DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a friend who is 12 years my junior. We have been close for at least 10 years, but since she began attending college, I've found her friendship altering from very dear to quite demanding.
She has a high regard for social justice, which I admire, but this has come to include co-opting word usage to the point of my distaste.
I have long been a lover of Victorian literature, foremost being the works of Oscar Wilde and Lewis Carroll, whilst writing fiction in such styles as a beloved hobby.
Upon rereading the Alice books, I find myself flinching at how often the words "queer" and "gaily" come up as a reminder that I may be robbed from using them in the manner Lewis Carroll and other writers have done. It now seems I'm only "allowed" to use them for the sole purpose of their modern upgrades.
I'm terribly perplexed on how to behave around my friend. In my teens, I discovered I was bisexual, and her conveniently ignoring this fact neither helps our friendship nor the goals we both share.
I have so far deduced that, for the sake of etiquette, I may only relish my books in isolation and refrain from expressing my own queer notions of gaiety in her presence.
GENTLE READER: In the hope of interesting other Gentle Readers as well as of furthering her study of mankind, Miss Manners always examines surface etiquette problems for more widely applicable underlying issues. And you have provided tantalizing clues: Connecting college attendance with objectionable traits. Squabbling about words that now refer to homosexuality. Complaining that ignoring your bisexuality is detrimental to your shared goals.
But why would your friend's education be a problem when you also have intellectual interests? Why would you, being bisexual, denounce the modern uses of "queer" and "gay" in particular, when doing so is associated with homophobia?
And if that reference to your own sexuality contains a subtext, it is too deep for Miss Manners.
So maybe the two of you are just fighting over whether some words legitimately change meaning over time, and whether writing in the style of another time can legitimately include using them in the sense of that time.
Both are true, but there are people who resist revisions and people who resist reversions. Why these people cannot disagree on this without ruining the friendship, Miss Manners cannot understand. But perhaps she missed the real subtext.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Lately, I've placed a few classifieds advertising for office management and financial types. I never knew I had so many friends who obviously felt no hesitation in greeting me on a first-name basis. People who are educated are addressing me as though I was a close relative.
Is there an effective way to bring to their attention that a prospective supervisor might warrant an opening salutation commensurate with their status?
GENTLE READER: "Ms. Brokenridge," or "Mr. Hightower," Miss Manners advises you to say, "I don't know that you'd be happy here. This is rather a formal office."