Best of the Week
of July 26, 1998



Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of July 26, 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:
A8: Director's Paraphrase: K.W. of Orange Park, Fla., would like to know why movie theaters tell people under 18 they can't enter an R-rated movie because they aren't adults, but then charge them the adult rate instead of the child's rate for entrance into a PG movie.
POSTED MAY 3, 1998

ANSWER 1:
I believe R-rated movies require those 17 and under to be admitted only with a parent or guardian. If you are 18, you should be allowed to see R-rated movies alone. I was in a similar situation when I was younger. I tried to buy some liquor when I was 20, and was charged (as an adult) with being a minor in possession of alcohol. This is a double standard. A person who is 20 should either be an adult or a child, not both. I think people who have reached the18 should be considered adults for all purposes. If you're old enough to die in a war for your country, you're old enough to drink a beer and watch any movie you feel like watching.
POSTED JUNE 26, 1998
Robert W., 33, white <
rwalling@connect.net>, Dallas, TX

FURTHER NOTICE:
The Ratings System (G, PG, R, NC-17, X, etc.) is a product of the Motion Picture Association of America, which sets guidelines for who is allowed to see what movies. Movie theaters must follow the guidelines set forth by the MPAA. Movie theaters, as independent businesses, can charge whatever they like for admission, and most have fallen into a rough classification system (Youth, Adult, Senior, Student, etc.). This "Adult" classification has nothing to do with the MPAA guidelines, which make no mention of the word "Adult." They are two separate distinctions that both happen to use the same term to roughly define an age group. Therefore, one can pay a price for the "Adult" tier and still not be an "Adult" in any other sense of the word.
POSTED JUNE 27, 1998
Brian W., 24 <
brian@darkwolf.com>, Atlanta, GA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I understand your frustration with theaters not allowing people 17 and under into R-rated movies without a parent or adult. I have three teenagers, and they never want to see any movies that aren't rated R. However, in our area, the kids usually get in without any problem. If there is a problem, I simply go to the box office and give my permission for the kids to see the movie, and they're allowed in. With shows on HBO and Showtime rated closer to X than R, how as parents are we to control what our children view? Why are theaters so concerned about our childeren when they can already see what they want, including X-rated stuff and the R-rated movies on HBO and Showtime? If it is left up to us as parents to regulate what our children watch at home, why does it concern theaters? My children are already so much more advanced in years than I was at their current ages (14, 15 and 18). I'm finished worrying about R-rated movies; I spend my time trying to keep my 14-year-old out of the porn sections on the net.
POSTED AUG. 1, 1998
Jayale1955 <
jayale1955@aol.com>, Oak Ridge, TN
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THE QUESTION:
R311: Why do more Asians seem to eat with their mouths open than any other group? I have lived and worked in several Asian countries, and most of my friends in America are Asian, so I have a representative sample from which to draw the above conclusion, but I haven't learned of a reason for this.
POSTED JUNE 9, 1998
thsmith, 28, white, Los Angeles, CA

ANSWER 1:
I am a Chinese male, 32, and I do not eat with my mouth open. It was taught to me constantly, by my parents and grandparents, during meals to keep my lips closed when I chewed. It is also considered extremely impolite and disrespectful to talk while having food in your mouth. Maybe my family is an exception, but I have never seen any of my friends do what you asked about without someone showing disgust.
POSTED JUNE 27, 1998
Joe C., 32, Chinese, Fremont, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
I can't speak for all Asians, but I know that my mom lectured me about it when I did it as a kid, and it turned out that in my case, it was allergies. I couldn't breathe through my nose during certain seasons (summer's pollen, winter's indoor dust) and would chew with my mouth open in order to breathe as well. It's possible that that has to do with having evolved in a different climate, that ragweed or stuffy, sealed indoor environments wouldn't have been a problem for me were I living where my parents were born, in the Philippines. If there are cultural answers to this question, I am not aware of them.
POSTED JULY 1, 1998
David, 35, Asian American <
HoopNation@aol.com>, San Francisco, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I think I can guess why so many Asians eat with their mouths open or at least talk with their mouths full. I've lived in different parts of Asia for the last nine years, and now I'm living in Japan with my husband. I've discovered that you can speak Japanese, and probably quite a few other Asian languages, without spitting food all over the place. Most Asian languages don't seem to have the same amount of aspirated letters as in English (or any at all). English is full of "p's" and "t's" that involve a little expulsion of air (and food, if there's any in your mouth at the time). So, while our mothers always taught us that it was rude and disgusting to speak with your mouth full (which, if you speak English, is), Asian mothers were busy teaching their kids that it's rude to blow your nose and other such things.
POSTED JULY 18, 1998
G. Onosaka <
gillonosaka@hotmail.com>, Japan

