Best of the Week
of May 9, 1999


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of May 9, 1999, as selected by Y? These
postings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from previous weeks, also can be found by accessing our new database using our search form, or, in the case of answers posted before April 24, 1999, in our Original Archives (all questions from the Original Archives have been entered into the new database as well). In the Original Archives and the new database, 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:
This weekend while at a public park, I witnessed an interracial lesbian marriage/commitment ceremony. Two questions: Are interracial couples common in the lesbian community, and how do homosexual couples divorce?
POSTED 5/11/99
R.G., Richmond, VA, United States, 27, Female, Black/African American, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 51199104515

Response:
I am sure the percentage of interracial lesbian couples is about the same as heterosexual couples, since gays and lesbians cover the entire world population. As far as divorce, since gays and lesbian cannot legally marry, I guess there is no need to even think about divorce. No legal recourse for anything, no joint ownerhsip without legal papers, no custody rights, no health or death benefits, no marriage license to give credibility to a very beautiful thing. Hmmm.
POSTED 5/12/99
Sheila, West Palm Beach, FL, United States, <Hopeteens@aol.com> , 49, Female, White/Caucasian, Lesbian, Youth director, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 51299112419

Response:
Yes, interracial couples are common among lesbians, probably because we're already breaking from the norm being lesbians, so we're more open-minded about dating outside our race, religion or whatever. Concerning divorce: Unfortunately, we can do so very easily since our "marriages" aren't recognized by law. The trickier thing is splitting up mutually owned property.
POSTED 5/12/99
Val, San Diego, CA, United States, 35, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Lesbian, Food server, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 5129940704

Response:
I suspect you would find more interracial unions among lesbian and gay male couples than in the U.S. heterosexual population. In general, I think gay people tend to be more open to relationships that violate racial, class, education and financial boundaries. (That does not mean, alas, that you won't find racist gay people, since racists are found in every group.)
POSTED 5/13/99
Tom L., Washington, DC, United States, 55, Male, White/Caucasian, Gay, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 51399113557
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Question:
Is there a difference in the way men and women shop? In my observation, men will enter a store knowing exactly what they want, go to that item, buy it and be out of the store in a few minutes. Women may enter knowing what they want, but will take time to look at several other items, browse around a bit and maybe find what they want, but also buy a few more things they didn't originally enter the store to purchase. Does anyone else see a difference in the way the two sexes shop, and does the whole "hunter/gatherer" theory come into play?
POSTED 5/10/99
Kenny G., Chicago, IL, United States, 34, Male, Catholic, Black/African American, Straight, Marketing, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 5109913626

Response:
It's not strictly a sex thing, apparently. My sweetie and I are both women, and she does the grocery shopping because I have absolutely no patience with it. I have a list of what I need, go to an employee to ask where the widgits or eggs are, pick 'em up and leave. She reads labels, compares prices and comes home with a few extra goodies (because she knows I like them). Other same-sex couples mention this split, also.
POSTED 5/11/99
Becky, Indianapolis, IN, United States, 55, Female, Lesbian, Mesg ID 5119942316

Response:
Sorry to dispel this common myth, but I for one hate to wander around in stores. I go into a store, get what I came after and leave. Sometimes I will call the store ahead of time to see if they have what I am after. This way, I do not have to waste time wandering around looking for the item, only to find out the store doesn't carry it. I have better ways to spend my time.
POSTED 5/11/99
Michell, Panama City, FL, United States, 32, Female, Atheist, Straight, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 5119985625
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Question:
I do not attempt to justify the Columbine shootings and I think it is a terrible thing to happen. But, even though the writings of the two boys and their friends keep saying that they were bullied badly and humiliated and beaten up almost daily, why is nobody even talking about this aspect of the problem? Also, how serious is this problem of discrimination against people who are different in schools in the United States?
POSTED 4/28/99
R.N. Mohan, Bangalore, NA, India, <rnmohan@hotmail.com> , 24, Male, Atheist, Asian, Gay, Student, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 42699115614

