When it comes to Mr. and Mrs., where have our manners gone?

When I was a kid, my parents—my dad especially—insisted we use ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’ when referring to grown-ups. Our older nextdoor neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Bechtold. My parents’ friends and co-workers went by names like Mr. Harris and Mr. Chalfant. 

If we ever slipped up and dared to be so bold as to refer to one of our parents’ friends as Ken, or Bill, or Dave, we’d simply get ‘the look’ from our father or else an incredulous ‘excuse me?’ followed again by ‘the look.’ In any case, we knew we needed to rectify our error.


Looking back, I appreciate so much how we were expected to address grown-ups by their respectful titles. I love the notion of instilling that same ideal in my own children. However, the times have changed, and beyond that, we’re not off to the best start.

Many of the grown-ups in our kids’ inner circle insist on going by their first names. Babysitters of past and present went and still go by first names. All of our old neighbors introduced themselves to our children using first names. In fact, when we suggested otherwise, they scoffed at us. Call me Larry. Betty. Isabel, they said. In the end, we compromised a bit with names like Mr. Larry and Mrs. Betty. Miss Isabel. 

Nora’s first two teachers also went by first names Meghan and Eileen. No surnames. Something I know my dad disapproves of in general  (teachers going by first names) since I got to witness his reaction when I told him. Love that he’s so traditional. Old school. Stern and all about being reverent.

I don’t know. It just seems so weird to me to introduce our own friends as misters and missises (is that even a word?). We seem too young for all that. But my parents and their friends were our age when we were kids.

I still feel slightly uncomfortable referring to my in-laws by their first names because it’s so ingrained in me to use proper titles. It’s like I’m breaking the rules or seomthing.

And yet, I just can’t imagine referring to my friends in my kids’ company as anything other than their first name. If I even tried to, I think I’d bust out laughing at the formality of it all. But, I like the idea of it. What to do?

I’m thinking I might just keep everyone the kids know now grandfathered in just using first names. And then maybe everyone new we meet from this point on can become Mr. So-and-So and Mrs. Such-and-Such. 

In the future, the kids will remember everyone as belonging to either the pre-when-my-mom-was-hip-and-breezy era or the post-when-she-tried-to-be-all-formal-and-proper-and-whatnot era.

They won’t be confused at all. It will be fine. Trust me.


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