Best of the Week
of Oct. 8, 2000

Best of Week Archives

Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Oct. 8, 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.

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Question:
Why is it that Germans have a different liver from other people for assimilating so much beer?
POSTED 10/13/00
Ghislain B., Namur, Belgium, Mesg ID 10130054740

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Question:
Should gays or lesbians try to change their sexual orientation? Are there any web sites with information about this?
POSTED 10/12/00
Jenn W., Whittier, CA, United States, <jenn_vbgirl@yahoo.com>, 18, Female, Presbyterian, White/Caucasian, Straight, student, High School Diploma , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 101200120627

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Question:
I am curious about something I see in American Sign Language interpretation. I see this most often when there is picture-in-picture interpretation on TV. I see the ASL interpreter signing away, and also emphatically mouthing something that appears to have nothing to do with what is being said. I can lipread a little (I've spent a lot of time in noisy situations with earplugs on), and I can't figure out what the interpreter is saying. What's going on?
POSTED 10/12/00
Catharine, Seattle, WA, United States, 37, Female, Atheist, Pacific Islander, Straight, Stage IV breast cancer, Writer, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 10120053622

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Question:
Is it my imagination, or are Catholics more frugal than their non-Catholic counterparts, in the negative sense? I have noticed things like 'letting the other guy treat' in restaurants, cheap Christmas presents and trying to finagle staying at someone's home while traveling instead of staying at a motel. I can't imagine that this is solely because of Catholics historically having large families, therefore 'making every dollar count.' It also shows up in the collection basket at Mass. Could it have something to do with 'everything ultimately belongs to God, therefore get what you can' instead of the Protestant notion of 'work for what you get'? I have been a Catholic for 25 years and have never found justification for stinginess in any catechism; quite the opposite. Yet I find this trait among my co-religionists very bewildering.
POSTED 10/11/00
Augustine, Columbia, SC, United States, 40, Male, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 10110065754

Responses:
I've never observed Catholics as being tight with their money. In fact, my family and many of my Catholic friends are very generous. Since I've moved South, I've encountered tons of cheapskates in all religions! Many friends who are my age (30s) are very cheap, but make good money. It's embarrassing to go out with them when they don't want to tip at restaurants and prefer shopping at cheap places like Goody's. Many people I've met here do not want to spend money on important events such as weddings and showers. I enjoy living for the moment and spending moderately because I may not be around tomorrow.
POSTED 10/13/00
Nancy, Atlanta, GA, United States, 35, Female, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, professional, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 10120040317
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Question:
To people of varying backgrounds: What's the most embarrassing thing that's happened to you when interacting with someone of a different language/culture?
POSTED 10/8/2000
xuersn, Shanghai, n/, China, <ying_babe@china.com>, Female, Asian, teacher, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 107200044254

Responses:
I am originally from England and was studying in Canada as an exchange student when I was in secondary school. As I was heading off to bed one night, I asked the male head of the host family if he would be so kind as to 'knock me up in the morning,' which to a Brit means 'wake me up.' After all the laughter died down, I was let in on what that particular phrase means in North America.
POSTED 10/10/00
D.D., London, NA, Canada, 29, Female, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Over 4 Years of College, Upper class, Mesg ID 108200085418

Teaching students from Asia in Australia made me realize what a double-bind is. I was explaining that in an examination I needed students to use their knowledge gained from the subject, and to take the unknown situation posed in the exam and use their own knowledge as well to create a coherent, well-explained strategy. The Asian students pleaded with me to tell them what they needed to answer. I explained that Western education required students to build on the knowledge offered in the subject, even to build a case against it. I realized they felt bound to believe me in a Confucian sense. But I was asking them to disagree with me, and justify it!
POSTED 10/10/00
Kent, Melbourne, NA, Australia, 57, Male, Episcopalian, White/Caucasian, Straight, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 1092000110327

