Best of the Week
of Nov. 7, 1999

Best of Week Archives

Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Nov. 7, 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.

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Question:
My nephew is new to the Islamic faith and has met a young lady he will be marrying on Saturday. They have known each other three weeks. Is rushing common within this faith, and if so, why?
POSTED 11/10/1999
Debbie, Edinburg, TX, United States, <dcat2187>, 38, Female, Christian, Straight, student, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 1191999110459
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Question:
I am from an upper middle-class community, where the majority of homes are valued at $150,000 or more, and most people have two or more cars and two- to four-stall garages. I am 19 and work full-time as a chef at Vincent's Vineyard in Fairmont, W.V. I have always looked up to wealthy people, because one day I hope to be in their position, but I find a lot of other people dislike or treat affluent people very rudely, and I would like to know why that is.
POSTED 11/8/1999
Lawrence C. III, Fairmont, WV, United States, 19, Male, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, Chef, High School Diploma , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 1141999111711

Responses:
I live in the Oak Lawn neighborhood of Dallas. Oak Lawn is very diverse, composed of gays and many ethnicities living side by side. The run-of-the-mill person in this neighborhood is lower middle class or less. The neighborhood next door is Highland Park, one of the richest in Dallas. I'll admit we laugh at the HP aristocrats; they park in the no parking zones so they don't have to walk any distance into the stores, they ignore traffic signals while they yack on their cell phones, etc. Lots of times, wealthy people associate their wealth with the need for 'lesser' people to defer to them in life. This leads to rude behaviors on both sides. Looking up to someone just because they are wealthy is an empty value. What do they do with this affluence? Do they expend time and money helping the homeless, the less fortunate, the area hospices, the shelters? If not, I would advise you to consider why you look up to them and search yourself to determine why you hope to be in their position.
POSTED 11/10/1999
Mark B., Dallas, TX, United States, <markmark@airmail.net>, 38, Male, UFMCC, Christian, White/Caucasian, Gay, Financial Analyst, 2 Years of College , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 1110199975604

I have to first wonder why you would 'look up' to wealthy people. Most didn't earn their wealth, they inherited it. There are far more Steve Forbes out there than Horatio Alger types. It seems like you are more admiring of materialism than anything else, and that hardly seems like a healthy attitude. But you don't say who it is you see as resentful of the well-off. If it is people from slightly affluent backgrounds like yourself, it might be simply a feeling of competition. But if it is poorer people you see as resentful, there are four justifiable reasons for that hostility: 1) Unequal treatment in America based on wealth. How many wealthy people who commit crimes wind up NOT being punished for them? Just ask O.J. 2) The open class hostility directed toward poorer people by the well-off. Just look at any debate over welfare or the demonizing of inner-city youth by the news media. 3) Religious beliefs that are opposed to accumulation of wealth. Think of Jesus saying 'It is easier to get a camel throught the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to go to heaven.' These religious truths, plus those of other groups like Buddhists and American Indians, hold that wealth does not equal virtue, no matter how much we are propagandized to the contrary. 4) The far greater power that the wealthy have in this system. Democracy should be one person=one vote. Instead it's more like one dollar=one vote. How many poorer people have the power to influence the political process like Forbes, Perot, Trump or the many wealthy people who play a behind-the-scenes role? The one reason I don't think anyone can honestly say is a reason is the one cited by many conservatives, envy. That is a deliberate misunderstanding of the genuine issues that poorer people face, almost a libel and a smear.
POSTED 11/10/1999
A.C.C., W Lafayette, IN, United States, Grad student, Over 4 Years of College , Lower class, Mesg ID 119199910033

1) Because many wealthy people got that way either through luck (wealthy parents) or on the backs of lower-class and/or immigrant workers. 2) Because many wealthy people don't appreciate what they have, and think poor people are just that way because they are lazy or 'no common sense' (see recent Best of the week archives). 3) Because many wealthy people develop a sense of entitlement - that they deserve more respect than others. Of course this is not true for everyone. There are plenty of people who are wealthy through their own hard work, talent or genius. Some, however, are just ruthless. Some are simply lucky. I admire your ambition and hope you achieve your goals. Just don't assume all wealthy people got that way through hard work!
POSTED 11/10/1999
C.B., New York, NY, United States, Mesg ID 1191999111727

