Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Can You Choose Your Own Titles?

If you thought the pronoun wars were bad, take a look at this. It shows how zealotry creeps into everyday life. In this case, in a nation where children barely ever respect adults, one woman is on a crusade to undermine parental teaching on respecting authority.

She writes to Carolyn Hax:

I hate honorifics for myself and want to be called by my first name, period. Some kids in my life have parents who say they HAVE to call me Ms. Lastname or at least Ms. Firstname. They insist it's important to them that their kids "show respect." I keep telling them the best way their kids can show respect is by respecting what people want to be called! The parents get really upset when I tell the kids, "Please just call me Firstname." We are at an impasse.

Just as you can’t have your own personal pronouns, so too, you cannot have your own honorifics. In a better world parents of children who seem forced to deal with this malcontent would tell their children that they should address her with an honorific: Mrs. or Ms. In a much better world they should all shun her. Why allow a neighbor woman to chastise children for doing the socially correct thing… and for heeding the lessons their parents taught them?

For her part Hax tries to be more understanding. She tries to be understanding toward those who are on both sides of the issue. She writes:

Both of you have made and stood by valid, well-meaning points that ably express who you are and what you believe in. You are living your truth on individuality, good for you; they are living their truth on responsibility, both parental and societal. Good for them.

We appreciate her balanced viewpoint. And yet, social codes do not function on an individual basis. You cannot have your own table manners. If you do, you will find yourself eating alone. And there is no rule in the social code that grants you the permission to live your truth, especially when your truth confuses and effectively abuses children.

In effect, Hax arrives at the same position, but with far more deference to the neighborhood zealot than I can muster.


whitney said...

Never trust anyone that says "living your truth"

Ares Olympus said...

As a kid I knew all the adults in my neighborhood as Mr or Mrs/Ms X, and teachers as well, but never thought about it. And it did feel weird when some teachers referred to me as Mr. X, although other teachers followed the military standard of using last names alone.

I accept we all can and should be aware of the roles we are playing in our lives at any given moment, and a title is a way of expressing the role over the person, just like what you wear can reflect a role more than you as a person. And social authority exists through those roles, so if we can see this it is actually a boon, because it clarifies when we are acting in roles and when we are acting as persons outside of those roles.

There can be some flexibility how a role is expressed, but if you perform well and within the expectations of others, you increase their comfort to accept your position of authority and give you the respect that role deserves. And it also increases your confidence as well, because there is a feedback loop between everyone that roles have been claimed and accepted. And when someone resists your authority, you have ritualized tools within a given role to reinforce it, or at least not fall into a personal reaction that diminished your authority.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great idear Schniderman!

LordSomber said...

"Social codes do not function on an individual basis."

You summed up what I was trying to put into words, and I thank you.

Dan Patterson said...

I prefer to be known as Bllazz, Ruler of All He Sees. But that's just me.

Gold star to whitney for the insightful observation.
Bonus points to Anonymous for "idear". Lovely.

Sam L. said...

I am "Your Glorious Knifeness", for reasons closely held. I do have a much longer cognomen, but it's even MORE closely held.