First-name ba­sis

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - An­nie Lane

When did it be­come com­mon­place for young peo­ple to ad­dress their el­ders by our first names?

My youngest daugh­ter, “Emma,” grad­u­ated high school two years ago and moved out of state for col­lege. This past sum­mer, when she re­turned home, I no­ticed a shift in how her friends spoke with me. Though I have a good re­la­tion­ship with my daugh­ter’s friends — they were of­ten over for study ses­sions or sleep­overs as they grew up — they al­ways ad­dressed me as “Mrs. Smith.” How­ever, the most re­cent time a few of Emma’s friends were over for din­ner, one of them called me “Su­san” without prompt­ing.

I was too sur­prised to say any­thing at the time, but it struck me as odd. Though they are tech­ni­cally adults, it’s hard to see these young women as my equals. It’s not ex­actly rude, and I don’t want to be la­beled as old-fash­ioned, yet I’m not sure I’m ready to be “Su­san.”

To this day, when I run into the mother of my child­hood best friend, I still call her “Mrs. Stevens.” It just seems po­lite to me.

An­nie, am I just be­hind the times on this, or is there a way to be Mrs. Smith again? — Mrs. in Min­nesota

I’m with you on this one. Al­though you may feel a bit awk­ward do­ing it, sim­ply tell your daugh­ter’s friends you would pre­fer that they call you Mrs. Smith. The awk­ward­ness will pass in a mat­ter of sec­onds, and re­ally, you’ll be do­ing them a fa­vor. They should be aware that some adults con­sider the ca­sual first-name-ba­sis treat­ment dis­re­spect­ful.

It’s a small thing, yes. But in a world so short on com­mon cour­tesy, lit­tle niceties go a long way.

You have re­cently pub­lished a cou­ple of let­ters from peo­ple liv­ing in apart­ments with noisy neigh­bors. Your ad­vice to talk di­rectly to the noisy neigh­bor is right on. Years ago, we lived next door to a man in his early 30s who liked to party, lis­ten to mu­sic and tele­vi­sion at a very loud vol­ume, and could be heard giv­ing loud Tarzan yells as he jumped across the fur­ni­ture in his liv­ing room. This was in an apart­ment build­ing made of con­crete, with thick walls, and we could still hear him.

One day, his mu­sic was so loud we couldn’t hear our tele­vi­sion at all. My then-hus­band went next door and knocked re­peat­edly on the neigh­bor’s door un­til he an­swered. He in­vited him to come to our place for a cof­fee, and the neigh­bor de­light­edly ac­cepted. My hus­band in­sisted that the neigh­bor come right then, so the neigh­bor left his apart­ment with the mu­sic still blar­ing.

When he en­tered our apart­ment, he quickly re­al­ized that the only thing he could hear was his own mu­sic blar­ing away. We ex­plained to him that though the walls were con­crete, they didn’t block out ex­cep­tion­ally loud noise. He sheep­ishly apol­o­gized, and that was the end of the prob­lem. — Liv­ing Peace­fully in


I can’t imag­ine how he must have felt re­al­iz­ing the whole build­ing had heard Tarzan’s call. Ku­dos to you and your hus­band for re­solv­ing the prob­lem peace­fully.

Al­though you may feel a bit awk­ward do­ing it, sim­ply tell your daugh­ter’s friends you would pre­fer that they call you Mrs. Smith.

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