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.