The first time I had the opportunity to meet a lot of people from other countries was at a youth diversity conference. Since Ireland has almost no ethnic minority groups, I was rather naive. I was happily running around asking people where they were from and how to say 'hello' in their language. Approaching an Asian woman, I asked where she was from, and got the reply 'Sweden.' I burst out laughing and said, 'Hehehe, nice one, yeah! So ... where ARE you from?' It didn't occur to me that there are often differences between nationality and ethnicity... DOH!!! Although now we have been a couple for five years, so I think she forgave me...
POSTED 10/11/00
Iteki, Stockholm, Via Dublin, Ireland, NA, Sweden, 24, Female, Recovering Catholic, White/Caucasian, Lesbian, student, 2 Years of College, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 10100042941

We host exchange students. This is really their moment. Most are European and have learned British English. Several years ago, one young man went to school, leaned over in class and asked the young lady next to him if he could borrow her 'rubber.' To him, in British, he was asking for an eraser. In American (for those unfamiliar with our slang), a rubber is a male's device for preventing pregnancy. Definitely an embarrassing moment. From now on, I try and remember to warn our students NOT to do that!
POSTED 10/11/00
Beth, Ft. Myers, FL, United States, 41, Female, White/Caucasian, journalist, 4 Years of College , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 101100124703
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Question:
Why do people frequently comment (usually in a negative manner) on someone's size?
POSTED 10/8/2000
Deb N., Monterey Bay Area, CA, United States, 45, Female, White/Caucasian, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 1062000105511

Responses:
One possible answer is jealousy or envy. At work there is a �clique� of 6 or 7 quite overweight people. Every day at lunch they eat the kind of food the rest of us have to deny ourselves most of the time. I used to be overweight, and I really have to watch what I eat, and that kind of lunch for me is a monthly occurrence at best. Although it's been a couple years since I lost weight, and I feel great, I still really miss junk food. So when I see people regularly overdoing it with no guilt or care about how they look or feel, I�m jealous. For this group, it's party time at lunch, with card games, jokes and lots of food. They enjoy themselves, while the rest of us poke at our carrot sticks. It's not my nature to comment, but I�ve heard lots of snide remarks from the other �skinnies,� the general theme being that they (the overweight group) rub our noses in it. I should add that this group is fun to work with and brightens up the office - except that they bring doughnuts for everyone at (otherwise intensely boring) meetings, which taxes everyone's will power.
POSTED 10/9/00
J. Snow, Vancouver, British Columbia, NA, Canada, 32, Male, Native American, Straight, librarian, 4 Years of College, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 108200093825
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Question:
I know that this could seem like a generalization, but after 40 years of repeated observation, I still wonder: do African Americans have a different hearing mechanism than others? From my perspective, their speech is noticeably louder, more often, more of the time, than other racial/ethnic groups. I have postulated that perhaps this has something to do with hearing thresholds.
POSTED 10/8/00
James D., Raleigh, NC, United States, 46, Male, White/Caucasian, Professional, Over 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 108200033729

I've noticed that in general, we African Americans tend to converse more loudly than others at times. I don't know that this has anything to do with different hearing levels, but I do think that other cultures value 'social reserve' more than we do. Exuberance, animation and expressiveness are common among us. I don't mind the generalization. Generalization, after all, implies that not everyone fits the description.
POSTED 10/10/00
Jennifer R., St. Paul, MN, United States, <DKFLWR@aol.com>, 29, Female, Humanist, Black/African American, Straight, Writer and student, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 10102000121206
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Question:
Is it true that black guys have bigger penises than white guys?
POSTED 9/10/00
Jon, Havre, MT, United States, Male, Mesg ID 910200074457

Responses:
I hope I don't get raked over the coals for this answer, but my first inclination at giving a generalized answer to this one is to say yes. From what I've seen, black guys are generally larger - but there have definitely been exceptions. I have to remind you, though, that bigger isn't always necessarily better. Very large penises can just plain hurt.
POSTED 9/30/00
S.R., Austin, TX, United States, 22, Female, Humanist, White/Caucasian, Straight, student, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 9300012448

