Best of the Week
of Oct. 11, 1998


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Oct. 11, 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:
SO82: I was watching the news today about the young gay man who was murdered in Wyoming. At his funeral a group of anti-gay Christians were gathered holding signs and such in protest of homosexuality. I was raised Christian and for 17 years have had all the morals and beliefs of these God-loving people surround me. But why do Christians sometimes feel as though they have the right to go back on all the values and teachings of their faith (i.e. judge not)? For example, they hate gays because they think being gay is anti-God, but hate itself is anti-God.
POSTED OCT. 17, 1998
Wondering why <
ds799@webtv.net>, Jacksonville, FL
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THE QUESTION:
G2: I am a native Atlantan and would like to know why many Northern transplants and Northerners in general appear to be rude and condescending to Southern people when they move here. I noticed it a great deal in the UK this summer as well. The only people who really seemed to dislike me were other Americans from the North.
POSTED MARCH 15, 1998
Todd, Atlanta, GA

ANSWER 1:
Unfortunately, many Northerners automatically associate a Southern dialect with "unschooled" and "ignorant," which of course is not true. There seems to be an embedded belief by many people in this country that the Northern "white" dialect of American English is the only correct, and therefore acceptable, way of speaking in the United States. Therefore, people who speak any other way are "ignorant," and can be talked "down" to because of their dialect.
POSTED MARCH 19, 1998
Suzanne, 23, Ann Arbor , MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
As a native Long Islander who has been transplanted to the South for the last five years, I think I know the answer. It's not so much that we're being rude, it's more we're being normal. I am amazed, every time I go home, how rude and obnoxious everyone is to each other. Even if they are friends! Everyone's got something to say. Half of the people I know would argue with the Pope himself. That accounts for about 95 percent of the rudeness. The other 5 percent are just jerks, and I apologize on their behalf. They're the first ones who make fun of the way you talk. If it ever really bothers you, sit back and listen to them. A good Long Island accent is by far worse than any Southern accent.
POSTED MARCH 28, 1998
Casey, 22, Reston, VA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I am a many-generations back Southerner who went to college for a year in Connecticut. I lost track of the number of times complete strangers would see me in a Florida shirt or see my license plate as I filled my tank, approach me and say, "You from Florida? You people from Florida act so nasty about us but you would starve if it weren't for us." I was shocked. And so were the many, many native New Englanders who are far too kind, well-bred and open-minded to ever think like that, the people I was lucky to have as friends. In any group, there are jerks and there are wonderful folks, I guess.
POSTED OCT. 15, 1998
Midori, 38, white <
midorichan1@juno.com>, Orlando, FL
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THE QUESTION:
GD39: I am interested in finding out if other adopted people want to know who their biological parents are. I am torn on whether to do the research to locate my real parents. I was adopted at two weeks old. My parents who raised me were great parents, but I know nothing about the circumstances of my adoption. The courts sealed the proceedings. Should I brave the system and find out this information? Anyone who has put a child up for adoption can answer, too. Let me know what you think about these reunions.
POSTED OCT. 14, 1998
Steve S., 32, married white male, CA
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THE QUESTION:
R476: Why are so many nail salons owned and operated by Vietnamese people? All of the employees are Vietnamese, men and women. Was there a special course offered to them before they came to this country or after they arrived?
POSTED OCT. 7, 1998
T.R.A., Newport News, Va

ANSWER 1:
There is no course offered in Vietnam for manucurists. In fact, you don't even have to go to school to cut your or others' nails. Because of the language barrier, the majority of new Vietnamese immigrants find it's not very easy to find a job that would earn a decent living ($10 - $20/hour). Vietnamese people are hard-working; they don't mind working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and to become a manicurist, it only takes a couple of months to study, and in some states the course is offered in Vietnamese. That's why quite a few Vietnamese are manicurists, and when one becomes an owner of a salon, that person usually employs her/his family members and friends.
POSTED OCT. 15, 1998
M. To, Vietnamese <
mto@admin4.hsc.uth.tmc.edu>, Houston, TX
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THE QUESTION:
GE84: Is it true that some men do not find pornography appealing because they may feel it dehumanizes or demeans the women (or men) depicted in it?
POSTED OCT. 13, 1998
Keila, 23, female, San Jose, CA
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THE QUESTION:
R459: Why do some light-skinned black people discriminate against dark-skinned black people?
POSTED SEPT. 19, 1998
Whitney T., 18, dark-skinned black female <
wkthomps@olemiss.edu>, Oxford, MS

