Thursday, 26 August 2010

Why can't I handle the truth?

Honestly, what I mean is...

I've been pondering the whole telling the truth thing and why it's so hard for me. But before you head off to get a cup of tea and the Hobnobs in anticipation of a juicy read, I'm not about to reveal anything sleazy, lifechanging or anatomically peculiar. (Oh, er, bye then...)

It started with the postie. Our post-person is a transsexual, if that's the right term for someone born a man but who wants to become a woman. At first, seeing as how we're on the subject of honesty, it was a little incongruous. Painted nails and makeup on a man in this small town draws a second glance. But it must take some balls (insert gag here) to walk that route, here especially. She came to the door on Monday with a package for next door (another gag, if you really must) and I noticed she was lookling lovely. Her hair had a new shape and colour and she was sporting a pair of perky girly bosoms. I wanted to say how lovely and feminine she looked, how it was clear she'd made an effort, made the best of herself I believe the expression is. But the phrases I tried on for size were all shades of wrong from sycophantic to downright pervy so I didn't bother. Instead I said: "Yeah. No problem, where do I sign?"

Then I was helping Boy Two with a spot of political rhetoric. He wants to be elected to a school committee and needed something to take to the hustings, so we worked together on it. "Well being honest about what you want and why is always a good idea," I preached. "Why do you want to do this?"
"Um. So I can skip classes to go to the meetings."
Perhaps telling the truth to the electorate isn't always a good idea.

Later I was waiting for Boys One and Two to finish their first Shotokan karate lesson and for Boy Three to eat his picnic supper. Neither of these activities is especially absorbing so I picked up a magazine for a browse. OK! was months old and I'd already looked at the pictures of that edition of Vogue, so it was Soul and Spirit. While remaining open-minded, I'm not normally given to asking angels for answers, generally I prefer Google. However, my inner hippie isn't averse to a bit of Barefoot Doctor so it was one eye on the Taoist sound bites and one on Boy Three's attempt to feed himself yoghurt. Then a woman said: "Do you like that magazine?"
"Um. 'sok. Angels and stuff. Er," I responded, on sparkling form.
"I just wondered if you were a like-minded individual or not. I read tarot card, you see."
"Oh, really?"
"But I don't have them with me, or I'd have given you a reading."
"That's a pity," Boy Three saw the advantage and flung his spoon.
"But you'll have a girl next."
"After your boys, the next one will be a girl."
"I don't so."
She just smiled knowingly as the big Boys came crashing back from karate. What I wanted to say was: "It's none of your business and even if it was I'm 43, having Boy Three was a bloody miracle and my tubes have been tied."

Top of my cliche list has long been "honesty's the best policy". It's easiest to keep tabs on what's what when it's all true and, generally, "the truth will out" (number five on the list). I've also found that when I've taken the time and space to ask myself Spice Girls-stylee what I really, really want, it has been the absolutely right answer.
Why, then, is it so difficult to just come out and say what's on my mind? Perhaps it's time for a radical honesty resolution - total truth, totally. But, honestly, I'm not sure it'll work.


  1. Aw tell the postie how nice she looks tomorrow. I bet shell be thrilled.

  2. There's nothing wrong with "the truth ... and only the truth" but the bit that's a problem is "the whole truth".

    There are these little things called "tact" and "diplomacy" which help oil the wheels of society. Not always saying the truth can avoid situations that do nothing but cause trouble.

    Believe me, until you've lived with someone to whom tact and diplomacy were Someone Else's Problem, you don't realise what a huge difference they make!

    But I agree with Da Misssy: tell her :-)

  3. Do tell her how nice she looks. I always think that the difficulties people have over transgender people must be miniscule compared to the hardship and prejudice that they face. If you have something nice to say then do so. It will probably make her feel 100 times better and you will gain some gratification in return for having made her happy.

  4. I agree with Missy. Just tell Postie that she looks great. How can someone take offence to that?

    I've always found that those who proudly proclaim that 'honesty is the best policy' hurt a lot of people and are not so good when the same 'honesty' laser is pointing directly at them. It's the difference between telling a friend that the dress they are wearing makes them look like a pregnant hippo and saying: 'That dress doesn't do you justice.'

    Mind you all my relatives are Irish and not known for their tact.

  5. i think the postie is probably keen to look "normal" so may not appreciate a rather odd, on the doorstep moment, when someone unknown to her comments on her looks. i mean, has anyone ever complimented a cold caller or even their postie on their look? i certainly haven't. i'd normally just sign for the package and say thanks and shut the door. so it's probably best to treat her as you would any postie, because that is exactly what she's striving for. that's my opinion though and everyone's view on honesty, truth, tact and diplomacy is different. when in doubt my motto is usually: best not to say anything!

  6. I have a brister - she was a brother and is now a sister! I know that transsexuals can face a lot of stigma and many of them have very little personal confidence which is perhaps surprising given what they have to go through.

    My sister isn't one of them, she's one of my heroines. She now lives in New Zealand - flies helicopters and drives whopping big artic lorries!

    They are people - no matter the gender. Everybody deserves to be given respect, a smile and a compliment. If you would have given the compliment to someone else, then carry on. If it's something you don't do, don't feel under pressure.

  7. Missy M, the postie does parcels and filling in, but I'll say so when I see her.

    Ro, fair point. I suppose it's the tact that would stop me saying, for example: "Hi Ms Postie, that colour does nothing for you."

    Twoambitiousmamas, hi there, is that both of you? That's part of my motivation, recognising the hill that she must be climbing.

    Hi Jane, thanks. I think the difficulty is mine in forming words that don't sound loaded somehow.

    Fiona, that's a good point, which probably accounts for my discomfort. But the thing was she'd clearly tried really hard and did look good. An unexpected complement is always lovely.

    Jackie, your brister sounds brilliant. That's just it. What I suppose I'd be complementing is her success in looking more feminine - an effort a woman wouldn't need to make. But I think, next time, I will.

  8. I think that there are three different kind of (dis?) honestly requirements here.

    1. The postie situation is an etiquette question, I suppose. The general population probably haven't heard enough from trans-gendered people to know what the correct 'form' is in these situations. I suspect that our children will be much more comfortable with sex changes as they become more common. I guess in the same way that some of our parents' generation are awkward talking about same sex relationships, even if they are perfectly supportive iyswim.

    2. Bless Boy 2. I bet his teachers know that's the reason it appeals to kids though :)

    3. It's a sort of 'need to know' type thing. Why should you be forced to share personal information with someone you don't know? I've had my fair share of 'she needs a brother or sister' type comments. A few weeks ago a woman started saying to C 'if you ask your mum nicely, she might let you have a brother or sister'. WTF? Inside I was screaming 'it's not always as easy as that though', but I didn't say it because I didn't want to engage her in any further information about my reproductive organs!

  9. I only say hello to the post man. On a special day, top of the morning.

  10. Hi Ellen,
    There are two of us -Jane (who posted the comment on this piece) and Vivian.
    Have you seen postie since?

  11. Postie hasn't been back since. I'm considering placing lots of online orders just so she comes back (No, Panther I'm only joking)


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