In my experience, this is not true. I have known black and white men with large penises, and in fact the largest I ever encountered belonged to an Asian. There have been studies showing correlations between race and penis size, but I think these tell us what is average for large population samples, not individuals. For example, statistics show that men are taller than women, but every man is not taller than every woman. I think the same applies to race and penis size. So the black man with a small organ or the white or Asian with a large one is perhaps not an exception, but someone at one end of a very broad range.
POSTED 10/8/00
F.Z., Los Angeles, CA, United States, Female, Black/African American, Straight, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 107200075558

As a person in the medical profession, I would have to agree that on average most black men are larger. However, I have also seen black men with very small penises and white men with very large penises.
POSTED 10/10/00
Berry, Richmond, VA, United States, 28, Female, Baptist, Black/African American, Straight, medical profession, Over 4 Years of College , Mesg ID 109200090822
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Question:
I'm white and have a 14-month-old adopted black grandchild (the adoptive parents are white). How can the child best be helped to stay in contact with its own heritage?
POSTED 10/8/2000
John C., Strafford, MO, United States, <jelad@hotmail.com>, 56, Male, Unity School of Christianity, White/Caucasian, Straight, factory worker, High School Diploma , Middle class, Mesg ID 107200010853

Responses:
I think your concern about your grandchild's 'own heritage' probably shows that your heart is in the right place. However, there may be no need for this heritage link; in fact, it could be a negative thing. What do you mean by heritage? Do you mean the child's ethnicity and/or race, or cultural heritage? If you believe that because the child is black, the rules for good and loving parenting are somehow different than if the child were white, I strongly disagree. The child's 'own heritage' comes from the parents, not from his or her skin color or genes or other circumstances of birth. Therefore, if the adopting parents identify with a German heritage, it should be shared with the child. If, as I suspect, the parents mostly identify with an American heritage, then they have something wonderful to pass along to the child in that case, too. Because the child looks significantly different from the parents, disclosure of the adoption to the child is unavoidable, but that's fine. The child should receive the love that any child would receive, regardless of birth circumstances, and also reasonable straight talk about how the family came to be so constituted. But to guide the child to a heritage that is presumably alien to the parents would only serve to weaken the bonds of love and family that were developed over years. Allow the child the freedom to investigate any cultural heritage he or she becomes interested in, but always emphasize that he is rooted in your heritage, because you are his family. I cannot see the good in saying, 'Your heritage is over there, and ours is over here.' At no point is anyone saying that another heritage to which the child may have a connection is inferior or off limits. It just happens to be different. I hope you think about it. I've heard many blacks oppose adoption of black children by whites, on the grounds that the white parents cannot provide this heritage link. But again, heritage is not about your genes or skin color, it's about who raises you. Don't feel that you are required to 'raise the child as an African American (or other black cultural group) child.' Just love him as your own!
POSTED 10/11/00
S. Parker, Aliso Viejo, CA, United States, 38, Male, White/Caucasian, Self-employed, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 10110035645

I think one way to keep the child connected is to make sure he will comfortable being around his own race. One way to do this is to get him involved with other minorities. That may mean getting him involved with a church that is predominantly black or heavily mixed so that he can interact with other blacks. I feel that the emphasis should be on keeping him in a mixed environment. This is a really difficult question to answer, but I applaud your decision to adopt.
POSTED 10/11/00
Berry, Richmond, VA, United States, 28, Female, Baptist, Black/African American, medical profession, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 10100081617
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Question:
Why does it seem that some African-American men (moreso than white men) allow their fingernails (all of them or just a couple on one or both hands) to grow long, like a woman's? Is it bad hygiene, or a fashion statement of sorts? I fail to see the attractiveness of this rather disgusting-looking practice.
POSTED 10/8/2000
S.W., Sterling Heights, MI, United States, 26, Male, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 107200011036

Responses:
I've seen this not just with black men, but men of all races. I don't know if this is always the case, but I know that serious cocaine users often grow out their pinky fingernails. It's a convenient place to put some coke when doing it in a hurry.
POSTED 10/9/00
S.R., Austin, TX, United States, 22, Female, Humanist, White/Caucasian, Straight, student, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 109200010637

