Best of the Week
of June 11, 2000

Best of Week Archives

Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of June 11, 2000, 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 new 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 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. 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.

First-time users should first make a quick stop at Y?'s guidelines pages for asking and answering questions.


Question:
Why can't African Americans swim? Is there a physiological reason why some people seem to have a harder time swimming than others, or is it simply a matter of their surroundings?
POSTED 6/15/2000
Dan S., Chesterfield Township, MI, United States, 30, Male, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, Engineer, 4 Years of College , Middle class,Mesg ID 615200081409

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Question:
I don't understand why women size each other up in terms of their looks - whether it's about their physical attributes or dress style. Why do women do this?
POSTED 2/19/1999
George O., San Diego, CA, United States, Male, Mesg ID 2199914108

Responses:
I 'check out' other women simply to compare and contrast. What do we have in common? What seems like a good idea? Are 14 barrettes necessary? How we adorn ourselves gives a few clues to who we are. I'm just seeing who she is.
POSTED 6/15/2000
Gephry, Smokey Point, WA, United States, 27, Female, White/Caucasian, Straight, Momma, 4 Years of College , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 71899124220
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Question:
To those of non-Western cultures: How does it make you feel to see icons of your culture or religion brought into popular Western society? Specifically, I am thinking of Asian characters being used as popular tattoos or on clothing items, or depictions of the Buddha or geisha girls, or, for Indian people, the use of bindis or mehndi. I would think it would make you proud to see others interested in your culture, as long as they understand the significance. Is this so?
POSTED 6/15/2000
Jessica, Framingham, MA, United States, 21, Female, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, student, 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 6132000115911

Responses:
As an Indian, for me, it does depend on whether the person sporting a bindhi or bangles or drinking chai is doing it because it's pretty (OK), seems to understand the significance (OK) or is simply trying to be trendy (upsetting). I feel more comfortable wearing beautiful saris out to non-Indian events, but it riles me when people think I bought it at the local boutique.
POSTED 6/15/2000
Jen, Royal Oak, MI, United States, 23, Female, Agnostic, Asian, Straight, Telecom, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 6152000103925
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Question:
I am confused because I have heard that people with disabilitites do not want help opening doors or picking up things. I tend to think I should automatically help a person with a disability, but I don't want to be a pain if the person does not want my help. Can anyone with a disability share his or her opinion?
POSTED 2/29/2000
Suzanne F., Worcester, MA, United States, 21, Female, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, student, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 22200084256

Responses:
Humans help one another, and that's a wonderful thing. But every human is different, and people with disabilities are humans. There's another option besides automatically helping or never helping: Ask. And then wait for the answer. 'May I offer you a hand with that?' is never an offensive question, as long as the asker is sincerely waiting on my answer. Some days I need help, some days I don't. Some doors are easy, some are hard. Some days I can think clearly, some days I can't remember what day it is. Here's an example of what not to do that I witnessed last month: My buddy, who uses a manual chair, was rolling out of the pool where we'd just been swimming. A woman came up behind her and said, 'Want a push?' and my buddy said, 'No thanks, I'm fine.' It didn't matter - the woman had already started pushing my buddy. When the 'no' answer finally registered, the pusher offered this comment in the voice one uses with three-year-olds throwing a tantrum: 'Well, I never! My brother was in a wheelchair and he never minded when I pushed him!' That 'pushy' woman wanted to help so she could do her 'good deed' for the day, or perhaps to bring back the memory of her brother. It had nothing to do with my buddy, and that's why she didn't listen. So please, feel free to be wonderfully human and offer a hand, but also be wonderfully human and listen to whether your offer is needed that day by that person.
POSTED 6/15/2000
Jesse the K., Madison, WI, United States, <jk55@my-deja.com>, 45, Female, White/Caucasian, Bisexual, Wheelchair user, civic activist, Technical School , Middle class, Mesg ID 53200040012
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Question:
Why does our society think that all males who like to wear women's clothes are homosexual when women can wear men's clothes and are not seen as a lesbian?
POSTED 1/28/2000
David, Orlando, FL, United States, 45, Male, Christian, White/Caucasian, Lesbian, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 1252000103254

