Best of the Week
of Nov. 8, 1998


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Nov. 8, 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: 
GE15: I've noticed that a significant number of men are resentful and unhappy if their wives, girlfriends, etc., make more money than they do. I know of one man who badgered his wife into trading her nursing position for a lower-paying service job because he resented her higher salary. How common is this trait among men? Don't they recognize the benefits of two high-paying salaries?
POSTED APRIL 14, 1998
Melody, 45, married white working female, Atlanta, Ga.

ANSWER 1:
My husband is quite happy with the fact that I make a higher salary. It certainly makes our lives easier. I would guess most men who are unhappy with it either feel less manly because they can't support their families alone, or feel at a disadvantage because the balance of power is different. Or both.
POSTED MAY 3, 1998
A. Morgan, Houston

FURTHER NOTICE:
Men have trouble accepting partners who earn more money than them because men have always been known as the traditional "bread-winners" in the family. Even though our society may preach that it doesn't matter which partner earns more, it is inevitable that other men with relations to the man who earns less than his wife will take notice. Even if on an unconscious level, I feel the treatment that the man may then receive from his fellow men could be tainted by the fact that he earns less than his wife. After all, if the man doesn't even rule in his own home, how could he ever presume to overcome another man? Though some of this logic on the part of my gender may seem flawed, it is very hard for men to overcome the fact that their wife makes more money and still retain a sense of being the dominant partner, as the trait of masculinity is supposed to entail.
POSTED NOV. 13, 1998
Michael B., 18, male, IL
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THE QUESTION:
G34: Why is it that when people from non-Southern states hear my Texas accent, they seem to automatically assume I am one of the following: A) stupid, B) a racist or C) backward, probably due to inbreeding of a rather extensive nature?
POSTED SEPT. 29, 1998
Maybelle June Bodine <
bodine@slip.net>, San Jose, CA

ANSWER 1:
I think this is another of the evils in modern society that can be laid at Hollywood's doorstep. If you want to make a show about well-educated, well-adjusted, attractive young professionals, you set it in New York or Chicago or L.A. If you want to make a show about people who drive around in an ugly orange American car with the doors welded shut, foiling the evil plans of the crooked local Judge and Sheriff, you set it in the South. And then, to add insult to injury, you give the strongest Southern accents to the stupidest or most crooked characters.
POSTED NOV. 12, 1998
Mark, Alexandria, VA
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THE QUESTION:
R503: As a white male, my male friends and I have often commented on how wonderfully sexy and erotic Japanese women are. Do white women find Japanese men similarly sexually exciting?
POSTED OCT. 30, 1998
K. Larrson <
klnx@spidernet.com.cy>, Nicosia

ANSWER 1:
I've lived in Japan for seven years and know many white women dating or married to Japanese men, so there are definitely women attracted to Japanese men. However, I don't think as many white women are specifically attracted to Japanese men the way white men are attracted to Japanese women. For many men, it's a fetish. I think the women who go out with Japanese men are going out with a particular man they like, who happens to be Japanese. Another reason is the way Japanese men are portrayed in the media - overworked salaryman, ninja, sex-crazed rapist, sneaky businessman, samurai, geeky science student, poor English-speaker, etc. How many of these stereotypes come to mind at the thought of "Japanese man"? There aren't so many positive images, which is unfortunate. Last reason: While short and slender is considered attractive for women, it is not for men. Most Japanese men are this body type, which white women may not find as attractive.
POSTED NOV. 12, 1998
Brian B., 30, white male married to Japanese <
bajuk@pop17.odn.ne.jp>, Nishinomiya, Japan
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THE QUESTION:
SO96: I know it's extremely difficult to come out and admit one is gay. Can anyone share their experience? How did you do it? How did the people around you react?
POSTED NOV. 10, 1998
Mendoza, 21, Hispanic <
mendo015@mailhost1.csusm.edu>, San Marcos, CA

