Best of the Week
of June 28, 1998


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of June 28, 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:
SO59: To gay people: How, and when, did you know you were gay?
POSTED JULY 2, 1998
Sue A., 38, Wilmington, DE
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THE QUESTION:
R310: Why are there so many black TV sitcoms nowadays? It seems the number far exceeds the demographic numbers. Is it possible we are reverting to the days of Amos and Andy? Also, are black people offended by these shows? It seems to me they are a bit demeaning.
POSTED JUNE 8, 1998
Wayne, 52, white male, WayneHD@aol.com, Anaheim, CA

ANSWER 1:
I don't think the situation is as bad as Amos and Andy. These were whites in blackface, which is far more offensive than anything going on now. Furthermore, it's hard for African Americans to make shows other than comedies that will sell. You may remember an African-American soap opera called Generations a few years back. Why did that get cut? Because nobody was watching it.
POSTED JUNE 21, 1998
Katherine, Richmond, IN

FURTHER NOTICE:
I am black and yes, I am offended by some of these sitcoms. Especially shows like The Wayans Brothers Show. It is no more flattering than Step N Fetchit or Amos and Andy. It is one of the most degrading shows I have ever seen both times I watched. Our forefathers must be turning over in their graves in protest of this setback. Have you ever thought of why it can place last in the ratings for so many years and still remain on TV? Have you ever thought of why sitcoms lead the sector of TV work for blacks? No accident. Much better shows like The Gregory Hines Show and many tries by Tim and Daphne Reid (Frank's Place) have lasted only two or three weeks at best. Sometimes I think whites make sure such stupidity stays in front of TV audiences to perpetuate the clown myth. Their is nothing wrong with the amount of shows, but the fault lies in the quality and the lack of chance in the drama sector.
POSTED JULY 2, 1998
Embarrassed As Heck, black <
Firdinand@AOL.Com>, Gainesville, FL
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THE QUESTION:
R366: Why do many white Americans (with the exception of Southerners) seem cold and unfriendly? I find it difficult to make white friends, because I don't get the same positive responses I do with other ethnic groups. What are some possible reasons?
POSTED JULY 1, 1998
Michela, 23, Latina-Asian female, Los Angeles, CA

ANSWER 1:
I think there could be a number of reasons, depending on the person you are trying to talk to. The same thing happens here around New York. I have noticed that it comes down to discomfort based on "race issues." Sometimes I get uncomfortable speaking with some of the people here at work because I do not want to offend them accidentally. Because of the many possible sources of friction between different ethnic groups and whites, it can get tricky. And unfortunately, some white people simply do not like anyone who is not white, despite the silliness of such an attitude. My suggestion would be to simply continue to be friendly and open. The right kind of people will relax and come around in time. The rest are hardly worth your time. One more piece of advice: Try not to classify one group of whites as friendly and open and another group as unfriendly. That only adds to the stereotype. I think you would find that the open nature of whites in the South is more of a regional thing, and that under that mask they are just like everyone else. Personal experience has proven that to be true.
POSTED JULY 2, 1998
John K., 24, straight Irish-American male, <
the-macs@geocities.com>, Cranford, NJ
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THE QUESTION:
RE38: What is the religious/cultural significance of the dot on the forehead of Indian females? How do they get it there? Is it tatooed, painted or stick-on? What would happen if they neglected to put it on? I desire as detailed an answer as possible.
POSTED APRIL 30, 1998
L.A., 29, white female, Boston, MA

ANSWER 1:
Traditionally, the dot on the forehead was a symbol of marriage. A woman, once married, has to wear the dot just like you wear a wedding ring. I think different communities have different traditions regarding which color should be used if you are not married or widowed. Today, that symbolism has largely vanished, and the dot is simply a beauty accoutrement for Indian girls and women, much like lipstick or eye-shadow. The dot can be put on in many ways: A liquid that washes off, a powder that will easily come off, or, most popular with the younger women and girls, stickers in a variety of colors and shapes. You stick it on, you can take 'em off and after a few times, the stickiness will be gone, so you throw it away and use a new one.
POSTED JULY 1, 1998
P.K.M., 29, Indian, Berkeley, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
The "tika" mark worn by most adult Indian women on their forehead is usually made of a red vermilion paste, ash or sandalwood, and is not permanent. It can be applied by the woman to denote her Hindu sect (different colors), or can be applied by a priest as a blessing. Sometimes they are in the shape of three horizontal lines (followers of Shiva), and vertical lines (followers of Vishnu). On a man, the mark is known as a "Tilak." The tika mark in the shape of a dot is known as a "bindi" and is worn to signify that a woman is married.
POSTED JULY 1, 1998
Martin J. <
gshrzarmod@aol.com>, Salinas, CA
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THE QUESTION:
R26: Why do Asian-Indian men in the United States dress in traditional "American" clothing, but the women or wives still wear headresses and long skirts? Does this tie into the belief (or maybe the stereotype) that Asian-Indian women are submissive and subservient?
POSTED MARCH 11, 1998
Z.J., Jacksonville, FL

