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Okay, maybe it’s just the existential crankiness that comes from turning 31 today, but I have to get this off my chest: Why do people complain about being called “mister,” “miss,” “sir,” or “ma’am”?
I grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. If one was past puberty, one was a mister or a miss. My babysitter was Ms. Stacy; my sister’s best friend’s mom was Ms. Sheri; the gentlemen who owned the pool across the street was Mr. Hazelwood — that was even how I referred to him when I told my parents of his recent death. It was the same dynamic at school and a church. As kids, we were stuck with just first names, but the adults had titles! Mr. and Mrs. for most, Brother and Sister for the really old school folks in the congregation.
Then we moved to the Kansas City area. My first Sunday, I was introduced to the Sunday School teacher who laughed when I tried to call him Mr. Robin. This has been a recurring experience ever since — I attempt to show some respect to an adult, and the responses are variations on “Mr./Ms.So-and So is my father/mother” or “Are you trying to make me feel old?” (I especially find the latter type strange when the speaker is clearly over 60).