ANSWER 1:
I think "coming out" is something gay people do all their lives. Of course the biggest step is simply coming out to oneself and admitting one is gay. For me, at least, the next hardest thing was telling my mom - she cried because she didn't understand much about gay people and thought I was in for a terrible life. That was almost 10 years ago. Now things are amazing - she's educated herself and come to realize that me being gay is a wonderful thing. Again, gay people are always "coming out" to varying degrees. Just yesterday I mentioned the fact that I have a boyfriend to a casual friend - I don't know if she suspected I was gay, but, I guess she knows now! In the 10 years since I came out to my mom, I've learned that honesty is truly the best policy.
POSTED NOV. 13, 1998
Doug, gay white male <
dkerr@uwgt.org>, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE:
I cannot write about coming out as gay, but I can write about coming out as an agnostic. I live in a country that is 98 percent Catholic (though the state is secular), and where more than 60 percent of the population goes to Sunday Mass. I lost my faith when I was 15, partly because I was brought up without contact with non-believers, and was quite surprised to realize they could be decent folks, too. I found it very difficult to tell my parents; my friends did not accept that I simply had different beliefs, and even eight years later I find it difficult to tell people that I am not a believer. In fact I did not discuss religion with my parents at all in those few months when my beliefs were changing, because I did not want any parental pressure during this delicate period; I still think I did the right thing because I am now satisfied and convinced of my new beliefs, which is better than living in continual doubt. The experience made me quite sympathetic toward gays because, while the two issues are different, they have one important point in common: I did not decide to change my religious beliefs (in fact, I resisted the change initially), and gays do not decide to be gay; they just find out that they are different and that society usually does not accept this difference.
POSTED NOV. 13, 1998
Alastair F., 23, straight agnostic male <
nafarr@waldonet.net.mt>, Paola, Malta

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Coming out is not only difficult, it is never-ending. However, it does get easier with practice. By saying it is never-ending, I mean that I am constantly having to weigh whether it is important to "come out" to a person. When a stranger on the bus, a coworker or anyone else chats you up, and the conversation turns to spouses, families or social activities, I have to decide whether to come out to them. I find myself weighing in my mind, basically, if they have the power to hurt me if they find the "true" me not according to their standards. It's unfortunate, but I judge other people's open-mindedness before I make the decision. It seems to work for me. I haven't been beaten up since high school and haven't been discriminated against. The caveat, of course, is that I live in San Francisco, and can afford to come out to more people. I might be less open and honest if I were still in a small town in Louisiana.
POSTED NOV. 13, 1998
Gay White Male, 36 <
mancub@gay.net> San Francisco, CA
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THE QUESTION:
R512: I've noticed that some rich white people call poor white people "poor white trash," and seem to condemn them for being poor. They also treat them really bad. Why is this?
POSTED NOV. 9, 1998
Whitney T., 19, black female <
scrumpies@juno.com>, Oxford, MS

ANSWER 1:
I have used the term "White Trash." To me it means white people who are poor, possibly on welfare and who have no intention of getting off welfare. They also seem to have been on welfare for several generations. I've also heard others use the term referring to those individuals who may embarrass them, like something you would see on a Jerry Springer episode (i.e. "I'm sleeping with my sister!"). Those people are also referred to as White Trash. I think they treat the white trashers badly because of the lack of effort (or appearance thereof) to improve one's lifestyle. As an aside, I would like to comment on an article I found in a news magazine about poverty levels in America. There was a white poverty level and black poverty level. The last time I checked, my family was below the black poverty level, though for where I live we are about average. I guess we are all white trash to city folk?
POSTED NOV. 12, 1998
Scott C., 28, married, white <
smcolson@key-net.net>, Mt. Jewett, PA

FURTHER NOTICE:
I think it has more to do with the attitudes and actions of the people in question than their financial situation. My understanding of the term is that it describes people who are generally loose with their morals, irresponsible and unkempt, for lack of a better term. There are members of my family who are financially stable but have been called "white trash" for acting in that manner.
POSTED NOV. 12, 1998
John K., straight Irish-American male, 25 <
the-macs@geocities.com>, Cranford, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Contrary to what many non-whites may think, we aren't all alike. To whites, there is a big difference between "white trash" and high-class. Just as many blacks feel that all whites see them as looking alike, I sometimes think blacks think all whites look alike. Basically it comes down to money, and acting like you have money or education. The blacks who are accused of "acting white" or selling out are not really acting white; they're acting rich. Us rednecks and hillbillies don't put on airs like that. And, for that matter, most of us hillbillies actually get along better with poor blacks than rich blacks do.
POSTED NOV. 12, 1998
B., 23, white male, Kokomo, IN

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I've never really heard the expression "poor" white trash as it pertains to income specifically. However, the term "white trash" is certainly prevalent among white people, but I really do not believe it referrs to economic status as much as to a certain group of behaviors. Someone who is considered "white trash" might do things like not take good care of themselves and their families, become absorbed in partying and pleasure more than work and self-improvement, and generally show a lack of respect for themselves and those around them. This type of behavior is certainly not limited to poor people. White usage of this expression is similar to black usage of "nigger" when referring to other black people in the community that bring shame to it.
POSTED NOV. 12, 1998
D.M.M., white female, 24 <
donikam@hotmail.com>, Charleston, SC