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I think it is a cultural thing. I am Chinese living in the Philippines. Because this country was colonized by the Spaniards and the Americans, there are a lot of Western influences imbedded in our culture. I lived in Taiwan for a year and have been to Hong Kong and China. In these countries, I have witnessed so many habits and customs that, as seen through my Westernized point of view, are utterly disgusting. And one of them is eating and talking while their mouths are full. But for the Chinese living in these countries, this practice is as common and as unconscious behavior as covering your mouth when you cough. If ever they do it, I am sure they do not to irritate or insult anyone. They don't even know some may find it offensive.
POSTED JULY 29, 1998
I.C., 32, Manila, The Philippines
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THE QUESTION:
RE83: My six-year-old daughter would like to know why only Native American men and not women are allowed to dance around fires in the tribes that have these traditions.
POSTED JULY 28, 1998
Grant and Katie, 35 & 6 <
artmcm@aol.com>, Jacksonville, FL
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THE QUESTION:
GE49: Why don't many women have motor skills? Most females can't throw a ball correctly or swing a golf club. When they drive, they hold the steering wheel in funny ways and are constantly trying to correct the wheel. Looking for answers...
POSTED JUNE 27, 1998
Eric, white male <
boss_hogg@geocities.com>, Iowa

ANSWER 1:
I think it's just the way women are made. Maybe a certain part of our brain is more dominant than the other. That's why there are women and there are men. It's like comparing an apple to an orange - they are both fruits, but their tastes and colors are different, and it's not fair to compare them because they are totally different.
POSTED JULY 15, 1998
I.C., 32, female, Manila, The Philippines

FURTHER NOTICE:
I can't imagine what women you have been observing. I am by no means an athletic person, but I can throw a ball (although not as far as a man), I can swing a golf club (again, not as long of a drive as my husband, but at least straight) and I'm a pretty good driver. I hold the wheel as I was taught, at "ten o'clock" and "two o'clock" or, when I get lazy, just hold it with one hand at the bottom. The only answer I can think of to your question is that it is not a gender issue (I know plenty of clumsy, uncoordinated men) but that you have been watching some rather uncoordinated women, or people who simply haven't practiced the activities you mentioned.
POSTED JULY 21, 1998
Michelle, 26, female <
wxjon@minor.stlnet.com>, St. Louis, MO

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I don't think men are naturally more inclined to have better motor skills. In childhood, women are generally less encouraged to develop physical prowess, and less challenged when they show an inclination. Obviously, many manage to become great athletes in spite of and even because of these obstacles.
POSTED JULY 22, 1998
David, Houston, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I've never seen the steering wheel example you referred to. However, your other two examples (throwing a ball and using a golf club) are not biological, but learned behaviors. If you are right-handed, try throwing a ball with your left hand. If you've never done it before, you simply won't be able to throw a ball as well with your non-dominant hand because you haven't learned and mastered the necessary mechanical motions. Boys learn the necessary mechanics of throwing from associating with other boys, watching them throw and throwing things themselves. Unless a girl is in a similar situation (e.g. several older brothers), she most likely won't learn the mechanics of throwing on her own. But it can be learned. In regard to your other example, there is a Women's PGA tour.
POSTED JULY 28, 1998
Bill L., San Francisco, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
Women do have motor skills. All humans have motor skills, except those disabled in that area. Women may use their motor skills in different ways. I, for one, play a very good game of softball and can swing a golf club in the proper manner.
POSTED JULY 28, 1998
Kat, Topeka, KS