ANSWER 1:
Oops! The questioner just aired some very dirty linen about us black folks. Although the problem is not as bad as it once was, there does exist a tradition of racism among blacks based on skin color. Why this occurs I will leave to a sociologist to answer. However, it is good to keep this in mind when I begin feeling too self-righteous regarding the racial transgressions committed by my white brothers.
POSTED SEPT. 25, 1998
S. Finley, male, African American <
sfinley@earthlink.net>, Naperville, IL

FURTHER NOTICE:
Unfortunately, we as African Americans are guilty of that, but I don't think it's just discrimination on the part of our lighter-skinned brothers and sisters. It goes both ways. In my experience, it seems that sometimes it has to do with lighter-skinned blacks thinking that the closer you are to being white, the better you are, or with darker-skinned blacks taking the view that if you're light-skinned, you're too close to being white. All in all, I think we sometimes lose sight of the beauty of black people. We come in so many lovely shades that there is no reason to divide ourselves over the shades we happen to be.
POSTED OCT. 14, 1998
Toni H, black female, 24, Houston, TX
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THE QUESTION:
RE103: It seems to me that many Jewish people are in positions of financial and/or political power in the world. For example, it's my understanding that the diamond industry is nearly entirely Jewish-owned, as well as the movie/production industry, etc. If this is true, why is there such a perception thay Jews are persecuted to this day? How can they occupy what seem to be so many influential positions (disproportionate to their demographic) and yet be persecuted at the same time?
POSTED OCT. 9, 1998
Brian T. <
wolfie@mpath.com>, Sunnyvale, CA

ANSWER 1:
To answer why Jews appear to be disproportionally represented in certain professions and trades, in spite of persecution: This effect is in many cases cultural and historical, and is sometimes because of past persecution. When Jews were largely confined to urban ghettos of Europe, they could not be farmers or landowners. So they chose professions like being merchants, diamond or textile traders, etc. Also, during much of the Middle Ages when Christian authorities actively discouraged their flocks from higher education (and in some cases especially mathematics), Jews were emphasizing education and critical inquiry, and thus ended up filling the vacancies in jobs such as navigation and banking. Jewish preoccupation with education and extreme sacrifice for their children continues culturally today, largely contributing to the high proportion of Jews among the medical, legal and other professions. Because these highly educated professions often are lucrative, Jewish commitment to success through education is often mistaken for preoccupation with money.
POSTED OCT. 12, 1998
L.G., 30, ethnically Jewish, Larkspur, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
Trades that Jews have are mostly family tradition that from many years ago were forced on them by oppressors or potentates. The history is filled with learning and learning again. As in many ethnic groups, learning is a family tradition, and adversity - including six million killed by willing executioners, the Spanish Inquisition, persecution and pogroms by the czars and Stalin - made Jews strong
POSTED OCT. 12, 1998
Myself, German-born Jew, fled Nazis and Germans <
gsilberbac@aol.com>, Beachwood, OH

