Dear Amy:

I am becoming increasingly frustrated with adults who refuse to admit that, yes, they are grown-ups!

We recently met my sister's boyfriend, who is 45. I have two small children, and I don't want them calling adults by their first names, so we introduced him as "Mr. Doe." He complained about being called Mr. Doe because "that's my father." Eventually, we agreed to let the kids call him "Mr. John." I know that is common in the South, but I'm not Southern (neither is he) and I live in Chicago, not Atlanta, and don't want my kids calling everyone Mr. First Name.

Later, the conversation swirled around whether calling someone Mr. or Mrs. is a term of respect or a moniker reserved for someone in authority, not someone known only socially. Apparently, "Mr. Doe" has run into this situation before, and finds being called "Mr. Doe" objectionable.

This is not the first time I have run into this problem. I don't understand why someone is opposed to being called Mr., Mrs., Miss or Ms. Last Name. It's not like I'm creating a new name for them -- it's their name already!

Any suggestions on how to handle this issue?

Okay With Being Mrs. Smith

I have a confession to make. I have created the same sorts of problems that "Mr. John" has and I've learned some things as a result.

Parents should dictate how their children address adults, and the rest of us need to shut up already and let it go. I have seen very proper 8-year-olds squirm when I ask to be called "Amy." They just can't do it. So they find all sorts of clever ways not to call me anything. I have also tried the "Miss Amy" thing, but that makes me feel like a character fleeing from the Yankees in "Gone With the Wind."

Now when I meet up with kids -- my daughter's friends, for instance -- I will say, "You can call me Amy or Ms. Dickinson, whichever you'd like." Then they get to choose, based on what they and their parents decide. When I first introduce people to my daughter, I always try to use a title and surname and she does, too, even though it's not what I personally prefer. I know that it's logical to think that we first-name people are just immature Peter Pan-types who don't want to grow up, but it's probably a little more complicated than that. We are people who want to decide how others should address us, and these titles just don't seem to fit.

In the case of your sister's boyfriend, he might feel (or wish to be) closer to a family member than a "Mr." Perhaps he's hoping that someday your children will call him "Uncle John."

I'm curious to know what other readers think.

Dear Amy:

A recent letter from "Walking on Eggshells" caught my eye. Her twenty-something girlfriend was dating a middle-aged man who had all of the rules and no time for their relationship.

I dated a man for a while who was very secretive and never made plans. He would call or show up when he was available. I could never call him and was not allowed to go to his home.

This guy was hot and I was interested enough at the time to put up with the situation. Soon I became curious and started doing some detective work.

It turns out he was living with his longtime girlfriend, who traveled a lot for business.

"Walking on Eggshells" needs to help her friend open her eyes to the situation. This guy is trying to have his cake and eat it, too, without giving her the benefit of knowing what's going on.

Time is short, girlfriend! It's time to move on and find an available man.

Bonnie

As my mother always used to say, "Handsome is as handsome does." Translation: "Mr. Hot . . . is not."

Dear Amy:

I recently received an invitation to a reception for a promotion of the daughter of a friend of mine, and I am wondering if it is necessary to bring a gift or if a card would suffice.

Wondering

I'd stick with a card, along with a sincere note of congratulations.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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