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
Middle/upper-class whites have more in common with middle/upper-class blacks than with lower-class whites. Upper-class people tend to define themselves in material terms - large house, fancy cars - and often reinforce that by disparaging those without money. Thus, wisecracks about trailer parks and white trash. There is also a fear factor. In upscale communities, everybody is kept in line because they have a lot to lose. People without much to lose are perceived as playing by different rules, or outside the rules, which is scary.
POSTED NOV. 12, 1998
Bruce H., white, upscale suburbanite <
halehart@aol.com>, Hartford, CT

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I believe that in today's "politically correct" world, white people often experience great pressure when talking to people of other races. I believe that by degrading members of their own race, some whites feel as if they are appealing to whoever it is they are talking to. Personally, I am extremely offended when somebody of any race uses the term "white trash," and I never hesitate to tell them.
POSTED NOV. 12, 1998
Age 23, Caucasion, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
I've heard the insults "white trash" and "trailer trash" used occasionally, but I can't recall ever hearing "poor white trash." (Maybe "poor" is inherent in "trailer.") Perhaps the most public example was James Carville's description of Paula Jones. In any case, I have always understood it to mean an individual who has no self-respect, sense of propriety or common decency (e.g. Jerry Springer guests). Personally, I can't think of something a whole lot trashier than condemning someone for being poor (or white, for that matter). So to answer your question, I'm not sure that people who use that particular phrase are looking down on others for being poor, but whether they are or not, they may be saying more about themselves than the people they are intending to insult.
POSTED NOV. 12, 1998
Mark, white, middle class, Alexandria, VA

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
Middle-class white people live in morbid fear of falling into the lower ranks, or of being identified with the lower ranks of "undesirables." Ways of not being white trash are drilled into children, including: Refined conduct and dress (prohibitions against being loud, or wearing worn or overly casual clothing in public, or having tattoos), and keeping the yard and house looking spiffy. White trash does not mean lower class or poor. It means a lack of couth, or decency, or culture. "White trash" really means "uncultured." It is a put-down. "Poor white trash" describes a white trash person who is also poor, but the main put-down part of that term is still the "white trash" part, not the "poor" part.
POSTED NOV. 13, 1998
Mark S., 30, white, middle class <
markseely@aol.com>, Houston, TX
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THE QUESTION:
O33: Why do we lower physical standards for women in police and fire occupations? Are we not risking the lives of people in the interest of equality? I for one would not want a woman half my size attempting to carry me out of a burning building. I would much rather it be a man who I know has the physical capability.
POSTED NOV. 12, 1998
Pete, Toledo, OH
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THE QUESTION:
RE83: My six-year-old daughter would like to know why only Native American men and not women are allowed to dance around fires in the tribes that have these traditions.
POSTED JULY 28, 1998
Grant and Katie, 35 & 6 <
artmcm@aol.com>, Jacksonville, FL

ANSWER 1:
It's very tricky and probably inaccurate to generalize about Indian traditions since there are several hundred different ones in the United States alone. But from what I know, most traditions believe in the separation of masculine and feminine roles, power and influence. There are also many rituals that are for women and girls alone. Some tribes have had women warriors and did allow them to take part in warrior rituals. Please don't get any ideas that all Indians believe in the subordination of women or the "squaw" (which is a crude word meaning vagina) stereotype from old movies. There are some tribal nations that have that problem, but there are also many that are traditionally female-led or at least with a great deal of female influence.
POSTED NOV. 10, 1998
A.C.C., Mexican and American Indian, San Antonio, TX

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THE QUESTION:
O31: Can anyone in the fashion industry tell me why the runway models have such outrageous clothes that nobody would be caught dead in? The clothes on display by major designers never resemble anyting I see in public. Do people really buy that stuff, and where on earth do they wear it?
POSTED NOV. 6, 1998
R.J., Cincinnati, OH

ANSWER 1:
It is obvious you have never been to Paris or Milan, for example. I have been in many dance clubs and bars in these areas and see such extravagant outfits here. I doubt you would see anyone wearing this in Cincinnati. Before you assume no one would be caught dead in these outfits, maybe you ought to think in a more wordly manner. There is a world outside the United States and Cincinnati.
POSTED NOV. 10, 1998
Jeff, male, Dayton, OH