It is simply a matter of jealousy. Most people are not as honest as you are, Lawrence. You admit that you want to be affluent. Other people do also, but won't admit it. Keep working hard and striving to achieve. There is no dishonor in success!
POSTED 11/10/1999
Kathy, Springfield, IL, United States, 46, Female, White/Caucasian, Over 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 118199995907

This conflict goes back to Mesopotamia. Robin Hood, Bolsheviks, unions, St. James, you name 'em. Basically, the root of it is that the poor and working class lead hard lives, and they have to scratch and claw for what little they have. And then they see the rich, who have all sorts of material possesions, prestige, power, etc., and who seem to live on easy street. And there's also the stereotype of rich folks being snobbish, greedy, and so forth. So it's only natural for there to be resentment. Like I said, this goes back to the days of the cavemen, when Ugg was better at hunting and got more acclaim than the other guys. I would suggest that you view the poor and working class with some reverence. Without them, the clothes you wear wouldn't have been sown, the car you drive wouldn't have been assembled, the house you live in wouldn't have been built and the food you eat wouldn't have been collected from the earth.
POSTED 11/10/1999
Dan, Los Angeles, CA, United States, 21, Male, Pentecostal Christian, Hispanic/Latino, student/dishwasher, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 118199995037

Simple class envy is the problem here. The 'have-nots' want what the 'haves' have. They don't want to proclaim their desire to be a 'have' because they think they will never achieve that, so they instead assume a posture of superiority over the 'haves,' proclaiming that the 'haves' obtained their wealth only through dishonest, immoral or un-American ways, or heaven forbid, through inheritance. 'Have-nots' discount the work ethic of the 'haves' and think that a family estate or family business is not fair to those less fortunate. Keep your dreams and vision - I have been both poor and rich, and believe me, rich is much better!
POSTED 11/10/1999
Katie, Newport Beach, CA, United States, 39, Female, Episcopalian, White/Caucasian, business owner, Over 4 Years of College , Upper middle class

My boyfriend, upon seeing my parents' neighborhood for the first time (which is a couple of notches below upper middle class), made a few biting remarks. I was surprised because he's normally very open-minded. He comes from a very poor neighborhood and characterized upper middle class neighborhoods as places where nothing goes wrong and everything anyone wants gets handed to them on a silver platter. I told him that in my experience, this wasn't true. I think he just felt envious and a little bitter about not being as financially privileged. However, we are both annoyed by many of the ostentatious staples of the upper middle class (the SUV/cell phone combo) and think that their leming-like conspicuous consumerism is pretty gimpy.
POSTED 11/10/1999
S.R., Austin, TX, United States, 21, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, student, Mesg ID 118199920953

There are usually two reasons people act rudely toward the wealthy. The first is envy. Some people are jealous that other people accomplished something they did not. The second reason, related to the first, is the impression that the wealthy can only get that way through some illegal activity. I am not sure that the people in those homes can really be called wealthy, though. It depends on the area. In my area, that is a farily low price for a small home, and two cars are needed for a two-income family when you need to commute to your jobs. My wife and I both work, and we are still unable to get a house at that price. Then again, in West Virginia, I imagine that things are a bit different, and that might be even more out of reach.
POSTED 11/10/1999
John K, Cranford, NJ, United States, <jkeegan3@home.com>, 26, Male, Chemical Engineer, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 1181999105205
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Question:
There have got to be some other males out there who are as fascinated with menstruation as I am. However, neither men nor women talk about the subject too much. I have always considered periods to be somewhat mysterious and extremely sensual. I would love to hear from other men who feel the same way. I'd also appreciate more than I could say hearing from some women as well. (How do you feel about your periods? Was your first period a pleasant or unpleasant experience? How do you feel about discussing your periods with the man or men in your life?) All replies will be greatly appreciated.
POSTED 10/4/1999
Bob, Virginia Beach, VA, United States, <exA6driver@hotmail.com>, 29, Male, Humanist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Graduate Student, Over 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 10499102942