Response:
The thing that amazes me the most about the Columbine tragedy is that so many people are surprised it happened. Aside from the other instances of school violence, this shouldn't have been unexpected, and judging from some of the other responses, I'm not alone in my thinking. After all, far too many kids look at school more as a prison sentence than a learning experience, and the treatment they receive only bears this out. When one is trapped in an unbearable situation, one will do anything to change it. These boys took revenge on their tormentors, and who among us, if given the chance, wouldn't have relished the opportunity to do the same? A fairly grim look at human nature, but a necessary one.
POSTED 5/10/99
Elric L., Pasadena, MD, United States, <elefay@hotmail.com> , 29, Male, Pagan, White/Caucasian, Straight, 2 Years of College, Upper class, Mesg ID 5109932059
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Question:
Is there a way to tell the difference in Asian nationalities? I've heard that the slant direction of the eyes is an indicator. Is this true?
POSTED 3/5/99
Tina, Columbia, SC, United States, Female, Mesg ID 359952938

Response:
No, the slant of the eye is no guide to Asians. As an Asian who grew up in Queens, NY, where I was exposed to all types of Asians, I must say it is tough to distinguish us from one another. However, as you can generally tell apart European races (i.e. a Nordic from an Italian, a Slav from a Spaniard), it is possible to generally distinguish us to a degree.

In most cases, here are some rules:

1) Dark skin indicates Southeast Asians (Vietnamese/Laotian/Cambodian/Thai) or Pacific Islanders (Filipino/Guamanian et al.), as does the presence of full lips and double-fold eyelids. Light skin, smaller eyes and thinner lips usually indicates Oriental origin (China, Korea, Japan).
2) Among the Orientals (China/Korea/Japan), the Chinese are tallest, Japanese shortest and Korean the biggest.
3) The Japanese tend to be the hairiest among all East Asians.
4) Koreans tend to have the squarest jaws, flattest face and smallest eyes, which gives them a readily distinguishable look.
5) The Chinese tend to have less flat faces (nose and mouth jutting out more than Koreans, with more cases of buckteeth), with smaller jaws than Koreans.
6) The Japanese tend to be the shortest among all Asians. I mean seriously short.

Disclaimer: The above are some of the guidelines I use to distinguish members of my own race from each other. They do not mean to degrade or stereotype. The individual variations within each race are so huge that racial groupings are difficult at best. I myself do not fit the traditional "Korean" look described above, even though I am Korean. I have been mistaken as Chinese, Filipino, Japanese and even half-white at different times.
POSTED 5/10/99
Dave P., Ft. Benning, GA, United States, <krusader@excite.com> , 25, Male, Korean, Military officer, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 5899120408
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Question:
When U.S. Air Force bases in Britain closed, I heard that a number of African-American servicemen chose to remain in the United Kingdom because they felt the racism there was more "bearable." In what way were their experiences different from their experiences in the United States?
POSTED 5/10/99
Sharon, Portland, OR, United States, 34, Female, Pagan, White/Caucasian, Straight, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 5109930658
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Question:
Having just returned from Canada, I was asked about sexism in Australia, and replied it was about as noticeable as in many other places I had visited. Does anyone else believe Australians are more or less sexist than Canadians?
POSTED 5/10/99
Ed, Melbourne, NA, Australia, Mesg ID 569960919
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Question:
Why do women talk so much more than men?
POSTED 5/10/99
Don J., cleburne, TX, United States, <cougar@hpnc.com> , Male, White/Caucasian, Straight, Sales, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 5899100748

Response:
I think the amount of talking depends on the individual, not the person's sex. Of course, culture determines where and when a person feels invited to talk. But then, some people don't need or wait for an invitation.

People talk for many reasons, only one of which is to communicate information. People talk to bond with another person - or to push another person away; to conceal nervousness - or just to fill up time.