FURTHER NOTICE:
As a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, I can give you an explanation about why designers design outrageous clothes that are impossible for wear even to special events. Fashion designers are very competitive with each other, especially when there are new and upcoming designers who are just as talented as the well-established designers. Designers are artists, and they need to express themselves. However, they do have lines designed and marketed to the everyday customer. Those outrageous clothes are ways to get their names out there so that customers will respond.
POSTED NOV. 10, 1998
Julie, 21, female <
Jasmin411@aol.com>, New York, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
One is more likely to find outrageous clothing in urban centers and among the wealthy, particularly in Europe. The designers themselves seek to be expressive and to create something invigoratingly new. To them and to many others, like myself, the clothing is beautiful, inspiring, fun, dramatic, moody, crazy, angry, soothing, etc. It extends and represents who we are or who we desire to be.
POSTED NOV. 10, 1998
Ryan H. <
ryanhy@tbaytel.net>, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I know! I know! My mother has her master's in fashion design and she tells me that runway shows are not in any way intended to exhibit a line of practical clothing. They are to be taken like an art exhibit with no practical application; their value is purely aesthetic. However, they do translate into "real world" fashion in a subtle way. Let's say you observe a runway show filled with models strutting down the catwalk practically naked in nothing but sheer, drapey, shapeless fabrics. That season, you might notice a lot of sheer blouses in the department stores, but accompanied by another layer underneath because people in the real world can't run around with their nipples showing. The fashion shows basically serve to celebrate the fabrics and cuts that designers want to be "in" that season in the most dramatic and showy way possible.
POSTED NOV. 10, 1998
D.M.M., 24, white, female <
donikam@hotmail.com>, Charleston, SC

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
From what I've heard there are two types of fashion shows: Haute Couture and Pret-a-porter. Haute Couture are the outrageous, one-copy-only creations. If you want one of these, you have to buy the original and it costs an arm and a leg and a few other body parts. These are the shows that are in many ways like art shows. Most people who attend them won't buy any of the clothes. But some will. Pret-a-porter means "ready-to-wear." The clothes exhibited in these shows are less outrageous and are usually for sale in ordinary stores. They can be quite expensive, but they are made in many copies. They are often on the edge, but not as outrageous as the Haute Couture clothes.
POSTED NOV. 13, 1998
Frej <
frejvall@online.no>, Oslo, Norway
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THE QUESTION:
GE90: A female told me she just wanted to be friends, but one day when our school took a field trip, she thought I was supposed to spend the whole day with her. Why did she assume I would spend the day with her?
POSTED NOV. 9, 1998
Matthew L. 25, Asian <
mlee@curry.edu>, Quincy, MA
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THE QUESTION:
SO92: What would be the reasons for "outing" a gay person, especially if it is against his or her wishes? POSTED NOV. 3, 1998
Stephen S., 31, straight male, San Antonio, TX

ANSWER 1:
The reasons would have to be selfish (on the part of the "outer"). I cannot imagine what it would be like to have someone take away this "control" over my own life. Even if the gay person were overtly anti-gay, and the "outer" knew this person to be gay, it would not, in my opinon, justify this.
POSTED NOV. 9, 1998
Joe D., 35, gay white male, Philadelphia, PA

FURTHER NOTICE:
There is no reason for outing someone who would not like to be outed. It is that individual's decision to come out when and how they want.
POSTED NOV. 9, 1998
Leticia <
celestial611@hotmail.com> New York, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
"Outing" was popularized by some radical gay groups in the 1980s. Their rationale was that the image and self-respect of gay people would be improved if it was publicly known that many famous people were gay. It was also seen as important in the fight to secure AIDS funding. Another rationale was that some closeted homosexuals actively worked to oppress gay people, through political and other avenues. It was felt that these people should be "outed" to expose their hypocrisy. The problem is that "outing" is someone deciding to publicize another person's private life. The victim has no recourse. Sometimes the victim wasn't even gay. On other occasions the link between the individual "outed" and oppressive acts and organizations was questionable. Outing is now considered rather dated. As the Lewinsky scandal and U.S. Congressional elections showed, public sentiment these days is that someone's private life is their own business.
POSTED NOV. 9, 1998
Ben S., 30, queer Caucasian male <
bscaro@hotmail.com>, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
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THE QUESTION:
R383: Why are long, elaborate fake nails so popular among urban black women? Don't these interfere with daily tasks? Do black men find these nails attractive?
POSTED JULY 27, 1998
J.A.B, 25, white, Pikesville, MD