Responses:
I think that if more people - male and female - thought the way that you did about menstruation, more women might have more forgiving attitudes about the lived realities of their flows. Like many of the respondents, I find the cramps, bloating, fatigue and messiness of my period pretty darn annoying. However, as my body has become more mature and my cycle more regular, I have come to really enjoy the heightened awareness of my body's ovulation, hormonal changes, ranges of fertility, the whole nine. Like Taneia, I am offended and hurt (and, sadly, affected) by the whole culture of secrecy and shame surrounding the whole thing: something that 52 percent of the population goes through is not a 'curse,' it's a miracle of evolution. And the more of us who recognize this, the healthier that 52 percent of us will be. Oh, and you're not the only man to be fascinated by the subject: My husband's joyous and excited questions and attitudes (as well as his generous and frequent administerings of iron, calcium and magnesium, and dandelion root tea) have gone a huge way toward helping me feel even better during and about my period.
POSTED 11/8/1999
Jamyla, Brooklyn, NY, United States, 23, Female, Black/African American, Bisexual, writer, dancer, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 117199962349
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Question:
I have been an auto mechanic for 13 years. I have worked very hard to learn my profession, considering that cars have changed drastically over the years and I have to constantly re-educate myself to learn new and complex systems. But I'm still regarded as a grease monkey and a thief. Why hasn't public opinion of my profession changed in 50 years?
POSTED 8/31/1999
Curious, Taylor, MI, United States, Mesg ID 62999101916

Responses:
My experience with auto mechanics has varied from bad to awful. On the basis of my experience I would say they are 'crooks' first and 'mechanics' a distant second. Not only have I been lied to and 'ripped off,' but I am certain problems were deliberately created on a number of occasions over the years. I have some knowledge about these things and an 'average' person would never even begin to suspect some of the things I am virtually certain they do routinely. Also, it is not just a matter of money. Traffic accidents are a major source of death and injury in our society, and I am virtually certain that crooked or incompetent mechanics and garage owners are partially responsible for some of the bloodshed and suffering associated with traffic accidents. However, auto mechanics are merely part of a corrupt and heartless system. I know a woman who had an expensive car that tended to die in traffic. The dealer and some other mechanic could not find the problem, and the dealer gave her a very good deal if she would buy another car. She decided to have a relative sell the car for her without telling the buyer the reason the car was being sold. I said to her: "You are afraid to drive this car and yet you plan to sell it to an unsuspecting stranger? What if the buyer has an accident and loses his life because he is unaware of the problem?" Her answer? "Tough."
POSTED 11/8/1999
J.G., College Park, MD, United States, <jg22usa@hotmail.com>, 63, Male, Humanist, White/Caucasian, Straight, very sensitive to toxic peole, teacher, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 117199965156
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Question:
Why is it that in rural America, if you have a satellite dish you usually have a junky house? I would think it would cost too much for them to afford satellite TV. Or I guess TV takes precedence over fixing their house. Does anyone have any answers to this?
POSTED 11/8/1999
John, Hays, KS, United States, 22, Male, White/Caucasian, Student, 4 Years of College Lower class, Mesg ID 115199935350

Responses:
I heard a joke once that Southerners must be more affluent than their Northern neighbors because, after all, we have so many appliances that we can't fit them all in the house! We've got extra refrigerators on the porch, washing machines out back, etc. John, it's a matter of priorities. You usually can't get cable run to you in rural areas, so a satellite is your only option if you want TV. These folks may have just enough to choose one or the other - a nice house or a TV. Obviously, many choose the TV. You'll also notice there's a damn nice bass boat out back, too. You spend your money on what's important to you, not what's important to your neighbors.
POSTED 11/10/1999
Kat, Birmingham, AL, United States, 29, Female, Methodist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Webmaster, Over 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 119199985711

It could be coincidence, or the juxtaposition of something 'high-tech' or expensive-looking out of context. I have friends living out in the country, and at first glance, their yard is cluttered - swingsets, bikes, kids toys, etc. Not living in a subdivision or other development, the bikes on the lawn take on a cluttered look. But go to what most would consider a back yard, where they entertain, and it's entirely different - landscaped and manicured. Another factor of 'city living' - at least in this part of the country - is that most subdivisions or developments have deed restrictions and owners associations that have strict rules as to the placement of satellite dishes and other installations, as well as requirements to keep your lawn mowed and even restricted on-street parking
POSTED 11/10/1999
Michael, Houston, TX, United States, 38, Male, Methodist, White/Caucasian, Gay, Intranet Manager, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 1181999115217

