Best of the Week
of Nov. 19, 2000

Best of Week Archives

Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Nov. 19, 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.

First-time users should first make a quick stop at Y?'s guidelines pages for asking and answering questions.

 


Question:
Two questions: For women with big muscles: What comments or judgments have you received based on having such large or well-defined muscles? What is the reason/motivation for having this appearance, and what are its causes? How do you feel about their muscular appearance?
To men: What are your thoughts on women with large muscles? How about well-defined ones?
POSTED 11/24/00
Sam, San Diego, CA, United States, 22, Female, Mesg ID 1117200072452

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Question:
Why do people have oral sex? Is it healthy, considering the fact that our mouths are not always that clean? What about the smell? How does one overcome that?
POSTED 11/24/00
Peter, Kuala Lumpur, NA, Malaysia, 40, Male, Mesg ID 11192000122712

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Question:
Why do women so strongly prefer tall men? Practically every personal ad specifies that they want someone tall, even women who aren't even 5 feet tall! I realize women like to feel protected, but tallness is no indication of fitness.
POSTED 11/13/00
Rick, Springfield, OH, United States, 39, Male, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Straight, teacher, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 1113200043250

Responses:
Being around short men sometimes makes me feel a bit clunky, awkward and manly - the opposite of how I want to feel as a girl/woman.
POSTED 11/24/00
S.R., Austin, TX, United States, 22, Female, Humanist, White/Caucasian, Straight, student, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 1123200064427
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Question:
I am a foreign student studying English because I strongly feel the necessity to communicate with English in many business situations. What do people think about English being the official language for the world?
POSTED 2/11/99
Takeo, San Francisco, CA, United States, <Takeo Fukuda@amat.com>, Student, Mesg ID 2119914239

Responses:
In Interlingua: Esperanto non functionarea, proque illo es comprensibile solmente per esperantistas (200,000 populos al plus). Interlingua es multo melior, proque illo es comprensibile per romanophonos (e a un extension limite, anglophonos) sin studio prior! In English: Esperanto wouldn't work, as it is only understandable by Esperantists (200,000 people at most). Interlingua is much better, as it is understandable by Romance-language speakers (and to a lesser extent, English speakers) without prior study!
POSTED 11/24/00
George C., Durham, NA, United Kingdom, <G.J.Carty@durham.ac.uk>, Male, Mesg ID 1123200085202
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Question:
Why can a black person say 'nigga' to another black person, but a white person can't say it to a black person? What is the history behind the word, and why in our society is it so widely used among black people? If it is such a nasty word, shouldn't everyone of every race stop using the word ... even black people? Would the use of 'nigga' eliminate racial inequality?
POSTED 11/24/00
Jesse, Arvada, CO, United States, 19, Male, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, High School Diploma , Middle class, Mesg ID 1121200090707

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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:
The responses have quoted imaginary statistics and expressed various cases of wishful thinking. I'm answering on the basis of personal experience - extensive personal experience with erect penises of all races. As a generalization - which was the intent of the question - yes, black men have larger penises and Asians smaller ones, with other ethnicities ranging between the two. Individual variations are vast; I've seen an Asian penis close to nine inches and a black penis less than five. As a white man, I am always amused by the energy that goes into denying the common belief that black men are bigger. How many erect penises have these guys seen?
POSTED 11/24/00
Max H., Oakland, CA, United States, 47, Male, Atheist, Irish/Melungeon, Gay, teacher, Over 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 11240024447
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Question:
My best friend is gay and has been doing cocaine and ecstasy for at least eight years (he's in his 30s). He gets very edgy and forgetful, and its ruining our friendship. How can I tell him that I'm concerned about him without pushing him away further? Do some gay men do drugs to avoid dealing with their homosexuality? I'm afraid I lost my friend to 'the scene' and that I won't get him back. Any advice on how I can help him or at least deal with his mood swings?
POSTED 11/24/00
Cathy, Dallas, TX, United States, 30, Female, White/Caucasian, Straight, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 112000100922

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Question:
Why is the divorce rate in the United States the highest in the world? What are some of the social, psychological and economic reasons? I totally have no idea about marriage.
POSTED 11/24/00
Childish, San Francisco, CA, United States, 19, Female, Student, Mesg ID 11200063615

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Question:
Is there any truth to rave culture's PLUR (peace/love/unity/respect) mentality? I got the idea that people who were drawn to raves were like modern-day hippies, but when I finally went to one, my friend had her purse stolen (along with her car keys) and was told it was 'great that she still went out at 27.' Is age an issue? Sexual orientation? Is there usually so much attitude? Is PLUR only a result of being on Ecstacy? Or was this atypical?
POSTED 11/16/2000
Craig, Minneapolis, MN, United States, 37, Male, White/Caucasian, Gay, Computer Guru, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 1116200045518