Responses:
I believe it's much more difficult for a woman to pass as male than for a man to pass as female. True, a woman has fewer biological obstacles to overcome, but she can wear pants and ties all day long and not be seen as anything but a woman in pants and a tie. I wish I had the answer to your question. Unfortunately, I don't know why society is silly that way, either.
POSTED 6/15/2000
Meredith, Washington, DC, United States, 19, Female, Unitarian Universalist, White/Caucasian, Lesbian, IT Technician, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 34200092447
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Question:
Recently I've become interested in Wicca and am curious to know if there are any practicing witches who are part of a coven or know any Wiccans who are black.
POSTED 6/15/2000
Michelle, Houston, TX, United States, 19, Female, Black/African American, Straight, Student, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 613200085257

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Question:
Can someone tell me some cultural differences in the business world in Brazil? I am curious about salutations, greetings, social customs, styles of dress, time and tolerance for conflict.
POSTED 6/15/2000
Kang, Lubbock, TX, United States, <coolkang@hotmail.com>, Buddhist, Asian, student, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 6142000121735

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Question:
Why do East Indians smell as if they do not wash? Is this cultural? Are they not allowed to use soap and deodorant?
POSTED 6/15/2000
Manani, New York, NY, United States, <pabsys@idt.net>, Male, Mesg ID 614200075434

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Question:
What happens when a Muslim man (or other group that permits polygamy) with more than one wife wishes to immigrate to a country like Canada or the United States, where polygamy is illegal? Is he automatically turned down? Is he allowed to bring only wife No. 1 with him?
POSTED 6/15/2000
C.P., Montreal, Quebec, NA, Canada, 22, Female, Mesg ID 614200080741

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Question:
A 31 year-old man has recently ambushed my 63-year-old husband, claiming once again that he is his son. This issue, we thought, was resolved in court two decades ago. My husband is the son of a biracial black man (both he and his siblings were able to 'pass' in the 1930s) and a dark-skinned mother. He is almost yellow in complexion, with 'good' hair, and ranks in the near-genius range. The young man's mother, who is mentally ill, is of medium complexion, with nappy hair and low intelligence. He is dark skinned, nappy hair, is six inches shorter than both parents and is quite slow intellectually. He has been in trouble with the law since his youth and spent his teenage years in a school for troubled teens. My husband is very well-connected and wealthy, and unfortunately not in good health - he has never been able to conceive children. My question is this: I always believed that a child could not be a darker skin color than his or her darkest parent. Is this an old wives' tale? Will we have to go through the trouble of genetic testing to remove all doubt?
POSTED 6/12/2000
Kaye, Columbus, OH, United States, Female, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, 4 Years of College , Upper class, Mesg ID 6122000122935

Responses:
DNA tests are quick and easy - have one done and lay the matter to rest. And just for the record, it is possible for a child to be darker than both parents - and shorter. The genetic make-up of people is very complex. A child can have traits from grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc. that are not visible in the child's parents. A child can be 'intellectually slower' than both parents as well. If a person does not grow up in an intellectually stimulating environment, that person may never reach his or her intellectual potential. After all, the kid came from a home with a mentally ill mother and no father.
POSTED 6/12/2000
Jacqueline C., San Jose, CA, United States, 26, Female, White/Caucasian, Straight, Engineer, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 612200030048