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
The small number of Jews involved in the media and diamond industries are not the ones being persecuted. The much larger number who are harassed and even killed merely for their religion are the ones who are persecuted. I live in a fairly open-minded part of the country with a large Jewish population, and even here there are regular incidents of Jews having swastikas painted on their cars and houses, and Jewish children being attacked in schools for no reason other than being Jewish. Last month, some neighborhood kids completely wrecked a Jewish family's house while they were out of town, covered it in brutally anti-Semitic graffiti and destroyed everything inside. Just because some Jews are successful does not mean that others are not persecuted
POSTED OCT. 12, 1998
Andrew, 34, Jewish <
ziptron@xoommail.com>, Huntington, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Bill Cosby appeared on Jay Leno not too long ago and thanked him for sending the studio limo because you can't get a cab to stop for a black man in America. Even having wealth doesn't protect you from discrimination, as I'm sure many successful Asian people are aware of as well. As far as your question, Jewish control of the movie industry ended in the early 1950s with the end of the old studio system, and Jews have never controlled any other industry in the United States. Jews are over-represented among professionals such as doctors and educators because of the culture's strong and laudable emphasis on education, but I feel they are under represented in corporate America because of subtle discrimination. They provide a lesson for other groups to not expect discrimination and hatred to end because of financial success.
POSTED OCT. 12, 1998
A.C.C., Mexican and American Indian, San Antonio, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
It seems to me, historically, that many of these so-called "influential positions" were either closed to Jews by law (in the case of money lending, the diamond industry, etc., or the field (in the case of the movie industry) simply did not exist. In any event, the main reason for these disproportionate demographics would be the high respect Jews have for education and studying. People don't usually attain influential positions by being undereducated underachievers.
POSTED OCT. 12, 1998
Mark K., 43, Jew, San Francisco Bay Area, CA

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THE QUESTION:
R484: Many of my Asian clients who are Taiwanese nationals have peculiar first names like Grover, Winston, Kenneth, Eve, Judith, Lincoln, etc. These sound more like Eastern U.S., Anglo-aristocratic first names that I rarely hear used anymore. Where do they dig up these chestnuts, and why do they use them?
POSTED OCT. 13, 1998
R.R., U.S.A.
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THE QUESTION:
D6: I am curious about what people who have been blind from birth "see" in their dreams. Could a respondent with a blind family member or friend ask them about this for me? Thanks.
POSTED APRIL 9, 1998
David L., 13, Portland, OR

ANSWER 1:
I found the answer to this question when I taught at a state school for the blind. People who have never had sight dream in the context of the senses they do have. They remember, think about and dream based on sound, feel, smell and taste. Their perception of their experiences is non-visual, so their thoughts and dreams are also non-visual.
POSTED JUNE 13, 1998
Lisa S., schmitz@prismnet.com, Austin, TX

FURTHER NOTICE:
I have not been totally blind since birth. I lost my eyesight when I was six months old, but for the most part, I don't remember it. Blind people see things in their mind just as anyone else does. It may not look the same as what "seeing people" see, but I still see it -a tree, a car or myself. And when I dream, that is no exception. So the color red to you may be different than my color red, but it's red to me.
POSTED JUNE 16, 1998
Jordan, 19 <
cordellj@hotmail.com>, Springfield, MO

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
A stroke many years ago left me unable to "record" visual images (I cannot remember what anything looks like once I close my eyes). My dreams gradually lost imagery, too - so I know what's going on, just as any dreamer often "knows" things (e.g. it was Aunt Mary's car). It doesn't seem dark, just normal, somehow. And often, maybe because I'm such a voracious reader, I have "text-based" dreams, as though I am writing a short story, usually full of puns and word-play. As vision lost utility in my waking life (not recognizing people and places is not handy), it disappeared from dream life.
POSTED OCT. 13, 1998
K.K., 42 <
alphacole@mailexcite.com>, San Francisco, CA
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THE QUESTION:
R479: I frequently watch the Oprah Winfrey show, and I was wondering what African Americans think of her. Do you see her as a great ambassador and example for blacks, or otherwise?
POSTED OCT. 8, 1998
Mona, 18, Asian female, Alberta, Canada

ANSWER 1:
We as African Americans are generally very proud of the accomplishments Oprah Winfrey has achieved. However, we feel sometimes as though she has made great strides by often catering to the white masses.
POSTED OCT. 12, 1998
J. Johnson, African American