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
Many girls and women throw baseballs and swing golf clubs beautifully. I am not one of them, but that's because I don't care for those sports. That's not because I'm a woman - I cycle, and I and dance extremely well, which both require strong coordination. I know no one, male or female, who holds a steering wheel "in a funny way," and I hope that everyone is adjusting the wheel as he or she drives, since I'd think that's part of how one steers. Finally, how are you defining "motor skills"? Can you, for example, do fine needlework, swiftly julienne vegetables or build and wire a lamp? I can do two of these three things - which I believe require fine motor ability - better than most people I know, and if I were a betting woman, I'd put down $5 that when you first posted your question, you wouldn't guess which two correctly.
POSTED JULY 29, 1998
D.S., 32, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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THE QUESTION:
G19: I come from Japan, which doesn't have any custom for giving tips for service. When and why did this custom start in the United States?
POSTED JULY 27, 1998
Takeo F. <
Takeo Fukuda@amat.com>, San Francisco, CA
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THE QUESTION:
RE69: It's my feeling that some Christians, particularly fundamentalists or born-again Christians, feel a need to tell others how to live their lives. On the other hand, while messages from society and the media may not necessarily be "Christian," I don't see non-Christians telling Christians to change their beliefs. Wouldn't it be more "Christian" to live and let live, or turn the other cheek? Is their some religious reason behind this?
POSTED JUNE 17, 1998
Allison S., 33, white female, <
alnshawn@aol.com>, Mission Viejo, CA

ANSWER 1:
Have you known married people who love to fix up their single friends? They are so happy being married they want their friends to know the same happiness. That is how it often is for born-again Christians. We sometimes get overzealous when sharing our joy. It is an intensely personal and emotionally charged topic, and it can be hard to discuss in a sensitive manner without seeming holier-than-though. True Christians know we are sinners like everybody else, but it's like we've discovered the "cure" for guilt and shame. When we become Christians, we are forgiven and lifted up into a loving relationship with God. We want our friends to know the same joy.
POSTED JULY 26, 1998
T. Arthur, 38, born-again Christian <
MrsArthur1@aol.com>, Sterling Heights, MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
There is definitely a Christian teaching behind helping others. It was the whole point of Jesus Christ's life on earth. Imagine if you saw a burning building. Would you feel the urgent need to get the people out? Most people would say yes, because those inside are going to die. However, if you try to help someone out and they refuse, you move on to someone who wants your help. This is how we feel about those who are not Christians (and even some who claim to be.) Matthew 28:19-20 tells us to "Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations ... teaching them all the things I have commanded you." If however, someone does not want to learn, that is their choice. God has given us the free will to decide how we will live our lives. But I don't want people to make an uninformed decision about such an important matter.
POSTED JULY 27, 1998
M.A.M., 25, Atlanta, GA

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THE QUESTION:
R14: Do African Americans generally expect eventual betrayal from white people? Or do they simply see white people as naive about the nature of racism and, therefore, unaware of when they (whites) might be unintentionally offensive? Is it a survival mechanism learned from living with the constant, wearing effect of racism? Can an African-American ever let down his or her guard and trust a white person?
POSTED MARCH 9, 1998
Susan J., Dayton, OH

ANSWER 1:
I trust people who are honest and sincere and whose values are the same as mine, regardless of their color. I think trust is something that should be earned. So I don't get chummy and confide in people who haven't earned my trust. My guard is up no matter what color you are.

Sometimes I meet white people and I instantly know they are racist even though they try to hide it. There's always something - a look, body language, a comment - that gives them away. Sometimes it's very subtle. I also know white people who admit they have racist feelings and want to educate themselves and learn where those feelings come from (stereotypes, from their parents, a bad experience, etc.) It takes patience, but I can work with that.

I do have black friends, though, who don't want anything to do with white people. When they get home from work they don't wat to see them or think about them. They feel tired from having to deal with them all day long. It's like a game or a dance. People tiptoeing around race and differences, not saying what they really mean and not asking what they really want to ask. I understand why they feel that way.
RECEIVED MARCH 11, 1998
M. Johnson, Jacksonville, Fla.

FURTHER NOTICE:
I never thought I would answer one of these questions until I saw this one virtually screaming at me. No, I do not feel I could ever trust a white person again. I have had far too many instances when I have been burned because I have been too trusting of them. I have had many white employers, friends, peers, etc., and all of them are untrustworthy. I treated them the exact same way as all of my black o Latino acquaintances (and usually went out of my way to be nice), but all with the same end result: An inappropriate comment starting something like "Why do you people..." or "Why do blacks..." or "Do all black people..." This leads to an immediate termination of the conversation, trust and the friendship. I cannot see, even in my young age, ever approaching a white person and striking up a conversation without them saying something inappropriate. I think it all stems from the fact that white people (because they have no culture to identify with) have no sense of loyalty and feel that people of different races are disposable. I feel that if there are some black people out there who can trust you, you should be grateful.
POSTED JULY 17, 1998
L.W., 24, black female, Detroit, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
To L.W.: I am really sad that your experience of white people has been so bad. I wish there were some way I could change your opinion of us, but that is virtually impossible in a letter. I can only tell you about my situation and my friends and let you know that my color really does not make me unreliable and lacking in loyalty or culture. I work in a laboratory with people of many nationalities, from China, Taiwan, Southern India, Northern India, Ireland, Denmark, Nigeria and the Ukraine, and many more people have passed through. We all get along very well and none of us, to my knowledge, has ever had problems because of our different skin colors or races. We talk about our different cultures to each other, and I enjoy learning about foreign places very much. For example, we swap music and cook for each other. Reading what you have said has made me realize how lucky I am to have such a good workplace. I hope you meet nicer white people in the future - please don't give up on us.
POSTED JULY 27, 1998
Liz, white <
Elizabeth.Baines@bbsrc.ac.uk>, Edinburgh, UK

