One friend was stunned to find that I have a collection of books that Judith Martin has put together under the sobriquet “Miss Manners.” They couldn’t imagine that a big old queer like me has use for manners at all.

Another woman warned me strongly about going south. “Those people will smile at you and tell you one thing to your face, but that’s not what they mean!”

I actually like manners because they allow people to say what they mean without being rude, if one is just gracious enough to read the code. Sandra may have had to explain to the tranny that she may have not been explict about why, but she was clear that the tranny wasn’t welcome this weekend, and still allowed face saving.

I was at a meeting at IFGE, and after, the one woman born female in the room came up to me and said “I like you! You know how to say ‘Fuck You!’ in so many nice ways!”

This is one reason I love to listen to the BBC, because in the UK, manners allow explict conversation without explosion. The words may be moderated and polite, but the meaning is clear underneath those words, if you just care to listen. In a small country with a long history, this grace allows a stable and robust social structure where a bit of manners keep change & growth happening without too many big brawls.

America, though, is a country where only the visible seems to count. If you can’t get it out there, big and bold and brazen, absoultely true and completely divorced from anything you have said before, well, then, it may as well not have been expressed at all. People only believe what they see, and if they can’t see it, well then, it never existed, and if comes out, a lie is revealed.

For those of us with mature, complex, ambigous and nuanced lives, though, the absolutes you can see can never express the whole picture. Only more detailed expression can convey this.

For that kind of explicit expression you need manners, and for manners, it means that you have to have two (or more) people committed to understanding not just what someone says, but what they mean by what they say.