FURTHER NOTICE:
I will be frank: My opinion is that Oprah is a very powerful, wealthy and informed woman, but that she's not a status symbol to the majority of black women. What I mean by majority is this: Black women who receive an annual income of $20,000 or less, lower-class black families, etc. Oprah speaks about things that people of that criteria cannot identify with. What does a poorer person actually know about being a "shopaholic" or a "compulsive overspender"? Nothing. Maybe if Oprah would broaden her audience range, she would receive more support from "the average" black woman such as myself. Just take a look at the audience. You see nothing but rich or "damn-near" rich white women. And that's who she will continue to cater to. And the book club, please! I and other women such as myself have other things to do with our time, like making sure our kids are safe every day and getting up to catch the bus to work every day.
POSTED OCT. 12, 1998
A. Bailey, 20, working , black mom, Bridgeport, CT

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THE QUESTION:
R251: Please help me in a delicate situation: With Chinese names, how does one know which is the surname and which is the given name? I am in correspondence with a person and am not sure how to address the letter. Also, I can't tell gender. I know I should just ask, but feel awkward and embarrassed to do so.
POSTED MAY 6, 1998
Giah S. <
Nayvay@aol.com>, Detroit, MI

ANSWER 1:
I have lived in Asia for 10 years and am a fluent speaker of Mandarin Chinese. The general rule is that Chinese people write their last name first. For example, if the last name is "Chen" and first name is "Mei Ling," then they will write "Chen Mei Ling." However, it is possible that, in anticipation of a Western reader, they may write the name "Western-style," such as "Mei Ling Chen." Because there are a relatively small number of Chinese surnames, it is generally possible for a Chinese speaker to determine which name is the surname. But I am certain the person with whom you are corresponding will understand your question and would not be offended if you asked which name is the surname. The same goes for gender. I have found that even Chinese people have difficulty determining the gender simply by looking at the Chinese name, unless it is a commonly used female or male name or unless the Chinese Characters are written out and are unambiguously female or male in nature.
POSTED JUNE 16, 1998
B. Lee <
brooklee@hotmail.com>, Hong Kong

FURTHER NOTICE:
Chinese and other Asian individuals have similar difficulties with North American names. In addition to the very good advice offered above, I would suggest you ask your correspondent about the meaning and/or origin of his/her name, and provide some information about your own. Most people are flattered and grateful for the opportunity to discuss matters related to their own cultural and family traditions.
POSTED JULY 20, 1998
Patricia M., white female, Regina , Saskatchewan, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I am studying Japanese and have many Japanese email pals I "meet" on the Internet. I am often confused about whether they are writing their names in "my" style or "their" style. And I often have no idea of their gender based on their name. So I just ask, begging their pardon for my ignorance. None of them have ever seemed offended, and many reply, "Oh, I'm so glad you asked because I cannot tell about your name or gender, either!"
POSTED OCT. 14, 1998
Midori, 38, white female <
midorichan1@juno.com>, Orlando, FL
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THE QUESTION:
SO77: To advocates of same-sex marriages: Many people believe the government shouldn't prevent these marriages between consenting adults. Should the government also prevent marriages between consenting adults who are siblings? (Assume they are incapable of reproducing.) If yes, why?
POSTED SEPT. 29, 1998
Mike R., 30, Williamsburg, VA

ANSWER 1:
Tough question. Given your assumption, the two issues do appear to be similar. Look at the root causes, however. Incest is prohibited by both religious and civil law because children of incest could have serious health problems. That is a medical fact. It may be true that two siblings could sue for the right to marry if they were able to prove they couldn't have children. Most of us would still object because we can't stomach the thought of marrying our own sibling. The prohibition against gay or lesbian unions rests solely on illogical "moral" ground. The arguments against it are not based on medical facts and are not consistent across social or denominational lines. That's the difference.
POSTED OCT. 12, 1998
M.H., 30, lesbian, Boston , MA