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
To L.W.: My trust has been trampled on by blacks, whites, older people, teenagers, Jews, Christians, Muslims, men, women ... the list goes on and on. Don't adopt the attitude, "Well, I'll never trust another white person again (or older person, or Jew, or man, etc). The world is (occasionally) a nasty place, and sometimes it's nasty because of a particular person (who, inevitably, will be of a particular color, gender, age, religion, sexual preference, etc.) That nastiness is not a product of race or creed. They are nasty people because they are nasty.
POSTED JULY 27, 1998
J. Storm, 43, Salem, OR

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
To L.W.: How can you say white people have no culture to identify with? That is quite a stereotype. I'm a white Italian who has plenty of culture to identify with. I'm very proud of my heritage and have mounds of respect for all cultures. As far as trusting people, you cannot bunch everyone from the same race into one stereotype. I've been screwed by people of all cultures (white, black, Hispanic, Indian, etc.), but I will always give someone I meet the benefit of the doubt, no matter their race, color or religon. If you are going to distrust an entire race because you have been by a handful of people of that race, you are going to have an uphill fight the rest of your life.
POSTED JULY 29, 1998
L.D., white Italian, Boston, MA

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THE QUESTION:
R376: Why are Asian male/white female couples much rarer than Asian female/white male couples? And why does one hardly ever see an Asian male/black female couple?
POSTED JULY 17, 1998
Julie B., 25, white <
bouzoun@mri.jhu.edu>, Baltimore, MD

ANSWER 1:
I think it's a matter of exposure, personal conceptions and background. Asian males seem to have a "stick-to-your-own" mentality, while Asian women have more of a "go get him" mentality (this is not to speak for all Asians, just the ones I've been in contact with). This idea is borne from my contact with other Asian males and females, particularly with those born and/or raised in the United States (like me). Asian women get approached because of the stereotypical "exotic" nature of "Oriental women" that men find so attractive (not the only reason, of course, but it's an attention-getter). Asian men, however, aren't approached by non-Asian women as much because of the stereotype that they are analytical and quiet. Boisterousness (read: self-confidence) is not usually a characteristic attributed to Asian men, unless they happen to be around other Asians, usually of the same culture (Japanese to Japanese, Korean to Korean, Vietnamese to Vietnamese, etc.)

I have to confess that sometimes I find myself wondering what it would be like to date a Japanese woman. But since I don't know any in the area, I don't even think about it. Beyond my girlfriend (who is white) and myself, I have never seen any other Asian male/white female couple. Ironically, my manager is a Chinese woman who is married to a white man.
POSTED JULY 27, 1998
Japanese male dating white female, Detroit, MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
In my experience, Asian male/white female relationships are not as rare as they appear. In Chicago, especially at large city socials like Taste of Chicago, I see such couples among a crowd. However, you're right that AM/WF couples are less common than white male/Asian female couples. I think one of the main reasons are that WM/AF couples have been "accepted" in the media and in real life for a very long time, as far back as when white male colonials visited China and Japan and married the locals there. But images of Asian males in sexual relationships with white females still bring up associations of "little Japanese businessmen" doting upon tall, blonde "party-girls;" the fear of white females being "taken" by non-white men is an age-old and continuing taboo (black slaves raping white women, etc.). Other reasons concern the myth that Asian men have small penises, which in part, insults white women, because it questions their motives for being with certain men and avoiding others. There are other more sociological reasons that concern the negative labels attached to the Asian male sexual identity in the United States and general social roles of men and women (e.g. tall, strong, bold men with rock-hard abs are considered desirable in America, but Asian males are accused of lacking such qualities).
POSTED JULY 28, 1998
David L., 25, Asian-male <
dlin@orion.it.luc.edu>, Chicago, IL
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THE QUESTION:
RE80: Why don't Jehovah's Witnesses accept blood products, even if it means saving their or a family member's life?
POSTED JULY 26, 1998
Tina S. <
beaniejet27@yahoo.com>, New Haven, MI
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THE QUESTION:
R370: I work for an older, wealthy, Jewish woman. She is very bright and enthusiastic. I am taken aback, however, when she walks into our office and begins by criticizing everything, often before knowing what she's looking at. I've been told this trait is typical of Jewish women. If there's any truth to this, what might be helpful for me to know in order to work better with her? Is this a culture issue? I assumed it was a personality trait. I'd really like some more positive interaction from the get-go, vs. having to work backwards toward it.
POSTED JULY 15, 1998
Thirty-Year-Old, Southern Protestant Liberal, St. Louis, MO