Yes, a child can be darker than both of his or her parents. It happens every day. I myself am of a darker complexion than both my mother and my father. It looks like your husband may have to submit to that blood test after all. Also, complexion and hair texture have nothing to do with intelligence levels as I'm sure you must know. You emphasized the difference between the young man, his mother and your husband in the mental competency department. The boy and his mother may have just been afforded less educational opportunities than your husband. That intellectual difference alone, however, does not rule out paternity. The boy may have just been raised in a totally different environment, hence his lack of intellectual capacity in your eyes.
POSTED 6/12/2000
Renee, Troy, MI, United States, <oopsydazi@aol.com>, 27, Female, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 612200042637
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Question:
I get frustrated when I try to get something done or make plans with a Latino and they seem to have an air of insecurity and indecision about doing it right away. Why are Latinos like this?
POSTED 6/12/2000
Rick, Ypsilanti, MI, United States, <papasito1999@hotmail.com>, 42, Male, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, Student, 4 Years of College , Lower class, Mesg ID 610200011014

Responses:
Many Latinos run on a different clock than everybody else. We like to refer to it as Chicano Time. This clock is more relaxed than other people's clocks; in fact, sometimes time means virtually nothing, which with tend to frustrate those who want to get everything done NOW. Chicano Time is at odds with the tightly wound world that many people live in, where there is too much to do and not enough time to do it in. I love being around my family, where time doesn't mean much. It's amazing how much more time there seems to be when you don't pay attention to it.
POSTED 6/12/2000
Lucy H., San Jose, CA, United States, 25, Female, Hispanic/Latino, Engineer, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 6122000120901
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Question:
To parents: What is the best way to raise children to be tolerant of people's differences? People say children are born without prejudices, but they do seem to pick out/pick on children who are different from them. How do you prevent this from turning into racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., when there are so many negative influences on them from the media and other kids? Should it be an active process, and if so, at what age do you start to do it?
POSTED 6/12/2000
Beth B, Edinburgh, NA, United Kingdom, 25, Female, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, PhD Student, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 610200084929

Responses:
What an excellent question. As the parents of two boys, 15 and 11, my husband and I try to instill in them an open, tolerant view of the world. The first and most obvious way to teach tolerance to children is to be tolerant yourself. Watch what you say, even in joking. The negative use of language is the first step in turning people into the 'other.' Kids don't always realize the implications of calling someone names; it's up to you to make those implications clear. The second thing is to widen your own friendships and experiences. How can you expect your children to be tolerant and respectful of other people's differences when the only people they meet are just like them? Introduce them to a wide range of people. This not only enriches their lives, it makes the issue more personal - after all, a racial insult or slur takes on a special significance when you're talking about a close friend. And having friends of different backgrounds helps them recognize that the way we are alike is more important than our racial and ethnic differences. Finally, talk to them about the racism, sexism and homophobia around them, the same way you'd talk to them about drugs, smoking and drinking. You give them the tools to make the right choices. I knew my husband and I had done a good job with our children when my older son was about nine. He kept talking and talking about his new friend at school, Joseph. Joseph was funny, he was cool, he was really good at baseball, he had a baby sister, he was his new best friend. When I finally met Joseph, guess what? He was black. My son never mentioned it because it wasn't an issue for him. Joseph wasn't his black friend; he was his friend. More recently, another friend of his was visiting and used the word 'gay' as a perjorative. My son poked him in the arm and told him, 'Hey, don't say that.' So what you say and do as a parent is indeed more powerful than all the negative images kids are exposed to.
POSTED 6/12/2000
Laura, Bel Air, MD, United States, 39, Female, White/Caucasian, Straight, teacher/writer/editor, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 6122000103535
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Question:
Every racial group has had something terrible happen to them in history, but I've met a lot of people who think it's OK for blacks to be racist or to blame everyone else for their problems. Why do blacks think they are entitled to more than everyone else because of what happened to their ancestors?
POSTED 6/12/2000
R.B., New York, NY, United States, 15, Female, Less than High School Diploma, Mesg ID 612200040326

