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Never Been A Huge Fan Of Formal Titles

Child With Grandpa

Yesterday, I was picking my 3-year-old up at his preschool. The owner’s son was there. She introduced me as Mr. Goldstein. I immediately cringed. I told him to call me Seth. I have to admit, I was a bit surprised by her initial desire for her son to be so formal. I always thought of her as free spirit, and she is. I know she’s trying to teach him manners, I get that, but please don’t call me Mr. Goldstein.

At my son’s preschool, as with most pre-primary schools, they call all their teachers Mr./Ms. First Name. I like that, because when they are young, they need to learn the basics of societal norms. There needs to be a barrier between the teacher and the student.

But, in my opinion, not between kids and adults as whole. With that being said, if my son’s friends call me Mr. Seth, that’s fine. But there is a point where this just sounds weird. I would say around 8 on up.

Yes, being an adult comes with perks. You’re assumed, as an adult, to be more responsible. With this greater degree of responsibly is the “privilege” of being called by children, kids, and teens, Mr./Ms.Last Name. And you know what? Though it’s a sign of respect from the younger set, I hate it! True it’s a sign of respect for your elders, but I’m not OLD, nor an elder by any stretch of the imagination, damn it!

What Gives? Who Cares?

You can probably blame my feelings about this topic on how I was brought up: My upbringing, with very liberal parents, my Quaker primary and secondary education, who really knows.

When I grew up I called all my parents friends by their first name. It wasn’t a sign of disrespect. It was just what we called them. After all, it’s their name, isn’t it?

There Is A Time And A Place For Formal Titles.

Now I’m not saying that titles don’t have place in society. In certain professions, like doctors, judges, police officers, teachers, etc., it is proper to address them by their titles. But even in some of these interactions I don’t feel even that such formality is need.

For example, my primary doctor is a great doctor and he’s put a lot of schooling and time into his craft. Out of respect, I call him Dr. Feldman (or Doc). But my mom and step-dad call him Rob. Now it might be because they’re older or their relationship with him. Regardless, I feel like using someones first name makes the interaction more genuine and personal. When it comes dealing with something so personal as your health and well being, using the person’s last name seems so distant and strange to me.

Now, there are professions (ex. judges and law enforcement officers) where the barrier of the title shouldn’t be broken down. It is important that there is a barrier between these professionals and the public at large.

This Background Might Help

Here’s a little background on why I might feel this way more than others. In high school, I went to a private Quaker School. We called all our teachers, administrators, and staff by their first names. This was both good and bad. On one hand, as with doctors, your teachers deserve respect, but as with doctors, it’s also very important that they be viewed as accessible and approachable.

Sometimes the first-name-policy at my high school became a problem. Especially with teens pushing the limits of boundaries, but overall it worked well.

When I left for college, I had to train myself to go back calling my teachers and instructors Professor Last Name, as a sign of respect. But you know what, many of my professors actually preferred the students calling them by their first names. This was often the case after they got to know you. The reason I was given by many of my professors was that as college students, we were technically and legally adults, and because of that it was important to many of them that they treat us as such.

The Exception

The exception is when addressing you’re parents (though I have friends that call their parents by their first name), Aunts and Uncles, and Grandparents. Now this is probably counter to everything I’ve said. I’m a firm believer that you call your mother and father by some version of Mom and Dad. The same with your grandparents. Aunts and Uncles are similar to how preschools run (ie. Aunt First Name, Uncle Last Name), but even sometimes titles aren’t used for them.

OMG, You’re Still Going? Is There A Point To This Ramble?

Yes there is point. I definitely think there is a point where using formal titles is necessary, but the majority of the time, I feel it puts up unnecessary barriers.

Once again this is just my opinion. What do you think? Am I nuts, probably. Regardless, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

By Seth

Seth Goldstein is a Digital Marketer, Technologist, Agency Owner, and Father.

He is based out of Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

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