Best of the Week
of Aug. 8, 1999

Best of Week Archives

Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Aug. 8, 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:
I have just spent most of the summer at my cousin's place in Tennessee, and the experience prompts a question I don't dare ask my Southern relatives: Why is it that Southern women appear so superficial, over-groomed and manipulative? They seem to center their lives on men and a male-centered culture. It appears they are obsessed with appearances, class distinction and social position, mostly related to the men they can "catch," or have "caught," or know. I've never seen so much hair spray and fingernail polish before. Have the decades of feminist progress entirely skipped the Southeast? At first, I was charmed by the Southern female culture, then disgusted; now I feel extremely sorry for them, and at the same time fascinated. Any explanations for this?
POSTED 8/9/1999
Sandra, Crane, NY, United States, 35, Female, Christian, Straight, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 89199912007

Responses:
Sadly, you are somewhat correct in your perceptions. Having lived in the Deep South for several years, I can attest to the "male-centered" culture you refer to, and saw with my own eyes the "sugar-coated magnolia" stereotypes with their fussy hairstyles and high heels. Definitely, the South is a separate culture from the rest of the United States, and while you'll find occasional feminist and progressive thinking, most of the people I knew were strongly influenced by their regional culture, more so than in other regions of the country. Southern people hold onto a strong sense of history, and perhaps it is that which holds them back from the sweeping cultural change that moves across places such as California. Many Southerners still feel separate from the rest of the country, not to mention resentful over the Civil War. As long as Southern people cling to the past and remain separate from the rest of us, I feel they will not progress culturally. Perhaps sympathy is not the response you should feel, but rather to focus on the fascination. One who has been raised immersed in such a culture is not as oppressed and unhappy as you might think, and the borders in and out of the Southern states are not closed. Simply be glad you don't live there. When they're ready, Southern women can find their own way to progressive lifestyles.
POSTED 8/10/1999
Chris A., Rosemount, OR, United States, Mesg ID 810199920125
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Question:
Why do many white people seem to want to sweep hundreds of years of racism under the carpet and forget about it? Why is it OK, for example, for Jewish people to remember the Holocaust every year, but if you want to talk about reparations for black slaves and black people today, white people will say "You are being bitter," "That was hundreds of years ago," "It doesn't have anything to do with me," "I never owned slaves," etc., when in fact they benefited most from slavery because of all the free labor that built the United States?
POSTED 8/9/99
Bigchocolateman, Detroit, MI, United States, 28, Male, Baptist, Black/African American, Straight, Master shipper, Technical School , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 889984351

Responses:
Slavery in the United States is something that needs to be remembered and never repeated. But there is a difference between remembering and making reparations. In order for reparations to be made, there needs to be a clear victim and clear perpetrator. In the case of Japenese-Americans who were interned during World War II, there were clear victims (those who were interned and their living descendants) and a clear perpetrator (the U.S. government). In the case of the Holocaust, individuals could be identified who gave the orders to confiscate property from, to imprison and to kill the particular victims. In the case of African-Americans, there are victims and perpetrators; about this there is no question. But for reparations to be paid, I would ask you the following questions: 1) Many African-Americans are descended from slaves brought to the West Indies. Those of Jamaican descent are one example. Should those descendants, who had no ancestors who were slaves in the United States, be paid reparations? How about African-Americans who immigrated to the United States directly from Africa within the last few decades? Should they be paid reparations? 2) Should the U.S. government be made to pay reparations? Yes, the law allowing slaves to be brought came into being with the ratification of the Constitution, but it ran out around 1820. Should those people who are descended from slaves brought over before 1820 get reparations from the U.S. government? What about those descended from slaves brought over illegally after 1820? 3) Slavery was not legal in all states. Slavery was banned in the United States before many of the Western states became states at all. Should the governments of individual "slave" states be held responsible? 4) I am descended from immigrants who never (to my knowledge) owned slaves. Should I have to pay reparations? 5) What about those people who came to this country within the last few years? Should they be made to pay reparations? They had nothing to do with slavery in this country. 6) Yes, a good portion of this country was built on slave laber, especially in the South. But it was also built by immigrant labor, quite often for nothing more than room and board. 7) What about those descended from voluntary mixed marriages (African-American with non-African-American)? Should they get a full portion of reparations, or would they get a percentage? I am sure there are counter-arguments to all of these questions, but they are still legitimate questions in my mind
POSTED 8/9/1999
M. Kemper, Temple Terrace, FL, United States, 31, Female, White/Caucasian, Mesg ID 89199910923