Responses:
There are lots of different kinds of raves, and the PLUR feeling has a lot to do with class - Hippies have always been mostly from middle-class backgrounds - the more middle class the rave, the more PLUR there is - safe and 'fluffy' - psychedelic techno music. If you are working class and have always lived in the city, your taste in rave may be more garage or jungle - the MC will still be saying PLUR, but you're more likely to bump into someone who will give the opposite. But raves are no different from the rest of life - if you're surrounded by well-off people you don't need to worry about your purse so much.
POSTED 11/21/2000
Jamie, London, NA, United Kingdom, 31, Male, White/Caucasian, teacher, 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 1117200063254

With just about every subculture I can think of, it's usually an 'inner elite' or the old school founders who would establish such doctrines as PLUR. In the case of ravers, when it got started it was probably much like that, and then it started getting trendy and many outsiders (as in those who are clueless to PLUR) came in and didn't give a rat's ass about any of that stuff. And in L.A. usually half the people at raves are aloof teeny-boppers or frat/sorority/jock types looking for drugs, booze and skin or who are somehow gang-related. It's the same with punk rock: something that's supposed to be about working-class values and radical politics has been tarnished and diluted by Mtv and mass-consuming trend-followers and is now a pale shadow of what it was. Same thing with Goth: what was supposed to be an aesthetic appreciation of the darker side of life (through music, philosophy or dress) has been distorted into a Marilyn Manson, trenchcoat satanic-wannabe farce, and the true heads remain in the underground where they've always been.
POSTED 11/21/2000
Dan, Los Angeles, CA, United States, 22, Male, Pentecostal, Hispanic/Latino, Student, 2 Years of College , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 1117200080330

I've been to a bunch of raves, and in my mind's eye they are about two things: 1) Music. A tremendous underground subculture surrounding electronica music has developed via the rave scene for the past 20 years and is now filtering out to mainstream pop culture. A large number of rave attendees go specifically to listen to a particular DJ or electronica type (Techno, Drum & Base, etc...) And 2) Drugs. Everything about a rave is built around creating the perfect environment for drugs, specifically Ecstasy. The lighting, music, all the paraphernalia (baggy pants to dance, pacifiers to ease jaw grinding, neon sticks, etc.). I would not consider the Ecstasy-resultant 'PLUR' kinds of feelings analogous to the 'mind expansion' of the -60s, which were driven by social revolution and a huge anti-war campaign. Frankly, X is far more hedonistic and contrived than that (maybe I'm giving the '60s too much credit.) But I really think X is just about feeling good and dancing. And while X fosters 'PLUR,' in my experience, it's a rare occurrence that the newly forged bonds ever outlast the high. From these two things a beautiful and unique outpouring of art (primarily design) and style has arrived that's eked its way into pop culture, specifically teenage pop culture. Note: Raves have changed significantly in the last decade. They're far more mainstream, and there are far more young people involved. When I started going, it was primarily professionals (lawyers, advertising execs) who liked the music and all that 'PLUR' jazz; it was very 'underground'; now it's teenagers who like the drug and subscribe to all the trappings of that subculture. If you want a real neo-hippie experience, I suggest going to 'Burning Man.' That's mostly professionals expressing themselves through art and community and yes, drugs. It's closer to the old-school rave mindset and less centered on X.
POSTED 11/21/2000
Lisa, Los Angeles, CA, United States, 25, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 11200074654
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Question:
I am an outspoken female leaving for India in a month. I want to know if there is anything I should be worried about, such as covering my face or how I dress, drinking at bars, etc. I do not want to offend anyone, and I do not want to put myself in danger. Are there any web sites I can visit to find out what is acceptable, or does anyone have any advice? Also, I will be meeting my boyfriend's parents for the first time and wanted to know some dos and don�ts.
POSTED 11/16/2000
Marie, Tampa, FL, United States, 22, Female, White/Caucasian, Mesg ID 1113200094504