FURTHER NOTICE:
Should the government limit marriages between siblings? Yes, primarily because of the inbreeding problem, but also, what would be the need for siblings to marry? They would not, as same-sex couples often are, be prohibited from visiting one another at the hospital in emergencies; their last wishes and bequests would not be ignored by blood relatives and courts; their agreed-upon custody arrangements for one another's biological children would not be ignored; they would face no danger of being permanently separated by immigration authorities, and the list goes on and on. Think of all the times you're asked, on forms and applications, for "next of kin" or "relationship." You can put "brother" or "sister" there and not be questioned. Just try to put your same-sex lifelong partner there and see what happens!
POSTED OCT. 12, 1998
Becky, 55, married lesbian <
bthacker@iupui.edu>, Indianapolis, IN

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Siblings are not allowed to get married not for the explicit reason that they can reproduce, but because they run a high risk of creating children with mental or physical disabilities. Gays and lesbians cannot reproduce (with each other) and thus run no risk of producing children with mental or physical disabilitiess. Gays and lesbians want legalized marriage for many reasons, but the most compelling one is this: When you fall in love with someone, you want to know you will be able to spend the rest of your life together and not be torn apart because you don't have the legal right to take care of each other if one is hospitalized, or because the retirement home won't allow you to share a room, or because some homophobic neighbor doesn't like "two guys" sharing the house down the street (even though they both own it). I know. I've been in a totally committed, love-filled relationship with one man for 19 years, and at age 50 know that this will never change. Yes, I fear being torn apart by insensitive, uncaring, bigoted bureaucrats just because the government won't legally recognize a relationship that exists anyway.
POSTED OCT. 12, 1998
Mike, German-American gay male, Dover, DE

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I have to admit I had to think about the answer to this one for a while - I have to say that sibling marriages should continue to be prevented (even if reproduction is not an issue) for the simple reason that, in the absence of a marriage, family members often still have many of the same rights associated with marriage - survivorship, health care, etc. The great thing about marriage (in the purely partnership sense) is that it unites two people who otherwise have no other legal ties, and it grants legal rights and obligations as part of the marriage contract. Many of these rights already exist for people who are already family members, and I see no reason to allow marriage between siblings purely on the basis of the set of rights granted by marriage. (Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, just an advocate of same-sex marriage, just as the original poster requested.)
POSTED OCT. 12, 1998
Jeff M., 30, gay white male <
haljor@yahoo.com>, San Francisco, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
The U.S. government doesn't "prevent" same-sex marriages. It simply does not grant people in these marriages the same special rights it does people in heterosexual marriages. This is the central question about same-sex marriages - are they the legal equivalent of heterosexual marriages? As to your question, it sounds like you're trying to draw a parallel between two types of relationship where none exists beyond the involvement of "consenting adults." Gay couples do have children. Sterile siblings don't. Gay couples come from different families. Siblings don't. Gay marriages result from relationships that (like straight ones) are hopefully enriching and full of love. The sibling relationship you describe is most probably the result of incest and molestation at an early age and is therefore not on the same plane. The government should recognize same-sex marriage. It should not encourage incest.
POSTED OCT. 12, 1998
Michael, 36, gay, white <
txmichael@worldnet.att.net>, Houston, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
As a gay man who advocates same-sex marriage, this is something that I have thought of. My opinion has been that the government's involvement in marriage has always been for reasons of property. People married in the eyes of the state have rights concerning the ownership of property, can make decisions for ill spouses, have rights of inheritance and are able to do many things jointly. Many will say that same-sex couples can work these things out, but this usually involves costly legal contracts. Why should a loving, committed same-sex couple have to jump through hoops, when all a man and woman have to do is pay a small license fee and get married? Opponents of same-sex marriage will usually say it's against God's will or that the purpose of marriage is to bear and raise children. First of all, the government should not recognize God's will in our laws; separation of church and state is in the Constitution. Second, if using the argument that the purpose is bearing and rearing children, then it would seem that they are saying those unwilling or incapable of having children should not be allowed to marry. It is up to everyone's beliefs whether they think that same-sex couples should be able to marry in the eyes of their church, but if the government is going to recognize marriage, it should be done without regard to sex. We are all guaranteed equal protection under the law. Would this allow siblings to marry? Maybe. It's a tough issue. Look at just the legal facts though, leaving out religion and children, and try to explain how the government can deny benefits to any couple based on their sex.
POSTED OCT. 12, 1998
Toby J., 33, gay white male <
jtobey@hotmail.com>, Omaha, NE