I don't feel that most whites are interested in devaluing slavery's impact or "sweeping it under the rug," but instead are focused on the present. As a white person, I feel proud that my country fought a tremendously costly war in order to free the slaves. It is very healthy to know your history, but not to live in the past. I suggest the next time you feel resentment toward whites for the crime of slavery, remember that your ancestors were sold or captured to be sold by other Africans.
POSTED 8/10/1999
Randy, Corsini, FL, United States, 21, Male, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, Student, 2 Years of College , Middle class,Mesg ID 810199915309

I am one of the white people who thinks reparation is not necessary for what happened hundreds of years ago. I don't think we should forget any of the past, but I honestly cannot justify having a generation of white Americans pay for something their ancestors may or may not have done. There are participants in the Holocaust still alive. I don't know what they deserve for their pain and suffering, or what those who had a hand in the violence deserve. I only know there is a lesson to be learned from both so I cannot forget it. I don't know that I should be one of those paying for it - that to me is just a reminder that money is a very powerful force for us.
POSTED 8/10/1999
Staci, Madison, WI, United States, Female, Mesg ID 89199954757

Perhaps this does seem insensitive, but in my mind, there is a big difference between the Holocaust (which was quite recent) and slavery. For instance, there are still many Holocaust survivors who are still alive and have to live with the painful memories of their friends and loved ones being slain. Again, this may be insensitivity on my part, but when I hear Jewish people speaking about the Holocaust, I am much more sympathetic than when I listen to people of African descent speak of slavery because in my opinion, too many people have tried to sensationalize this event, which took place more than a century ago. I don't mean to trivialize or justify slavery, but I feel that while racism still exists, Caucasion people in general should not automatically feel guilty for the sins of their ancestors, nor should all Germans today feel guilty for the heinous crimes of the Nazis.
POSTED 8/10/1999
Shawn D., Fort Worth, TX, United States, <RotorDFW@AOL.com> , 24, Male, Episcopalian, White/Caucasian, Gay, Aviation, Technical School , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 89199991419
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Question:
Why do young people wear very baggy blue jeans that hang halfway down their butts? I bought a pari and found them uncomfortable and clumsy to walk in. I know they are not a cultural tradition, so why are they so popular?
POSTED 8/9/99
T. Jones, Clinton Township, MI, United States, Mesg ID 86199983946

Responses:
I have been pondering this same question ever since I finally saw a kid at the mall lose his pants to his ankles and his Tommy boxers along with them. And, without missing a beat, he jacked them back up and slid them down to their former position. As I looked at him with a sense of "This kid's gotta grow up," he looked at me and flashed me the finger. That pretty much said it all right there. This kid could not possibly care what he looked like - even though he (as well as all the other baggers) spend tons of money to buy the same exact clothes that all their friends are wearing. So, in essence, they do care about their looks ... which leads me to believe they just don't have a rotten clue how idiotic they actually look. I am kind of hoping that the next phase of culture-craze will bring us back to the '50s styling where cleanliness and sharp appearance made for a perfect society; yeah, right!
POSTED 8/11/1999
Glenn W., Germantown, MD, United States, 35, Male, Christian, White/Caucasian, Gay, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 810199940551
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Question:
My husband of five years has avoided sex, and me, for the past 17 months. In the beginning of the relationship he had a low sex drive, but as the years went on, the sex has come to a standstill. He sleeps on average of 10 to 15 hours a day, is lazy and is your basic "momma's boy." The couch has become his bedroom, and when confronted about his problem he claims he doesn't know what the big deal is. He works at an all-male prison, has lesbians as his close friends and works closely with a gay man. He is in his early 40s and cannot communicate. I suspect he may be gay but cannot deal with it. I am openly accepting of others' lifestyles and have love for all humans, so it's not that I would judge him for his preference. I am absolutely lost and left hanging. How can I tell if my suspicions are correct? What signs are there? Please help.
POSTED 8/9/99
Marilu, Sonora, CA, United States, 41, Female, White/Caucasian, Straight, Law enforcement, 2 Years of College,Mesg ID 889920345

Responses:
I'm not an authority on this, but could your husband be suffering from depression? The loss of interest in sex and sleeping 10 to 15 hours a day strikes me as being symptomatic of a depressive disorder.
POSTED 8/9/1999
Jarrett, Augusta, GA, United States, Male, Christian, White/Caucasian, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 89199913659
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Question:
My friends strongly believe I'm a smart person, and that I'll have a bright future. Honestly, I love the world of academia. But by the time I step into the class, I lose my concentration. I love politics, computer programming, etc., but I can't concentrate. Is there something wrong with me?
POSTED 8/9/99
Jon, Fayetteville, NC, United States, 23, Male, Catholic, Asian, Straight, 2 Years of College, Mesg ID 889922042