Responses:
Blacks have a unique history, as well as a unique present-day social status, in that they are still, and have always been, victims of institutional and pervasive racism. That is the difference between blacks and 'other' immigrant groups. The difference, to put it in plainer terms by use of a hypothetical, is this: Yes, the 19th Century Irish immigrant had to live through tough times and faced discrimination, like the black sharecropper not even one generation removed from slavery. However, the difference is that in the year 2000, that Irish immigrant's Irish-American great-grandson will not be pulled over and detained 'driving while Irish,' nor will he be followed around a department store, nor will he be denied a home loan, nor will he be steered clear of residing in certain neighborhoods, nor will he face job discrimination or a glass ceiling within corporate America. That is why the black experience is different. The trials and tribulations brought on by our slavery, oppression and ongoing discrimination and marginalization makes our experience, and our reaction to those experiences, unique.
POSTED 6/15/2000
Renee, Troy, MI, United States, <oopsydazi@aol.com>, 27, Female, Black/African American, Over 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 6122000101758
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Question:
Why is it that when a man rapes a woman, people say, 'He wasn't a real man.' Does that mean other men have the urge to rape but have more self-control? And why is it acceptable for a man to cheat on a woman because the opportunity came up? What goes through men's minds?
POSTED 6/12/2000
Sarah, New London, CT, United States, Female, Mesg ID 612200042709

Responses:
Many men are not like the description you give. Those who are live under the old male rules and societal beliefs. While it is true that all men think about these subjects at some point in life, if they have good moral values they will not even fantasize about this. It is unfortunate that we still have many sections of society condoning and nurturing this type of thinking. The matter of rape goes much deeper into an area that is out of my league, unfortunately. This happens to both men and women, by the way, but men are taught they are strong and should not allow this to affect their lives. Many men have a difficult time with relationships because of the complex differences in the lives of men and women. Rape is a way for some men to gain the illusion of control in their lives. I stress the word illusion because that is all it is.
POSTED 6/12/2000
Richard, Ypsilanti, MI, United States, <papasito1999@hotmail.com>, 42, Male, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, Student, 4 Years of College , Lower class, Mesg ID 612200080348
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Question:
Is there really such a thing as gaydar? If there is, how reliable is it? Does it work for lesbians?
POSTED 6/12/2000
Krista, Gilbert, AZ, United States, 19, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Lesbian, Daycare, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 672000103342

Responses:
Many people would agree that 'Gaydar' does indeed exist. It is not a specific trait or skill, but more a case of picking up on vibes. In the same way as some people can easily recognize people from the same country or city or other group, gay people who have had a lot of contact with other gay people can often get a 'feeling' that someone else is also gay. I would imagine that this is highly related to culture. For example, as a European, I might easily pick up 'vibes' from other West Europeans and Americans, while gay people from Asia or Africa might 'fly under my gadar' because I have had no contact with the gay cultures of these continents. How sensitive your gadar is is personal; it works as well for guys as girls, but as I said, I think it is very closely linked with how "out" you are and how much contact you have had with the gay community.
POSTED 6/15/2000
Iteki, Stockhom, NA, Sweden, <iteki@chickmail.com>, 24, Female, Recovering Catholic, White/Caucasian, Lesbian, High School Diploma , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 615200051149

Have you ever suspected someone was gay by their mannerisms? I always thought Sinead O'Connor was gay, even though she had been married to a man for the longest time, and boom, last week she officially came out as a lesbian. That's 'gaydar.' Of course, if you're looking for 100 percent reliability, you'll be disappointed. (Why do you think so many gay people are still 'in the closet' today?)
POSTED 6/15/2000
Sylphide, Windsor, Ontario, NA, Canada, 18, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Bisexual, student, High School Diploma , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 613200072121

Gaydar is a variant on the basic human phenomenon that allows people to focus subconsciously on qualities that really matter to them. Straight people don't really need to identify gay people, so they never develop the skill that lets them do so. Ironically, this is true even for raging homophobes, who you think would develop gaydar just to let them hate more effectively. Gay people NEED to find each other, so they learn how to do so. Some people learn quickly and easily, others with much more difficulty. I suspect that the degree of difficulty depends mainly on one's comfort with oneself. The more you appreciate your own gayness, the easier you can identify other gay people. Gay behaviors are determined culturally; thus, gaydar fails when one enters a different culture. For example, to an American, almost all Italian men seem to act gay - purely a cultural reading of cultural behavior. Thus sometimes even inside an apparently homogeneous culture like that in the United States, gaydar fails because people fail to give or pick up on the very subtle signals involved. And, yes, gaydar works for lesbians as well as gay men. Don't be upset if you're having problems developing your gaydar. It will come at its own pace.
POSTED 6/15/2000
Thom, Washington, DC, United States, Male, Gay, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 613200051921

