never seen one treat a lady badly and still be with her permanently. It's the image that attracts. Basically, whether you're a nice guy or a bad dude, just concentrate on being attractive and know respect. Even a "nice guy" can be more romantic and confident - and tell dirty jokes once in a while. Being nice does not mean being plain and boring. On the other hand, being a "bad boy" doesn't mean being abusive - he can still buy her flowers and read her poetry. It's just image, nothing more.
POSTED MAY 9, 1998
David L., 25, Chicago, IL

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THE QUESTION:
R43: Why do blacks have larger than average lips?
POSTED MARCH 19, 1998
John B., Warren , MI

ANSWER 1:
Average compared to what? Turn the question around: Why do some whites have smaller than average lips? It's all a matter of how you define what "average" is - and in this country "average" means "white." This means that anything that isn't white is therefore different or non-average. See how strange that is?
POSTED MARCH 24, 1998
Alex, 39 <
aleavens@mindspring.com>
Lawrenceville, GA

FURTHER NOTICE:
I think the original question was not meant to imply that any "non-white" lips are not average. I think it was an innocent question that deserved an answer. This is a good example of why white America will never understand other races. If we ask, we are perceived as racist.
POSTED MARCH 31, 1998
D.L., white, Redford, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
To D.L.: White America can understand other races and cultures better if we take the time to try to understand other perspectives than our own and not be so defensive when others point out when we do ask questions that display ignorance or white bias. I see no indication of Alex's race nor any accusations of racism. His (her?) response is pretty straightforward. Even as a white woman, my initial reaction to this question was pretty much the same as Alex's reaction, but thought it more appropriate to let a black person point out the obvious. One purpose of this forum is to help break down barriers and educate each other.
POSTED APRIL 28, 1998
DykeOnByke, white lesbian and corporate diversity council member <
DykeOnByke@aol.com>, Southfield, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
How about "average" as compared to every other race? i.e. brown people, pink people, yellow people and red people. While I agree that "average" may be perceived to mean white, that is not the root of the question. I don't think that the original question had racial implications. Which brings us back to: Blacks tend to have larger lips than the other four colors of people. Why does this tend to be the case?
POSTED APRIL 29, 1998
Linda (one of the other four colors) <
linda1701e@voyager.net>
Bloomfield area, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
This is a stereotype. I am a white woman and have larger-than-average lips. It is not a race thing.
POSTED MAY 3, 1998
Mick, 27, white, Birmingham, AL

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I have read that straight, overhanging noses evolved as an adaptation to cold climates, but I can't remember anything about lips. I think there is a general trend for some races to have smaller or larger lips than others, but obviously, as with most genetic traits, there is a large range of types in each population and race. I believe that the "Out of Africa" theory of human evolution is the most likely. Therefore, it is likely that fuller lips are the original human state. Large lips may have arisen by natural or sexual selection. Lips are a very sensuous part of the body and look attractive. They may also be useful in practical ways - other primates use lips for many different functions, though other primates don't have the thin-skinned, blood-filled part to their lips that most humans have. As people began to move out of Africa into colder climates, larger lips may have posed some disadvantage as did darker skin (not enough vitamin D/E?) and flatter noses (something to do with condensation of water in the air). Lips have less skin coverage than other areas on our face and are susceptible to the extreme elements - chapped lips are common when exposed to the cold and blistered lips when exposed to the sun (if pale skinned). The disadvantage wouldn't necessarily have to be large to change the genetic makeup of a population over many, many years. Alternatively, there may just have been a particular trend in lip shape in those who migrated out of Africa (look up bottle-necks in genetics books). I think this is less likely.
POSTED MAY 6, 1998
Beth, thin-lipped, Edinburgh, UK

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
Genetically, African Americans (politically correct but not geographically) have fuller lips, Native Americans are known for straight, full, black hair, Swedes for blonde hair, Irish for green eyes, Jews for prominent noses, and the list goes on. As a multiculture offspring, I pass for "white" most of the time, but I am attracted to African Americans, so that I do not see "larger-than-average lips," I see beautiful, full and sensuous lips. As an artist, though, I am able to see and appreciate the differences and beauty in everyone I run across.
POSTED MAY 6, 1998
Steve N., 40, mixed <
blaster7@hotmail.com>
Dallas, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
I'm a black male and do not interpret the question as racist. It's a good question. Blacks come from a hot climate. There are biological and environmental reasons our nostrils are larger: To cool the air we breathe. Our behinds are larger to store fat in a place where we can stay cool rather than on legs or arms. We tend to be taller because taller, lean bodies dissipate heat better. Straight hair warms the head and neck. How many times have you seen straight-haired people pull their hair away from their necks to cool themselves? There is a biological reason why our lips are larger. I'd love to know the answer.
POSTED MAY 6, 1998
Ron B., Mission Viejo, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 8:
Black people seem to have the largest features of all the races because of adaptation. If you are willing to know the true answer, you must study. Black people tend to have the larger features because when we were in Africa, we had to adapt to the hot climates. That's why our skin is deep in melanin - to protect us against the sun's rays. Melanin is the dark pigment that gives us our color. We have larger noses to be able to breathe in the humid air of Africa. We have larger lips for the same reason. We tend to have "kinky" hair because of the humidity and hot temperatures of Africa. I hope this was helpful to you.
POSTED MAY 6, 1998
Rabiah S. <
littlemama1220@hotmail.com>, Atlanta, GA

FURTHER NOTICE 9:
To quote the guidelines posted on this website for answering a question: "If someone else has shown the courage to acknowledge to themselves and others that they don't know something, they may well be on the path to knowing. In that spirit, try not to penalize them by deriding them or being condescending with your responses." The question was an honest attempt to inquire about a biologic difference, which most likely has a scientific explanation (of which I am unaware). The point is that this site was designed so that people could ask precisely this kind of question.
POSTED MAY 6, 1998
Mark M., white <
marknyc@hotmail.com>, New York, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 10:
I agree with the first response: The question seems a bit narrow, but the person is trying to learn (I forgive you for not knowing). But take a moment to think about how that sounds. It is a generalization, based on non-factual perceptions, which can easily be seen as an insult. I dated a guy of Polish descent for a long time and his lips were very full and, well, sexy, but he was white. I never thought "Do all Polish people have full lips?" I really think that the lip thing is individual, as are most things about people. There are some traits that most of a certain group may have, but those things are just features.
POSTED MAY 6, 1998
Carmela, 29, black <
pecola@hotmail.com>, Atlanta, Ga

FURTHER NOTICE 11:
Consider another species: The dog. Dogs have more than 250 known "breeds" and many more mixes. Some dogs have long ears to help stir smells up from the ground to better smell. Others have broader frames to better pull sleds. Their anatomical differences have a purpose. As for the human species, I was once told that the definition of a race is determined by the size of the skull, the girth of the hips and the length of the thigh bone. If we are wondering about dimensions of a particular race's anatomy, in this case lips, I'd say anthropology verifies there are anatomical differences helping to define races. Ignoring the word "average," if we ask the question about lips in terms of a race's development through evolution, do we know if there is a specific reason some races tend to have larger lips than other races (or for that matter straight hair, eyes with little or no lids, or a lot of body hair)? Is there a physical advantage to or need for any race's differences based on what we know from anthropology? It's a good question when we look at it scientifically and do not single out one race or another as average.
POSTED MAY 7, 1998
Laura K., <
pelagic2@bellsouth.net>, Miami, FL
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