ANSWER 1:
I have artificial nails and get a lot of compliments. Most of the girls I know get them because they look good continually, the polish stays on longer than your real nails and they help stop annoying habits like biting your nails. A lot of black men love them, I don't know why exactly, and are willing to pay for their women to have them done. Long nails are really impractical. I keep mine fairly short (they're still kind of long) during the school year so I can type and play the piano. You just adjust to them.
POSTED SEPT. 28, 1998
Kaleah, 18, black high school student, Houston, Texas

FURTHER NOTICE:
As part of our African heritage, we love to decorate our bodies with elaborate braids, beads in our hair and jewelry on our ears, hands, arms, fingers, necks and toes. Fingernails are no exception. And we really love vivid colors, probably because of African wildlife, especially birds and fish. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I notice more and more white people are copying what we have always done in this area. I remember in the 1960s when white men only wore black, navy, brown or gray suits, and white women's earrings were no bigger than a green pea. Today, they have joined the brothers and sisters and are also wearing vivid colors and large earrings, sometimes multiple earrings!
POSTED NOV. 9, 1998
Jaye, 63, black female, Detroit, MI
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THE QUESTION:
GD46: I'm a single (never-married) straight white female, age 43. I would like people to comment on why never-marrieds like me are often treated like social pariahs. Many divorcees seem to be able to make social contacts via their children, but never-married women are left out of the loop unless they are willing to limit social contacts to spouse-hunting arenas. I'd just like a friend or two; I'm not looking for a spouse.
POSTED NOV. 9, 1998
Marg H., Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

ANSWER 1:
Like attracts like. Even in a church setting, unless one specifically makes it a point to approach someone outside their social circle, families will gravitate toward families of similar-aged children. Childless couples will tend to gravitate toward childless couples, etc. That is not to say that boundaries can't be crossed. I hope that those who read this question and my response will become sensitized to reaching out. That's what it is all about. Singles can offer to babysit children of couples, and families can invite singles to join them in their activities. Not every attempt to reach out will spark friendships. Just as a fisherman knows, he can't catch fish unless he's willing to try.
POSTED NOV. 12, 1998
Ronald V., 45 <
draugas@mailcity.com>, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
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THE QUESTION:
A29: Why do many teens (and pre-teens to a lesser extent) always try to be individual by attempting to fit in with others? For example, wearing a specific brand of clothes or drinking a certain soft drink. Individuality involves thinking for yourself.
POSTED SEPT. 10, 1998
Lawrence R., 16 <
redrum31582@yahoo.com>, Indianapolis, IN

ANSWER 1:
I don't think a majority of teenagers understand the term individuality. They hear the word and associate it with a certain group. It's just like the kids who dress like Goths; they say they do it to express themselves. What are they expressing? That they like dark clothes and pounds of make-up? They are not expressing anything. They don't know the meaning of it. If you look at the kids who claim they are different from others, they only dress different. They still think the same.
POSTED OCT. 14, 1998
J. Bennett, 21, Jacksonville, FL

FURTHER NOTICE:
Anyone who thinks there is no conservatism in our society has only to look within the walls of a typical American junior or senior high school. Adolescents thrive on conservatism at its worst. Teens are defined by their peers based on what "group" they fit into - jocks, preps, cheerleaders, etc. Those who choose to express their individuality are often categorized as "freaks" and are subjected to unbridled abuse by their peers. Most teenagers have not yet grown mature enough in their thinking to realize it's better to be yourself than fit into a group, and will do anything to fit in because if they don't, the long-term social consequences will be dire.
POSTED NOV. 9, 1998
Dan, 20, male, La Salle, IL
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THE QUESTION:
R511: I recently saw part of a truly awful movie on HBO that involved a "boot camp" for juvenile offenders. One character, an African-American guard, lectured an inmate, also an African American, about his lack of character. In doing so, he distinguished between "niggers" and "blacks," stating that "niggers" are the gang-bangers and dope addicts, while "blacks" are the hard-working, law-abiding citizens. Do African Americans commonly make this distinction within the African-American community?
POSTED NOV. 9, 1998
Jerry, 65, white male, Tampa , FL

ANSWER 1:
Yes, black people do distingish between the two. Haven't you heard Chis Rock's standup routine about "I love black people, can't stand niggers!" There is a difference: Black people care about the neighborhood, niggers don't. In effect, niggers are the ones looting, stealing and just plane trifling. They don't care about nothing, and people who do that are considered niggers.
POSTED NOV. 13, 1998
Gerald <
g-battle@nwu.edu>, Chicago, IL
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