I used to be one of those people in the rural areas with a poorly maintained house and a satellite dish. There were lots of people in a similar situation. First, our area of Virginia was full of mountains, so there was no such thing as free TV. It is cable or a dish. Since cable is pretty much a monopoly down there (as it is in many places), the rates were quite high. A satellite dish was usually cheaper or equal to the cable rates. As far as the houses go, we rented. So we could only make cosmetic changes to the house, most of which were inside. Some people did own houses, but the cost of repair can be high in areas with few contractors, painters, etc. Again, they charge a high rate because they are the only game in town. Finally, a satellite dish is a one-time installation. Fixing a house takes a lot longer and may cost much more than a family can afford.
POSTED 11/10/1999
John K, Cranford, NJ, United States, <jkeegan3@home.com>, 26, Male, Chemical Engineer, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 1181999103854
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Question:
I became friendly with a black co-worker who then started calling me 'girlfriend.' I took this as a compliment, meaning she considered me her friend and not just some white girl from work. Was this right? I didn't think of her as a color, just as someone I liked talking to and hanging out with.
POSTED 11/8/1999
Terri, Philadelphia, PA, United States, 33, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Straight, High School Diploma , Middle class, Mesg ID 116199913456

Responses:
The term 'girlfriend' is an endearing term used when talking to another female; it's usually used among black Americans, but it's also used when speaking to anyone - whomever the person speaking feels comfortable with. I think your co-worker used it not to distinguish you from other white girls in general, but to mean she sees you as just one of the girls, black or white.
POSTED 11/10/1999
Angelina, Philadelphia, PA, United States, 23, Female, Black/African American, Straight, Middle class, Mesg ID 119199931330
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Question:
Can someone please tell me why the French have such reputations for being rude? I have not been to France, but the French people I've met here in the United States are anything but rude - though they are indeed very different from Americans. To me, rude is like the people at the shopping mall the week before Christmas!
POSTED 11/1/1999
Terri, Philadelphia, PA, United States, 33, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Straight, High School Diploma , Middle class, Mesg ID 1029199910408

Responses:
I think that the attitude of a lot of Northern French people can come across as being rude, in a similar way to the apparent rudeness of Southern English people. I don't think this is really a reflection of their personality, just that they have different ways of interacting with each other. To them it is abnormal to act in a more smiling, happy manner, which can look stupid and uncool to them. I think the French people you have met in the United States are likely to have a more international way of interacting with people or are from a different area in France.
POSTED 11/8/1999
B.B., Edinburgh, NA, United Kingdom, 25, Female, Atheist, white, PhD student, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 117199962732

I have read in history of a Frenchman named Chauvin, who in a fit of nationalism proclaimed French people and products to be better than any others in the world. I believe his name is where the term "chauvinism" originated - male, or in his case, French.
POSTED 11/8/1999
Armand F., Chicago, IL, United States, <EyeIntend2 @aol.com>, 47, Male, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, waste hauler, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 116199925647

I went to France this summer with some friends, many of whom didn't speak French. I and two others do. I found the French to be quite hospitable, but my friends who didn't speak French said they found the French very rude. I asked them why, and they said that for one, the French would 'ignore' them or be much slower to respond or react once it was realized they didn't speak French. They said that since I spoke French they must not have had any or not as much animosity toward me. But to me, if you go to someone else's country, it's polite to learn customs and some of the language before you go, as a matter of respect. Whereas we in the United States sometimes find it annoying when we see tourists running around speaking some language we don't know, in France they probably are able to act on those feelings, which we keep to ourselves. That said, I did find that the French sometimes do have a superiority complex, thinking that theirs, whatever it is, is the best. But I let that go because I found that indeed many things they felt strongly about were better. I loved their food and fashion and perfume, all of which I found to be better than other countries'. Many Americans at times probably resent this because, well, we are good at a lot of stuff, and, well, I still feel this is the best place in the world to live. Their superiority complex bothers us more because we are taught from the cradle that ideally, everyone is equal, and it is effort that distinguishes us from each other. When people come in with preconceived notions, it seems very rude to us.
POSTED 11/8/1999
Sarah, Richmond, VA, United States, Female, Mesg ID 1151999111906

I'm not French but grew up in France, and I can tell you one thing, even though French people are not my favorite, they are not rude. You'll find rude people everywhere. I think the reason the French are said to be rude is more the consequence of cultural differences than anything else.
POSTED 11/8/1999
Fabrice, Dayton, OH, United States, 19, Male, Catholic, College Student, Mesg ID 115199980035
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