While it is true that some cocaine users grow a nail long for convenience sake, I would venture to say that most men with long nails are not drug users. I know many men with longer nails who do not use drugs of any kind. In general, white people's fingernails are much thinner than those of blacks and Hispanics. As a result, blacks and Hispanics can naturally grow their nails longer. Their nails also tend to grow faster than white people's.
POSTED 10/10/00
Lucy H., San Jose, CA, United States, 26, Female, Hispanic/Latino, Engineer, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 109200085817
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Question:
Why does it seem that lower-middle-class people choose to go barefoot, say, when visiting the local ice cream stand? I've observed countless parents with their children with nothing on their feet who are walking in a parking lot. It seems quite dangerous and irresponsible. These are not homeless people and can obviously afford shoes if they are buying ice cream, so money is not the issue.
POSTED 10/8/2000
S.W., Sterling Heights, MI, United States, 26, Male, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 107200011914

Responses:
When I was a kid I liked to go barefoot, especially in spring when it was warm, but not so warm to where you could fry an egg on the pavement. In summer, forget about it, unless it's on grass. In winter, maybe on a warmer day, this being Southern California and all. Some places, such as certain grocery stores, don't mind if you go barefoot. And I could walk for a while on pavement while barefoot, because I've got feet like Fred Flintstone. Here are some possible reasons: #1. They've got lousy shoes, and being barefoot is freeing. #2. They're free spirits, sort of like one's hippie aunt. #3. They've been wearing heavy work boots all week, and their dogs are killing them. #4. Common slobbishness. Of course, it's not a good idea to walk barefoot through the middle of L.A.; you might step on a syringe or a broken beer bottle or an unidentified puddle of something or other...
POSTED 10/9/00
Dan, Los Angeles, CA, United States, Male, Pentecostal, Hispanic/Latino, Student, 2 Years of College , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 109200023215

What's wrong with walking barefoot? I was raised in an upper middle-class neighborhood, and yet as a child, one of my favorite parts of summer was shedding my shoes - take off the constrictive closed toe and socks; wiggle my toes. It was fun. It still is. I suppose it's dangerous to some degree (hazards like glass and nails) but no more dangerous than a thousand other outdoor pleasures (picnics, hiking, swimming holes, bicycles, etc.). And as the summer progresses, feet get tougher, so they can handle hot pavement or little pebbles. I daresay not everyone does what they can afford, and there's a lot of fun in simplicity.
POSTED 10/10/00
Lisa, Los Angeles, CA, United States, 25, Female, Christian, Straight, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 109200081840
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Question:
Is college different for students who are gay, lesbian, transgendered or bisexual? If so, how (e.g. in terms of participating in campus organizations, availability/quality of services and clubs that meet your needs, choice of institution to attend, course content, comfort level with other students, staff and faculty at the institution)?
POSTED 10/8/2000
Sara, Toledo, OH, United States, 22, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian,Mesg ID 107200052708

Responses:
Funny you should ask. It's Coming Out Week, and college campuses across the country are offering programs for gay and straight students. At the liberal arts college where I teach, there are a variety of speakers. At today's chapel service, a lesbian student gave the homily and came out to the audience. Our campus offers an Out House, where gay students and straight student allies live together. A statewide organization comes here yearly and offers a program about gay students for faculty members. I attended, and now have a banner o my bulletin board that reads, 'Safe Place,' inviting gay students to feel free to speak to me openly. For students on this campus, it's kind of a mixed bag; many of the students come from conservative backgrounds and are uncomfortable or naive about homosexuality, but the school itself is fairly liberal and has made efforts to make gay students feel welcome. I'm sure experiences for gay students differ by school. I attended large state universities where there were many resources for gay students. At small, conservative schools, I'm sure resources are limited.
POSTED 10/10/00
Rhiannon, Eden Prairie, MN, United States, 30, Female, Jewish, White/Caucasian, Straight, Professor, Middle class, Mesg ID 109200032601
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Question:
To female athletes: What does your activity consist of and how much do you train? What characterizes your dietary intake? How do you perceive your state of health (how do you feel)? Do you get regular periods? Do you wish to, and do you think menstruation is necessary for health?
POSTED 10/8/2000
Slyosa, San Jose, CA, United States, 21, Female, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 107200064940
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