Growing up, my parents were kind of formal people. In some ways. When it came to things like friends coming over… they were really relaxed and would let whoever come over whenever. In the types of friends and activities I was involved in… again, they were fine with whatever I chose, just as long as they knew who I was with and where and what time I’d be home.
In other ways, my parents were very formal. You could not call our house after 9 pm because my parents were asleep in bed, and if anyone called, it meant someone had died. We were allowed to go to or have sleepovers, but pretty much only on Friday nights. NEVER on a school night, and ALMOST NEVER before church. We were to dress a certain way (no looking sloppy, and definitely dress up for church!!), act a certain way (always polite), and talk a certain way (again, curteous and polite). The biggest way my parents were formal is what we, as kids, were allowed to call adults.
Obviously we called our parents Mom and Dad. Our grandparents were all Grandma So-and-do or whatever, and aunts and uncles were always Aunt Marisa and Uncle Tony. Never just Marisa or Tony. Our parents’ closest friends were known to us as Aunt This or Uncle That. Our friends parents were to be called Mr. and Mrs. Whatever. At church, my Young Women leaders went by their first names to the other girls, but I still had to call them Sister Whatever. People from church were always Brother or Sister Whatever. No first names. It was considered inappropriate by my parents for children (even 18 year old “children”) to address an adult by their first name.
In fact, I had to make sure to introduce my mom in such a way that my friends would know my parents’ position on this: “This is my mom, Mrs. B—-“. She was never called Valerie by my friends. Sooooo not allowed.
I think my parents really liked it when we moved to the South and where people are a bit more formal in how they address adults. When you answered a question, it was “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am”. If there was an adult that you may have been more familiar with, we refered to them as “Miss Lucinda” (that was my color guard coach, in fact, which was wierd because her husband was my band teacher, so he was still Mr. C—-, but she was Miss Lucinda, not Mrs. C—–).
When I got married, I didn’t know what to call my in-laws for the longest time. I would avoid calling them anything. I felt uncomfortable calling them by their first names, but to call them Mr. and Mrs. S—- was just too formal! I already had two sets of parents, so Mom and Dad didn’t seem like an option. It was probably in the second year or so before I could start calling my in-laws by their names. I’m still uncomfortable with it (thanks to this upbringing), but it gets easier each year.
To this day, I don’t know what to call anyone who is significantly older than me. At church I use the old standby: “hello, Brother Smith! How are you today?” However, I get confused, especially with people Mr. Universe works with. They are collegues, so does that mean first names are okay? But the teacher in the next classroom is older than my mom, so I guess I’ll stick with Mrs. Jones.
You see my dilemna? Maybe I’ll just call everyone Bob, regardless of who they are. That way, there will be no problems in MY side of the arena.