ANSWER 1:
It's a personality trait. Less-thoughtful people often find excuses to behave badly; it has nothing to do with genetics. You mentioned she was older and wealthy; these facts may provide the clue you're looking for. Older people who have (obviously) lived longer and experienced more can be presumed to know a bit more than the rest of us; some feel the need to remind us of that fact. Those with accumulated wealth are often revered by society and gain a false sense of superiority. Less-polite members of that group may try to tell the rest of us how to succeed. Deal with these (rude) people the same - no matter their ethnicity.
POSTED JULY 24, 1998
43-year-old Jewish female, Long Beach, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
She might just have a self-esteem problem. I have worked with many a Jewish person, and they do tend to be aggressive, but as long as you know your stuff and have done what you are supposed to do, everything works out.
POSTED JULY 26, 1998

ANABWI, 42, black female <anabwi@aol.com>, Plantation, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I don't agree with the people who told you it is a Jewish female trait to be critical. My experience has been more the opposite. Although this is a gross generalization, I have to say that the Jewish culture tends to place a higher value on tolerance and respect for diversity than average. Your boss is like she is because that's her personality - not because she's Jewish. There are lots of jokes about "Jewish mothers" and "JAPS" that assume Jewish women are whiny, intolerant and self-absorbed, but in my opinion there is no more truth to that than there is to the false but popular assumption that all Jewish men are money-grubbing and wealthy.
POSTED JULY 26, 1998
Laura W., 36, Jewish female <
lauraw@cobalt.cnchost.com>, Los Angeles, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I am Jewish and wanted to let you know that part of a powerful personality like that is just that, personality, and some of it (depending on her age) is a survival technique. Let me explain. Throughout history, the Jewish people have been harrassed, persecuted and chased out of more countries than I have space to list. Out of habit, we have become survivalists. If your boss is old enough, she remembers struggling a lot, or the stories from her parents' lives. She pays extreme attention to detail because as Jews we are used to our decisions having life/death consequences. If you aren't the best, you are dead or being sold a one-way ticket on a train bound for nowhere. As for dealing with her, have you tried talking to her? If she is friendly and bright, she will surely understand a simple and well-worded request for better staff motivation along with her critique.
POSTED JULY 26, 1998
Rachel, 24, Jewish female <
speedyrae2@aol.com>, Oceanside, CA
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THE QUESTION:
R339: It seems to me that when stresses in the black community reach a certain level, one reaction is to riot, loot and burn the very community in which they live. Why is this? I cannot recall a riot in the white community equal in scope and damage to the L.A. riots, the Watts riots or the riots in Detroit.
POSTED JUNE 16, 1998
Ray B., 40, white male, U.S. Navy (retired) <
raynfran@bellsouth.net>, Summerville, S.C.

ANSWER 1:
A very wise man I know said that "white people do their rioting at the ballot box." (And sure enough, not long after that, they voted out affirmative action programs in California.) That made me realize that feeling empowered in a society makes someone believe they have options for changing things they don't like. But when a group of people feel powerless and oppressed and think they have nothing to lose, they can resort to irrational behaviors such as violence. As far as riots happening in the community where someone lives: Every person of color knows that the price is higher for committing a crime in white neighborhoods than in non-white neighborhoods. Secondly, usually when violence erupts, it's spontaneous; driving across town to another neighborhood is not spontaneous.
POSTED JULY 26, 1998
Sara, black female, Oakland, CA
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THE QUESTION:
R382: Why is it that many Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics speak so loudly when in groups?
POSTED JULY 26, 1998
Sage <
mcsage@bigfoot.com,>, Brooklyn , NY
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