Isn't It Creepy to Insist That All Adults Should Be Addressed as Mr. or Mrs. Whatever?

Illustration for article titled Isn't It Creepy to Insist That All Adults Should Be Addressed as Mr. or Mrs. Whatever?

On Friday morning, the Washington Post published an op-ed by Danielle Larkins, a mother and freelance writer who is shocked that children have stopped calling parents by their last names.


“I’m not saying that addressing an adult by his or her surname is the reason for American youth misbehavior,” Larkins writes, noting that parents rightfully earn respect through actions instead of title. “I do believe, however, that this simple step is the first action a child can take in establishing a respectful relationship. And maybe, just maybe, it serves a greater good than just upholding an old school tradition.”

Am I crazy for being heavily grossed out by this? I did grow up in a kind of oddly progressive community—the private school that I attended from pre-K to 12th grade specifically instructed students to call teachers by their first names and to question them when students suspected they were wrong. All my friends parents followed suit—in fact, I’ve never ever heard my parents called Mr. Rothkopf or Ms. Prelinger by... anyone. Was I being taught in some kind of weird hippie incubator that I was just as worthy of respect as every adult I met? And is that a bad thing?

A brief poll of my colleagues reveals that I am solidly in the minority when it comes to this experience, and I know the prefixes are much more heavily utilized in certain regions and cultures (like the South)—BUT I DON’T THINK I SHOULD BE. (Also, of course, “Mr.” and “Mrs.” are shortened versions of “Master” and “Mistress,” with all those respective property-owner and property connotations within them.)

To be fair, I’m also not very old, and most days still feel like a little kid who is being condescended to, so Larkins’ article hit me particularly hard. But am I wrong? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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These kinds of pieces come up from time to time and they always miss the most important part: teach your kids to ask what someone wants to be called, then call them that. They prefer Mrs. Snoghorn you call them Mrs. Snoghorn. They prefer Fat Amy, you call them Fat Amy. True etiquette is not calling someone something they hate, just because an archaic rule says that’s proper.