Responses:
If you dress decent enough (not revealing clothes), you will avoid unwanted stares. It's not necessary to cover your face. Regarding meeting your boyfriend's family - if they are very conservative, do not shake hands with both genders. Instead, say 'Namaste' (or similar phrase in your boyfriend's mother tongue) with folded hands (Indian way of greeting). It's also better to avoid profanities like "hell," "shit," etc., during conversation. Also, always use your right hand whenever you hand over anything to others. Similarly, use only the right hand if you are taking food by hand. Do not use both hands for taking food. Do not call everybody by first name. This applies only to your elders. Call 'aunty' for women or 'uncle' for men. Avoid smoking or drinking in front of your boyfriend's family. Avoid using your footwear once inside the house. Observe the surroundings in your boyfriend's place. You will learn a lot. If you are doing something for the first time, take a cue by observing your boyfriend's body language. All the above may or may not be valid depending on the social status of your boyfriend's family. I wish you a memorable stay in India.
POSTED 11/17/2000
Padmanabhan, Madras, NA, India, 31, Male, Hindu, Asian, Straight, Software Engineer, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 1117200011842

Please buy and read A Lonely Planet Guide to India before you get there; they are the most sensitive to local cultures. Indian society varies enormously by class, education, income and geography. Your boyfriend will guide you but will not tell you everything that may matter because he is probably bicultural now.
POSTED 11/20/2000
Kent, Melbourne, NA, Australia, 58, Male, Episcopalian, White/Caucasian, Straight, Academic, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 11172000112931

You might try http://www.atlapedia.com. And, since you admit being outspoken, try to 'stifle,' as Archie Bunker would say. Think of it as a classroom with everyone else being a teacher and yourself the student.
POSTED 11/20/2000
Cheryl, Wysox, PA, United States, 51, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, Med Tech, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 11190082313

I moved to India when I was 20 and experienced a minimum of any kind of sexual harassment. Here is my advice to you:
1. In most places, wear at least short sleeves and always skirt/pants that reach your ankles. Do not wear low-cut shirts, halter tops, sleevless shirts or shorts. (Note: Long skirts are actually cooler than shorts). If your hair is blond, tie it back. The exceptions: You can wear shorts, bathings suits, etc. in the beach/tourism towns (Goa, Kerala, etc.). And in the major cities there are hotel discos where tighter tops and shorter skirts are acceptable, primarily because most disco attendees are fairly 'worldly.' Bombay is generally also more 'worldly.'
2. You do NOT have to cover your face or hair. That is a practive limited to very strict Muslims and very conservative Hindu regions. I saw 'purdah,' the practice of covering one's face, mostly in Rajasthan, a conservative state. Also, Sikh women cover their hair. If you enter a Sikh temple you should cover your hair. Also, Kashmir, Pakistan and Bangladesh may be more stringent, as they are Muslim regions/nations. Altogether, consider the fact that India is diverse, that many people do many different things. There is a lot of latitude granted to foreigners, but it's even better if you get it right.
3. Be culturally sensitive. If you're not sure, just ask. Indians are glad to answer. Do not act scared. India does not have the same character of violence the United States has. Common sense precautions will eliminate most risks, and in my opinion, acting scared of their 'repressive' culture is unnecessary. I found Indian men on the whole to be caring and helpful. Your confident body language and welcoming face will prevent a great deal of harassment simply by acting like you're walking through a sea of humans, not angry dogs. And if you get pinched, let it go. Worse things happen in the world. You can tell the police, but beware, the police will beat the perpetrator to near-death for his actions. Not worth it.
4. Regarding bars: Chances are, if there's a bar, you can probably drink at it. Bars tend to be limited to tourism areas/hotels. But use common sense, i.e. don't drink alone and don't get drunk in a strange place. If you're with an Indian family, I'd refrain. Good luck and Namaste.
POSTED 11/21/2000
Lisa, Los Angeles, CA, United States, 25, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 11200062938
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Question:
I've noticed that older people tend to believe anything that is presented to them, from politics to the door-to-door salesman. We are always seeing on the news where the older generation is targeted for a lottery, sales or fix-it-up scam or believing politicians without researching them. I was always told how wise this generation is, but from what I've seen I am beginning to doubt this. With the exception that older generations are more trusting (that's a copout), why are they so ready to believe everything they hear?
POSTED 10/24/00
Rob, Warren, MI, United States, 30, Male, Catholic, Straight, Architect/business, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 102400110654

Responses:
I've wondered about this myself, and I have a theory: This generation has a concept of 'your word is your bond,' which worked well as long as people put the common good before self-interest and lived in small communities where breaking one's word had lasting consequences. Add to this the desire to hear things that are favorable to their interests, perhaps due to desperation, as many of them no longer have any meaningful earning power. The older generation also has a concept of 'it sounds like it should be that way,' which can have horrible consequences when applied to changing Social Security, pension and inheritance laws. Lastly, there is a potent element of 'moral high ground' ('How could you lie to an old person and still live with yourself?') This is just my slant on it. (And people who swindle the elderly are beneath contempt.)
POSTED 11/21/2000
Augustine, Columbia, SC, United States, 40, Male, White/Caucasian, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 1117200063830