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
Part of this depends on what you mean by marriage. As far as I can tell it's a) a religious ceremony b) a number of different cultural institutions and c) various legal contracts between individuals governing mutually held property, inheritance, care of children and a handful of other things. (Right of attorney, etc.) Frankly, I think our country is already way too far into the religious and cultural bits. That isn't its place - any religious organization should be able to decide if they are willing to perform a marriage ceremony for any two people. (There are a number that perform weddings for homosexual couples; I don't know of any that have performed weddings for siblings.) Culture has to do with how the people around you feel about it, and shouldn't be written into law. The only place where the state should have any say is in the drawing up of legal contracts between various individuals, and I can't see how the biological relationship of individuals, their gender or even the number involved should have much bearing on such a contract. (It's worth noting that I don't think it's the state's business, either, who is sleeping with whom as long as everyone involved is a consenting adult. Though perhaps writing monogamy in as a condition of the legal contract would be a good thing for some people.) So, as far as the siblings go: I think a religious wedding should be the decision of their church (if they have one - whether or not they can have a religious wedding without one is a little confusing). I think they'll probably get a fair bit of criticism from the people around them, which might in itself be enough to dissuade them. It's not an idea I'm altogether comfortable with, to say the least. I think the "legal wedding" shouldn't be anything more than the drawing up of a set of legal documents, and the state doesn't have any business denying them that on the basis of their genetic relationship.
POSTED OCT. 12, 1998
Catherine, 25, white bisexual married female <
tylik@eskimo.com>,Woodinville, WA

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
Putting aside the genetic repercussions, I believe incest needs to be off limits legally because the home is meant to be a safe haven for the children being raised in it. Children are not ready for sex until they mature, and while they are still in the home they need familial support. If marriage between siblings and other close relations is permitted, there will be no way the family as it is currently structured can function properly, because sexual desire will cloud the necessary support a family is supposed to give. I believe a family consists of children, and a support system of adults who love them and care for them. This support system can be a man and a woman, or a same-sex couple or whatever, as long as they understand their responsibility to the children involved. Same-sex marriages are based on love and commitment, just as opposite sex marriages are. Think about it: A person wants to pledge the entire duration of his/her life to someone. This is not something that could in any way be based solely on the desire for kinky sex. It greatly saddens me that you would even think of comparing something as beautiful as love to something like incest.
POSTED OCT. 12, 1998
A. Browne, 20, black female <
abrowne@sophia.smith.edu>, Northampton, MA
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THE QUESTION:
R478: Why is it that every time I see a handsome black man, he has the most unattractive white woman on his arm? I understand the intrique of the "forbidden fruit," but why are the women always so ugly? As a black woman, I find this very offensive.
POSTED OCT. 8, 1998
T.R.A., black female, Newport News, Va

ANSWER 1:
Because, in my opinion, he's settling for the first thing white, and she's glad jungle fever was tempered.
POSTED OCT. 13, 1998
A.A.W., 42, black female <
ANABWI@aol.com>, Plantation, FL

FURTHER NOTICE:
Perhaps you are experiencing an optical illusion triggered by an extreme, internalized dislike of black men with white women. The dislike is so deeply rooted that the most logical way to defend yourself is to rationalize that all white women "on the arms of black men" are ugly. To me, the real issue is that you simply don't approve of these kinds of relationships and therefore pass judgment upon them (in layman's terms, it's called prejudice/stereotyping). Many black women take these relationships personally because of the ingrained notion that the hidden agenda of black men involved in mixed-race relationships is to send a negative message to "sisters" that we are not pretty enough, light enough or just plain right enough. The reality is that most black men who date white women are open-minded, and most have, at one point or another, loved and cherished a black woman as well. I think we've got to get past skin color as a way of selecting or excluding men and get down to the business of building our relationships upon real qualities such as honor, respect, integrity, logic, values and honesty. It's a disservice to any individual to lump him/her into a group. White women, like all women, represent the full range of beauty.
POSTED OCT. 13, 1998
Dee W., <
westde@hiram.edu>, Cleveland, OH
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THE QUESTION:
SO56: Why do some gay men call other gay men "girls" or "sisters"? Do lesbians ever call other lesbians "brothers" or "boys"?
POSTED JUNE 28, 1998
Iltan H., 25, straight male <
ilhaj@rocketmail.com>, Valhalla, NY

