I’m from the South. Memphis, Tennessee born and raised. In my household, having bad manners was unacceptable and among the highest of egregious acts one could commit. I grew up with a mother who was hyper-alert about ensuring that wherever me and my older brother went, we represented our house – and her – extremely well.
Yes ma’ams and yes sirs were standard and at some point I adopted the ideology that everybody who was an adult had to have a title. I have first cousins who I called “auntie so and so” for years simply because they were much older than me and to me calling them by just their first name was unfathomable. I’m sure they got tired of correcting me and my brother relentlessly. “I’m not your aunt!” they would fuss. And eventually we got used to calling them by their first name but for me, there was always an itch to give them a title, to show respect, and even sometimes a slight pause before I said their name free of prefix.
So fast forward to me being 20-something. When meeting strangers, older strangers, especially in a professional setting, I still have to affix a title before their name. Time and time again, I’ve been told “Just call me ____” and I get that weird itch again. Even more peculiar is that now I’m on the other side of this conundrum. I work with college students who I’m not that much older than, yet they call me Miss. Dorian or Miss. *my last name* and it’s weird. I feel the cringe that my auntie-cousins felt and I get it. I am in no way shape or form so accomplished (or old) that I feel deserving of a title and yet I understand that it’s not about stroking ego as much as it is about respect and everyone wants to be respected. But for some, including Dr. N, I mean, Millicent who I had the pleasure of meeting tonight, respect can be shown in different ways, like calling someone what they refer to be called.
For now, I think I’ll continue to allow the youngins to call me “Miss;” it feels weird and stuffy but I think it may be what I need to make myself realize “You’re a damn adult, sweetheart.”