ANSWER 1:
The code of dress for men, even in India, is universal. Unless for certain functions, they always resorted to the Western dress. For Indian women, I think, it's more a matter of comfort, that's all. Mind it,they do go for the Western, also. There is no submission or force, but as in all cases, there are exceptions. From my point, (and from many of my friends') my man never insisted on that. At least in this generation, it doesn't happen.
POSTED MARCH 21, 1998
Simran, MN <
sim@ol.com>

FURTHER NOTICE:
I am a married Indian male living in the United States and I have thought about this question in a slightly different way. Why is it that women of other nationalities are not seen in their traditional dresses as much as the Indian women? One reason might be that in India, traditional women's clothing has been adjusted and accepted as formal/office wear. Another reason- according to my wife - is that she feels much more comfortable and beautiful in Indian clothes. I agree. Unfortunately she can't wear them at her place of work in the United States every day because they are too "nice" for a chemistry lab. But she is always looking for a chance to wear something colorful and traditional whenever she can.

As for men, speaking for myself, I have always worn pants/jeans/shirts (except for special occasions) when I was in India, and there was no big adjustment to make after coming here. My question for the original questioner is, Why do Americans think all women outside America are submissive/traditional/incapable-of-thinking-for-themselves, etc.?
POSTED JUNE 28, 1998
C.A., Indian <
p2k4@hotmail.com>, East Lansing, MI
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THE QUESTION:
D1: I am interested in how the average person views people who stutter. Do they perceive the handicap as mental, physical or whatever? I am 55 and a former severe stutterer till I was 22. I also have an adult son who still stutters.
POSTED MARCH 11, 1998
Jim Y., Walled Lake, MI

ANSWER 1:
I would have to say I view stuttering as a physical condition. I have however, seen a stuttering friend treated as though he were mentally disabled. People become impatient waiting for him to finish a word or sentence and attempt to finish it for him or excuse themselves while he is in mid-sentence to speak to someone else. They will often try to speak slowly to him and loudly as though he were deaf. This is very frustrating to him and devalues the intelligence he possesses.
POSTED MARCH 20, 1998
Lori C., 33, Bellevue, NE

FURTHER NOTICE:
I can't answer this as an "average" person, because I am a person who stutters. Personally, I believe the cause of stuttering can be either physical or psychological, or both. My stutter, for example, completely disappears when I am alone, or when I speak to my dogs. I stutter worse when I am under stress (like when I have to verbally defend myself). These characteristics seem to me to be psychological in nature. I participated in group speech therapy while I was in high school and came in contact with very severe stutterers, some of whom couldn't utter a sound without stuttering, regardless of the situation. These people, I'm convinced, had a physiological defect that caused them to stutter.
POSTED MARCH 25, 1998
John H., 27, white male <
jhopkins@osscorp.com>
Farmington Hills, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I am a speech-language pathologist, and people do tend to be impatient with people who stutter (disfluencies). I think a good starting point is for the person who stutters to let his communication partners know he/she stutters. This takes pressure off the person who stutters ("the big secret is out") and it also lets the other person know the situation and hopefully be less critical. If needed after the initial explanation, the person who stutters can let the listener know he understands everything, hears well but has some difficulties getting some words out. It is also important for the person who stutters (and the rest of us) to realize that nobody has completely fluent speech - not actors, newscasters - nobody.
POSTED JUNE 15, 1998
L.K., San Diego , CA