Talking is the activity that more than any other defines us as humans. From that perspective, we can understand why women and men love to talk. When nobody else is around, we even talk to ourselves. As a species, we just can't seem to stop talking.
POSTED 5/11/99
Tom L., Washington, DC, United States, 55, Male, White/Caucasian, Gay, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 5109954141
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Question:
The biggest culture shock I had when I went to the United States was when I walked into a public restroom. Why is the wide space necessary between the door and the floor? Aren't people ashamed of their legs being seen? And why do people put their stuff on the dirty floor? Also, aren't they ashamed of being heard when they are going to the bathroom? Some of them even talked to me while I was in there, and I was so ashamed. In my country, there is even a tape recorder installed on the wall to block out the noise.
POSTED 5/6/99
Kanako, Tokyo, NA, Japan, 25, Female, Asian, Mesg ID 569964341

Response:
I don't think most Americans are ashamed of their legs, but I do think it bothers some people that there is a big space under the door (where someone might accidentally get a peek of what they're not supposed to). I'm also pretty sure a lot of people worry about the noise they make, especially if going No. 2 or using feminine hygiene products. I think the problem is we don't really have a choice, and since we've been using bathrooms like this ever since we were little kids, we're pretty much used to it.

I have been to Japan and used the public bathrooms there, complete with otohime noise buttons (I think that's what they're called). I would also note that in Japan it is probably more important to have low doors because many toilets there are the squatting type, unlike the Western sitting type. I guess America is either not yet blessed with Japanese toilet advancements, or we have a male-dominated public bathroom industry. I'm not sure, but I wouldn't mind Japanese public bathrooms.
POSTED 5/7/99
Anne B., San Diego, CA, United States, 19, Female, Atheist, 3/4 Japanese, and some other stuff, Straight, College student, Middle class, Mesg ID 579941617

Response:
I am not ashamed about seeing other people's legs. That's why people wear short pants and short skirts. Unless skirts and pants are hideously short, people generally have no problems with leg-showing.
POSTED 5/6/99
Cynthia, Kingston, Ontario, NA, Canada, 19, Female, Christian, Asian, Straight, University student, High School Diploma, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 5699111321

Response:
I guess it's a matter of what we're used to. Not only does it not embarrass me to have my legs seen in a public restroom, it has never occurred to me to think anything of it. As far as someone hearing me use the restroom, well, it's really no secret why I'm in there, so why would "sound effects" matter one way or another? Regarding your comment about putting things on the dirty restroom floor, I am baffled about that as well. As often as I can, I hang my purse, jacket, packages, etc., on the hook inside the stall, if one is available.
POSTED 5/6/99
Chip, Detroit, MI, United States, 28, Female, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 5699114846

Response:
I was dumbfounded to read that people might be ashamed to have their legs seen in a public restroom. I can't imagine why you might be. In fact, I think a big part of the reason the doors do not go to the floor is that it allows you to see if the stall is occupied.

I think most people try to keep the noises to a minimum, but to this American it seems a little obsessive to play music to cover it up. It's just natural body functions, after all; something everyone does every day, nothing to be ashamed of.

Putting your stuff on the floor is kind of gross, but then again it depends on how clean the floor is and whether your stuff is in a plastic bag.
POSTED 5/10/99
Steve, Rochester, NY, United States, Male, White/Caucasian, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 589980001
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Question:
Why do some Mexicans like to lower their cars?
POSTED 5/5/99
Candice, Sacramento, CA, United States, 52, Female, Jewish,White/Caucasian, Straight, Attorney, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 5599123626

Response:
Mexicans aren't the only people into altering the appearance of motor vehicles. Have you never seen a hot rod or oldies-but-goodies? What about those souped-up muscle cars?Chicanos claimed 'low riding' as an art form many years ago. It requires lots of time, money, electrical and mechanical knowledge and artistic vision. Take a moment to look at the mini-murals the vehicles are embellished with: True works of art that usually are dedicated to religion or a loved one. A lot of pride is taken in the final products, hence the slow driving to better display their vehicles.

P.S. I know 'low riders' who are Latino, African American, First Nation, Filipino - even Caucasian. Imagine that!
POSTED 5/7/99
Travesa, San Francisco Bay Area, CA, United States, Female, Hispanic/Latino, Info Tech, Middle class, Mesg ID 579945131
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