Letters: Obama, Hooking Up, Emotional Affairs

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Listeners comment on Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and the black vote, the dangers to young women of no-commitment relationships, and the line between harmless flirting and emotional affairs.

NEAL CONAN, host:

It's Tuesday, the day we read from your e-mails. Last Wednesday, we talked about Senator Barack Obama and the black vote. Some in the black political establishment openly question his political experience and his cultural background, asking whether, in effect, he's black enough.

Gwen Moore(ph), a listener in St. Louis, wondered: Why should blacks automatically support a black man? Do women automatically support a woman candidate? Do white men automatically support a white candidate? I see Obama as a black brother, she wrote, but it does not necessarily follow that it is the sole criterion for receiving my vote.

Our conversation with Laura Sessions Stepp hit a nerve with some listeners. She warned about the dangers to young women of hooking up.

What about the benefits of hook-up behavior? e-mailed a listener named Erica. Women choosing hook-ups because they have a busy schedule are often getting exactly what they need out of the situation. This is much better than neglecting someone in a, quote, "relationship." Women everywhere are delaying marriage and serious relationships because they want careers and because they just want to have fun - myself included.

We also talked last week about high fashion, and - with fashion-week models draped in everything from tweed to trash bags - asked, does fashion really matter?

Tom Jeanetta(ph) in Michigan doesn't think so. Few things strike me as grotesque as someone spending thousands of dollars on an item of clothing, he wrote. Countless millions of people in the world are starving, countless millions of children are ravaged by disease. All the while, the obscenely rich buy $5,000 shoes.

Another listener, Jason, took issue with that view. I worked on the very $9,000 dresses your guest on the program spoke about. While the prices were exorbitant, the craft and skill of the people in the workroom represented an element of legacy rarely seen today. We would all be very disappointed if only big retailers like Target and Wal-Mart, who make clothes we can afford, had runway shows. Drama and elegance is an important part of what inspires us all.

Last Thursday, Ask Amy's Amy Dickenson drew a line between harmless flirtation and what she called emotional affairs, many of which happen online.

Sherry Inis(ph) e-mailed from Alaska to tell us, Amy is right on the money. I know of three marriages destroyed by reconnections of high-school sweethearts on the Internet. These were all marriages of 20-plus years, but what began as talking about old times led to flirting, infatuation and, finally, death of the marriage. There is an intimacy reserved for marriage that must be protected.

Gail Langford(ph), a listener in Mayville, Michigan, thought the whole thing was blown out of proportion. If it's just over the Internet, it's just typing.

So type your comments, questions or corrections to us. The best way to reach us is by e-mail. Don't worry, it's not cheating. Our address is talk@npr.org. Please let us know where you're writing from, and give us some help on how to pronounce your name.

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