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I am 21 and have been stuttering ever since I can remember. I was raised in Africa, where stuttering is ridiculed, and because of that I became very conscious of my speech defect. I have managed to control my stuttering over the years, but I notice I stutter more when I am participating in group discussions (when all eyes are on me) or when I am really nervous or angry. People are very impatient with those who stutter; the only advice I can give is to find a unique quality and flaunt it. That will make an individual feel good.
POSTED JUNE 27, 1998
Ifeyinwa <
ifebigh77@hotmail.com>, Miami, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I am not an expert on the subject of stuttering, but I did work for a non-profit organization here in Canada that provided financial support for stutterers in Canada to attend a program in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, called the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research. Dr. Einer Boberg was the founder of this Institute. Sadly, Dr. Boberg is no longer with us, but I know his work continues. And I have seen before-and-after video tapes of individuals who stutter (or I should say "used to stutter"). It is amazing. I don't know if there is a program similar to this in the United States, and if I'm not mistaken, the techniques and practices utilized by this Institute are internationally known. Don't know if this answers your question or is of any use to you. I just felt I should pass along the fact that there is help for stutterers to overcome their problem.
POSTED JUNE 30, 1998
Marie B.<
bradnmarie@dlcwest.com>, Regina, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I am an 18-year-old stutterer, and I think people who think stuttering is a disability do not know what it's like. I lead a very normal and active life, and my speech does not affect me, although I have had my share of people patronizing me. Stuttering is not a disability or physical condition - it adds to a person's character.
POSTED JULY 1, 1998
Ryan D., 18, white male <
jroosa@hotmail.com>, Rayne, La

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
I've stuttered all my life, and the fact that I am an Asian immigrant has made it much more difficult. when I was still in chool I could not speak or read in front of any one. I was able to negotiate through a very successful technical management career, during which I spent the first six years as an individual contributor, and the latter five years as a manager. I was at least more effective than my fluent, domestically born peers, with up to nearly 30 degreed technical staff under my responsibility. I created my own company 10 years ago after I was convinced there was nothing more I could do by continuing my corporate career, and I have had no problem running and growing the business. I'm in my early forties, and I still stutter terribly even talking to my three children. It is obvious that I'd feel much better without stuttering - I may even do better without stuttering, and I do wonder often, "What if I never stuttered?" I never looked for a psychologist, I never spent time finding a cure. But I did try harder, and I did find ways to get the job done.
POSTED JULY 2, 1998
Isaac, 43, Asian Male <
isaac@iccas.com>, Newbury Park, CA
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THE QUESTION:
R326: Living in Los Angeles, I've noticed many white/Asian couples. Why does it seem that white men usually seem to be with unattractive Asian women? Is it just the exotic factor that they're after?
POSTED JUNE 13, 1998
Twentysomething, San Gabriel, CA

ANSWER 1:
I think you may just be picking out certain couples. Here in Hawaii, we have many racially mixed couples, and there are just as many "attractive" couples as there are "unattractive." Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. These people may have something really special between them, and it is not for us to judge.
POSTED JUNE 25, 1998
Valerie, 30, white, Honolulu , HI

FURTHER NOTICE:
Interestingly enough, I've always felt it was attractive Asian women with unattractive white men. Regardless, I think there's a dual effect going on. First, many of these white men have apparently bought into American society's treatment of Asian women as exotic, submissive, obedient creatures, an image cultivated by the mass media (like everything else). Movies that deal with the Vietnam or Korean wars come to mind, where saucy "oriental" hookers wear skimpy outfits and try to get business from American GIs.

The second effect is simply that of Asian women buying into American society itself, in which the dominant race (white) is the de facto standard by which other races are judged. In this racial paradigm, the attractiveness of other races is measured by how "white" they look. (If in doubt, think of most non-white models - do they tend to exhibit facial characteristics that lean closer to white, or to their own racial group? In other words, will a model with extremely thick lips, a flat nose and nappy hair ever become a smash hit in America?) I'm not placing a value judgment on this situation, I'm only making an observation. Anyway, to conclude this second effect, many Asian women are attracted to white men because the latter are the pinnacle of attainment in this society. Black men are considered "taboo," while Asian men are asexual computer geeks or martial arts experts (think Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid or that Indian guy from the movie Short Circuit).
POSTED JUNE 26, 1998
Ray, 24, Asian <
yangban@erols.com>, Washington, DC

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
As a European engaged to an Asian American, I find most attraction is based on personality. While I find my fiancee physically attractive, I fell in love with her honesty, outward shyness and faithfulness. Many European females seem to "look down" on guys these days, something I have never encountered with Asian females.
POSTED JULY 1, 1998
T. Rameth, 22 <
rameth@hotmail.com>, San Leandro, CA
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