ANSWER 1:
As a lesbian who has been out for about 15 years, I don't recall hearing other lesbians refer to each other in masculine terms, i.e., "brother," "man" or "boy." I have no idea why it is common for gay men to refer to each other in feminine terms.
POSTED JULY 15, 1998
Laura W., 36, lesbian <
lauraw@cobalt.cnchost.com>, Los Angeles , CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
I think it is supposed to be campy. Etymologically speaking, its use probably goes back to the 1940s. But I think it is a term based in insult, a putdown that implies the person being called "girl" that he is not quite a man. And, everyone knows that it's better to be a man, don't they? In my view, it is inherently misogynistic, and I avoid using it.
POSTED JULY 20, 1998
Rex T. <
rex_tremende@hotmail.com>, Cincinnati, OH

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I agree with the camp factor, but I would add that you might notice how similarly gay men and African-American women talk. The use of "girl," "sister" and "honey," whether as terms of affection or in a snide comment, are very apparent in both groups. So, are there deeper genetic reasons for this?
POSTED AUG. 18, 1998
Chris, gay, Houston, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
To my knowledge, lesbians don't call each other brothers or boys. My theory on why some gay men will call other gay men sisters or girls is that being on the outside looking in at traditional relationships between men and women has given us an appreciation of what women have gone through in efforts to attract and keep a mate. In many ways it's ridiculous, yet endearing in its sincerity, thus becoming camp, or at least one facet of it. We've noticed how often men have been self-absorbed, indifferent and numb to the time and energy women have spent to meet the ever-changing standards in looks, style or demeanor. We've been mesmerized by the times when women, usually in film, but sometimes in life, have succeeded in these efforts and made men fawn over or defer to them. Thus, both "sister" and "girl" are said in fun with positive connotations (but they can also be a mild putdown if we think these people are being exceptionally friviolous or focused on things of little importance). Primarily, they are terms that show appreciation for what women have been/go through and for the less-limited range of emotional expression granted to women.
POSTED OCT. 13, 1998
C. Warner <
wchipvw@cybertours.com>, Ogunquit, ME
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THE QUESTION:
GE83: Why is it that women universally want their husbands to be faithful? Isn't lifetime monogamy too heavy a burden on anyone, including women.? What's wrong with a little fooling around as long as the other person doesn't know, and everyone takes care of their responsibilities?
POSTED OCT. 10, 1998
V.V., 40, female <
VIJAY@DAUPHINE.FR>, Paris, France

ANSWER 1:
Your assertion that all women want their husbands to be faithful is a fairly accurate generality, but not a universal truth. A lot depends on a person's views about marriage, love, honesty and sex. For people who view marriage as basically a political alliance or an economic living relationship and sex as separate from love, lifelong monogamy may not be a marital expectation for either party, particularly with arranged marriages. However, "as long as the other person doesn't know" implies concealment of extramarital sexual liasons from a partner who expects faithfulness, something I would consider dishonest and probably detrimental to a relationship.