Responses:
This sounds similar in many ways to how I was in school and tend to be still. Years after the fact, I learned that I have Tourette Syndrome, which is a possible cause of my behavior. You should investigate whether you may possibly have a diagnosable disorder of some sort.
POSTED 8/11/1999
Adam, Providence, RI, United States, Male, Mesg ID 810199940817

Sounds to me like a possible textbook case of Attention Deficit Disorder: An obviously bright and motivated person whose inability to stay mentally "on task" is short-circuiting their academic career. No, you're not alone; what you describe is very common, and whether you characterize it as ADD or as just "being a flake," there are several ways to deal with it through therapy and/or medication. I was diagnosed with ADD in my 30s after several failed attempts to attend college and, once I got help in dealing with my concentration problems, finished school and am now in law school. Be aware, though, that some people consider adult ADD diagnoses nothing more than a fad among adult scatterbrains looking for a medical justification for their flaky ways. Maybe so, but I would have finished school a decade earlier had I gotten help for my concentration problems back in high school. Don't be afraid to look for help; you might start by doing some web research on adult Attention Deficit Disorder and related issues. If you're in college, you ought to be able to get at least a preliminary ADD test for free. Good luck!
POSTED 8/11/1999
Dan, Detroit, MI, United States, 35, Male, Over 4 Years of College , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 810199952950
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Question:
I am a practicing Catholic and am curious about other religions. Why are Mormons not allowed to consume caffeine, alcohol or tobacco? Also, is it true they have a particular cleaning/food-keeping ritual, and that all Mormons are required to have a year's supply of food on hand? Is there a book where I can learn more?
POSTED 8/9/99
Anne, Antioch, CA, United States, 33, Female, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, Administrative Assistant, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 889975842
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Question:
To heterosexuals who are married or who live with their partners: In all honesty, how do you divide the domestic work in your home? Is my girlfriend - who thinks I'm naive for expecting my new live-in partner to do half the cooking and cleaning (and maybe someday, childcare) - wrong?
POSTED 8/6/1999
Rhiannon, Eden Prairie, MN, United States, <rock0048@tc.umn.edu> , 29, Female, Jewish, White/Caucasian, Straight, Middle class, Mesg ID 84199955224

Responses:
I'd suggest that insisting that each person do half the cooking, half the cleaning, half of this and half of that is a recipe for disaster. Some people are better at - or less troubled by - different tasks. It's OK if one of you cooks and one of you does all the laundry. In our house, we've sort of muddled to that conclusion. I work full time while my wife works part time, so she inevitably ends up doing more than I do around the house, especially during the week. She cleans more than I do. She gets things fixed that need fixing. She is with our kids more during the week. But I take care of all the bills. I do all the laundry. I do more kid stuff on the weekend. It wouldn't work if we each had to do half of each individual task - better to split the tasks up. But do split them - if you end up doing most of everything while your partner does almost nothing, that's no good.
POSTED 8/9/99
Andrew, Huntington, NY, United States, <ziptron@start.com.au> , 35, Male, Jewish, White/Caucasian, Straight, Reporter, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 86199915314

I have been married almost seven years. When I first got married, I followed my husband to another city for his career. Since he had a new, stressful job and I was unemployed, I took care of most of the housework, as well as tasks related to a new domestic status, like changing our insurance. I assumed that since my hubby knew I did not want to be a professional homemaker, he would take over some of the work when I got a job. Wrong! He got used (or rather, I allowed him to get used) to having that done for him. After I got a part-time job, then additonal freelance work, I still did the housework. I asked him to do a few things during the time when my freelance work was really heavy, but he often "forgot" or did a half-as--ed job. It caused a lot of disagreements and a lot of hurt feelings. When I got a full-time job, I sat him down and laid down the law. Help out or put up the money for hired help. Now, we each do a few things we really enjoy. He does the finances and investing, and I do the cooking and pet care. We do the things we don't mind that the other person hates. He does the lawn and I do the laundry. We each pick up after ourselves and rinse our own dinner dishes. And we hire a maid to do the heavy stuff. What I've learned from this is that I will tell any daughter I might have to not do anything the first year of marriage that you don't think you can do for the rest of your life. Once habits get set they are very hard to break.
POSTED 8/9/99
Stacee, Houston, TX, United States, 31, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, TV production, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 86199995617
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