Maybe I'm too young to respond, but it seems to me that gullibility has nothing to do with age. Yes, some older people get scammed, but I think it's more a matter of intelligence than age. There may be something to the idea that the loneliness of the elderly makes them so hungry for friends that they are easy prey for con artists, but I really think that elderly victims of scams were probably also victims when they were younger. In fact, considering the millions of people who buy lottery tickets, I'd say that gullibility is a national disease.
POSTED 11/21/2000
Morgan, DeKalb, IL, United States, 65, Male, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Straight, Tinkerer & Philosopher, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 112000114308
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Question:
It seems that many black people favor using corporal punishment to discipline children. What is the reason that blacks seem to support this method more than whites? Or, is this actually a socioeconomic difference, as many poorer white people also seem to use physical punishment more often than middle- or upper-class whites? Are there the same socioeconomic differences in black child-rearing?
POSTED 10/26/00
Kirby N., Philadelphia, PA, United States, <n148@aol.com>, 50, Female, White/Caucasian, teacher, Over 4 Years of College , Upper class, Mesg ID 10250082321

Responses:
I can't speak for an entire race of people, but as a black mother, here's my take: I think it's a cultural difference. Many black parents of all income levels strongly believe in the saying, 'Spare the rod, spoil the child.' It's also a fact that an unruly, undisciplined black child will face harsher consequences in this society than a white child. Black children who misbehave in school are more likely to be labeled 'hyperactive,' or be suspended or placed in 'special education' classes. For this reason, I think black parents want to help their children understand the importance of following the rules. When I grew up, I was spanked with a belt and a green switch. I don't use anything but a swat on the behind with my hand for my 8-year-old daughter. Even so, I only have to spank her a few times a year. But the result is the same: a more obedient, more disciplined child. I can't defend the kind of beatings that leave lasting scars - that's outright child abuse. But I believe in spanking a child who's out of control and disrespectful.
POSTED 11/12/2000
Cindy, Topeka, KS, United States, 35, Female, African Methodist Episcopalian, Black/African American, Straight, Manager, Over 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 1112200050243

Cindy, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question. I think you've made a good argument that black children are more likely to face harsher and more long-lasting consequences than white children if they misbehave in school. And I agree that a very occasional swat on the behind by a supportive, affectionate parent would be one way of making an effective point and would do no harm. (I still strongly prefer non-physical discipline and found it very effective with my kids, but I bet your daughter is a real doll.) I'm just frustrated because many of the kids I see in the inner city where I work are beaten for every infraction, both minor (a little eye-rolling) to major (chair-throwing). The kids who show the most dangerous behavior are always the ones who are beaten the most. These parents think they are disciplining their children and don't seem to recognize when what they are doing is not working. I feel like I'm watching parents unwittingly destroy their own children's lives
POSTED 11/16/2000
Kirby N., Philadelphia, PA, United States, Mesg ID 1115200075802

Though some might say it's no excuse or a reason, I'd say black parents favor spanking their children moreso than their white counterparts because of the idea of disciplining through spanking has been handed down. After all, weren't the slaves who rebelled beaten in order to subdue them? In the same way, this psychological effect has stayed with many black parents as a way to subdue their children.
POSTED 11/21/2000
Orleanas, Boston, MA, United States, Black/African American, Mesg ID 1114200080054

I believe there is historical merit in blacks' using these types of punishment strategies. Mainly, that it was better for a black child's parent/s to inflict the punishment in an effort to get the child to adhere to societal expectations, rather than the slave master to do so. In those days, I believe this was the quickest and easiest method of punishment. There was no time for time-outs or other psychological-type punishments. I believe this practice continues today because it is a tried-and-true method. I received spankings as a child, and I have grown up to be a responsible, law-abiding citizen.
POSTED 11/21/2000
Peaches, Atlanta, GA, United States, 25, Female, Black/African American, Straight, Social Researcher, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 1117200032322

I don't believe in corporal punishment for my children. I don't beleive it works, and my parents never used it on me. White people, somewhere in their subconscious, have beaten enough people. That's why I think they stay away from corporal punishment. But white people do beat their children. Yyou don't know every white person, and would I tell you that I beat my children? I don't think so.
POSTED 11/24/00
Kim, Atlanta, GA, United States, <secbest@netscape.net>, 34, Female, Baptist, Black/African American, Straight, homemaker, 4 Years of College , Upper class, Mesg ID 1116200044300
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