For most women like myself, however, sexual intimacy is used to express our love for our partner. Within a marriage or committed relationship, sex is a sacred sharing of our innermost being with our chosen lifemate. Although at times playful and lighthearted, sex is not viewed as "just fooling around" or something fun to do if you're bored. Making love does exactly that - it creates bonds of love and intimacy. An extramarital affair is a betrayal of trust that may never be regained. It indicates lack of respect for my feelings and lack of committment to the relationship. While I respect the right of each couple to mutually decide for themselves whether or not to be monogamous, this should definitely be a joint decision before marriage or making a committment. I for one would never agree to an "open" marriage and would have difficulty considering such an arrangement much of a relationship.
POSTED OCT. 12, 1998
DykeOnByke, formerly married lesbian <
DykeOnByke@aol.com>, Southfield, MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
A faithful relationship has one primary factor: Trust. It is the one facet that allows two people to completely be themselves around their partner. Fooling around, whether the partner knows about it or not, makes the trust a non-factor and changes the relationship. My wife of 16 years trusts me not to wander. Her trust in me is a huge boost to my self-esteem and makes me a better woman and human being. Thats' not to say I am not tempted; it does mean I choose not to engage in that behavior. And yes, there have been times when it has been difficult not to. But it would break her heart and mine if I did so, and that is a side-effect I could not endure. For those who have an "open relationship": To each their own. However, if there is not a pre-agreed arrangement and one does wander, you have altered the base your relationship rests on.
POSTED OCT. 13, 1998
Alma, 45, old-fashioned lesbian <
pridewks@centraltx.net>, Kempner, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Doing anything (with the exception of surprise parties and gifts) behind someone's back shows you have something to hide and implies a lack of respect for that person, whether it be a spouse, relative or friend. This is especially true if you take great pains to ensure they do not know of your actions. This implies you know that person would be hurt or offended if they found out, and why would you consciously do something you know would hurt those close to you? I respect my friends and family, and I respect my wife even more. I would not do anything I thought might hurt her or humiliate her. That's what is wrong with fooling around. As for a lifetime of monogamy - with my wife, I consider it an honor.
POSTED OCT. 13, 1998
Stephen S., 31, happily married <
SAScheidt@aol.com>, San Antonio, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I don't think it's only women who desire lifetime monogamy. Most men have a difficult time imagining the person they love with another man. While lifetime monogamy can be trying at times, it also has some practical benefits. You mentioned each person taking care of their responsibilities, and that's important. But there's always the chance of pregnancy in sexual relationships, and things can get kind of complicated when one partner or the other has children with other people. In addition, it does require a certain degree of time and energy to maintain an extramarital relationship, mistresses and spouses grow jealous of one another, and each feels deprived of important time, or worse. It's just simpler to stay with one person.
POSTED OCT. 13, 1998
D.M.M., white single female <
millerdo@cofc.edu>, SC

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I'm a currently married woman who does not ask my husband to be monogamous (indeed, we both have other lovers). I do, however, ask him to be honest, and faithful to those agreements that we have made. Having sex with another woman is fine; not discussing it with me (among other things) is not. When friends explain to me why monogamy is so important to them, it seems that it often comes down to cultural definitions of love and marriage. A spouse who cheats does not by these definitions love you - at least, I guess, not enough. A marriage that includes adultery is not a good, stable or trustworthy marriage. Non-monogamy cuts too deeply into their definitions of security to be considered.
POSTED OCT. 13, 1998
Catherine, 25, bisexual female <
tylik@eskimo.com>, Woodinville, WA

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I stick to my position after having heard all these answers, and despite of (or because of) the troubles of Bill Clinton. People seem to mention simplicity, practicality, etc., and I also notice a preponderence of answers from lesbians, who I feel are known to be jealously monogamous. But just think about it: When you sleep with someone, you're not humiliating the other person, as the only male respondent seemed to say. Your body is the only thing that is absolutely your own, and if you want to "lease" it permanently to someone else of your own volition, all power to you. But suppose you're not willing to accept this hypothesis. Why does non-consequential sex with someone else necessarily humiliate the other person? Why do they have a right to be jealous? Why do women get all outraged by a simple (albeit repeated) act of sexual infidelity and forgive a deep, platonic friendship their husband may have with someone of the opposite sex?
POSTED OCT. 17, 1998
V.V., straight married female <
VIJAY@DAUPHINE.FR>, Paris, France
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