I think it exists. A woman started flirting with me on the phone at work today. We didn't know each other at all. She obviously realized I wouldn't react homophobically.
POSTED 6/15/2000
Priscilla, Sydney, NA, Australia, 23, Female, Agnostic, Bisexual, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 613200064345

Gaydar is nothing more than being able to determine if someone you meet is gay (or lesbian). Some people are obvious about their sexual orientation, but others are more subtle. It's all about picking up on subtle clues in the person's mannerisms, speech, clothing, jewelry, etc. Anyone who has spent time around gays and lesbians and is observant can develop gaydar.
POSTED 6/15/2000
Jacqueline C., San Jose, CA, United States, 26, Female, White/Caucasian, Straight, Engineer, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 6122000121539
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Question:
To younger people (and older people): Are there still 'bases' when it comes to sex? For instance, first base is kissing and so on. Should they be revised for the new generation?
POSTED 6/12/2000
Krista, Gilbert, AZ, United States, 19, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Lesbian, Daycare, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 672000104502

Responses:
It depends who you ask. Most guys don't brag about it today, and those who do are usually marked as losers who need the approval of others. And even they never use the term "bases." As far as what the bases are, here's what I remember from back in fifth grade:
1st base = making out/necking
2nd base = hand up shirt
3rd base = hand down pants
Home run = Sex
POSTED 6/15/2000
Alex, Elkins Park, PA, United States, <first_wizard@hotmail.com>, 17, Male, Jewish, White/Caucasian, Bisexual, High School student, Less than High School Diploma , Middle class, Mesg ID 6152000125506

I don't know about the bases, but it seems to me that today's young people have too many fast balls and not enough 'short STOPS!'
POSTED 6/15/2000
Alma, Kempner, TX, United States, <pridewks@seacove.net>, 47, Female, Methodist, White/Caucasian, Lesbian, contract employee, 4 Years of College , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 612200074455
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Question:
Does anyone know the symptoms of prescription drug addiction? I have a friend who has been to the emergency room three times since February. The first time was legitimate, but the two other times were questionable (a small cyst, a broken toe). This is not including follow-up visits that included refills of painkillers.
POSTED 6/12/2000
Julie W., Southfield, MI, United States, <jlwhite72@yahoo.com>, 26, Female, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, Administrative Assistant, High School Diploma , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 672000121727

Responses:
As a foot doctor in D.C., I can tell you what you already know: That the only difference is the prescription; otherwise, the drugs would cost more on the street. If your friend goes to different doctors all the time, chances are the drugs are asked for by name, and the doctor has no idea they were already gotten from another doctor. Also, if too many prescriptions are written, a 'central clearinghouse' knows the patient is getting these pills from all the doctors involved, and the doctors are called and informed of this. Try to stop this if you can; this is a friend of yours, and he/she may get caught, never to receive more again.
POSTED 6/15/2000
FreddFezzo, Washington, DC, United States, Male, Jewish, White/Caucasian, Bisexual, Foot doctor, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 6132000104131

Any number of web sites could inform you of the different symptoms of prescription drug abuse. However, people who seek medical care on a too-frequent basis for imagined illness and injury may be exhibiting signs of mental disease. Munchausen Syndrome, so named for a German soldier who suffered from it, drives its victims to pester medical care practitioners to the point where they are administered tests, surgeries and medications that may not be necessary. It has more to do with wishing to be nursed and cared for than any pleasure derived from pharmaceutical abuse.
POSTED 6/15/2000
Emma, Los Angeles, CA, United States, Female, Mesg ID 614200041133
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