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Miss Manners: I’m not comfortable with kids using my first name

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Dear Miss Manners: I volunteered to help set up an event for a local youth group. As the volunteers were leaving, the leader of the event asked the adults to introduce themselves. We were all meeting the youth for the first time, except for one adult, who is active in the group and known to the kids and teens.

She introduced herself as Debbie, although they already knew her. I had intended to introduce myself as Mrs. Smith, but everyone else followed Debbie’s lead and introduced themselves by first name only. When it got to me, I wasn’t comfortable saying Mary, as I didn’t want the kids to call me by my first name, so I said Mary Smith.

It stood out because I was the only one who used a last name, but at the age of 70, I’m used to kids calling me Mrs. Smith. How should I have handled this?

It was Miss Manners’ own dear mother who set a precedent for you, many years ago.

She taught at a school where the teachers were, and still are, called by their first names. Although the presumption now is that this was done out of some leftist sense of equality, that was not the reason. Nobody thought that elementary school pupils were equal to the older and more educated faculty, although the mission was to help them become so eventually.

Rather, the informal nomenclature was a result of the school’s having been founded by a tiny group of families whose children were on close terms. The equality it did espouse was that, from its founding in the 1940s, it was thoroughly integrated, with no racial or religious quotas, at a time when all other schools in the city, public and private, were segregated.

Miss Manners approves your requesting to be addressed as “Mrs. Smith.” Her mother would, too, as that is exactly what she did. It was respected.

Dear Miss Manners: Three years ago, my husband and I purchased our dream home. It is an hour away from our old home, which is located at the beach. I use the beach house as an office a few times a week.

We have offered up the beach house for close family and friends to use. I recently became close to one of my cousins, who is as delighted to use the house as we are to offer it.

The problem is that her brother and sister now feel they are also entitled to use it. I am not particularly close to these cousins, and they are known in the family as “takers.” One of the out-of-state “takers” has a habit of dropping off her kids with different relatives for a week, and then leaving them for the whole summer. Everyone in the family knows to stay clear of them.

The “takers” have been contacting me to use the beach house. I explained that it’s a place of business and that there are affordable hotels nearby. They wouldn’t take no for an answer. How do I keep them at bay but still let my other dear cousin use it?

1. Say no as often as necessary. 2. Lock the door.

Perhaps you can enlist the favored cousin to tell them to back off. If not, you will have to say clearly — and perhaps often — that the house is simply not available, and will not be in the foreseeable future.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

©2022, by Judith Martin

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