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Children addressing adults - explain the "Miss" thing to me

post #1 of 102
Thread Starter 

Background info - Growing up where I did (Northeast US), it was the norm in my community to address adults by their first names.  

 

If the relationship wasn't close, then it was Mr. Smith or Mrs. Smith.  When I went to college, I realized that many parents of my friends and acquaintences expeceted to be addressed as Mr. Smith or Mrs. Smith.

 

DS is enrolled in a class and during class, the moms (and dads) sit outside in a lounge area.  Several of the other parents bring their younger children along to play in the common area.

 

I noticed the other moms guiding their children to address the female adults as Miss Sally, Miss Anne, etc. 

 

At the last class, another mom asked me how I would like her daughter to address me, which I thought was polite. 

 

I said something along the lines of "I am comfortable with Caneel but if you are teaching her to use a more formal tone, she can call me Mrs. Jones."

 

Mom turns to her daughter and says "this is Miss Caneel, so-and-so's Mommy."  Little girl smiles at me and I smiled and responded "I am married, you may call me Mrs. Caneel or Mrs. Jones."

 

From the collective looks on the Moms' faces, you would have thought I asked to be addresses as Her Royal Highness!  One mom actually rolled her eyes, which caused a normally silent dad to giggle.

 

Is the Miss title a country-wide trend?  I remember reading it was common in the South. 

 

I was polite about the correction but I obvisously offended them, or at least caused them to think I was odd, by stating I prefered Mrs. over Miss.  Am I out of the norm to prefer that I not be addressed as Miss? 

 

post #2 of 102

I would say yes, but I'm in the south. LOL

 

Even when I was teaching high school, even though I was married the whole time, what came out of my students' mouths was Miss/Ms mylastname.  I think, at least here, it is just not pronounced like Mrs. even though that is what I had plastered all over my room and such.

 

My kids all call my friends and their friend parents Ms theirfirstname even though they are all married.

 

I hope that made some semblance of sense.  lol.gif

post #3 of 102

It is like that where we are.  I'm a southerner by birth, and had Mr./Mrs and Sir/Ma'am pounded into my head in my first six years of life....and then we move to PA and apparently a lot of women are uncomfortable being called Mrs. or Ma'am.

 

I think, at least where we are, that "Miss" no longer signals "young unmarried woman".  It's become just another word attached to a name that indicates the woman is older of you and deserving some level of respect.

 

I personally prefer "Mrs." too, but when in Rome, I do as the Romans do. lol.gif  It's local culture, and to me not really a hill worth dying on. 

post #4 of 102

I'm in Arizona, and it's either first name, or "Miss-first name".. or occasionally "mrs last name"... but, that's less friendly.

post #5 of 102

I have to be honest, the "Miss Heather" thing really, REALLY irritates me.  I'm not a miss.  I'm not a teacher.  It doesn't feel respectful to me, or deferential, and quite frankly I don't want deference from a kid, I want a respectful tone and manner, not a title.  I'd much rather the kid call me Heather, or Mrs. J if they feel odd using my first name (but still more casual and less formal), and be respectful in conduct that call me Miss Heather out of convention.  It's just....WEIRD to me, and uncomfortable.  I probably would have done the same thing you did, said something like, "I'd prefer just Heather, the miss part weirds me out." or something.  IMO, being respectful to the person is more important than whether a tradition/convention is followed.

 

I have NO problem with sir/ma'am being used with strangers, or in response to someone you don't know very well or in a more formal atmosphere, in fact, I use them myself. 

 

I just - I can't pinpoint why it grates on me, the "Miss firstname" thing - it feels to preschool teacher-y, too ballet teacher-y, I dunno (and I was a ballet teacher for a little while, so I know whereof I speak).  Maybe it's because titles are supposed to go with last names, not first names, and I'm a stickler?  Who knows.  All I know is that I cringe inside every time I hear "Miss Heather", almost like it's making me a little girl or something?  Maybe that's part of it, I feel like it's actually infantalizing adult women to call them "miss", but men retain the adult "Mr." throughout their lives - maybe that's it!! 

 

If I'm friendly enough with a kid that they're addressing me personally and regularly (like the kids of my friends), then they can use my first name, or Mrs. J; we don't need to be formal.  If I'm not friendly enough to be chatting with them, then they can call me Mrs. Jones, or "X's mom" (insert kid's name).    

 

I actually had this problem, a friend's husband INSISTED his kids call me Mrs. Jones, even though I really prefer Heather.  It was......awkward, and I felt like the husband was disrtespecting *me* because he was going against my clearly stated preference.  We don't see them anymore really because they go to a differnet school now, but MAN was that awkward.

 

IMO, formal does not necessarily equal respectful.  I am really, really into courtesy and kindness, but titles don't do it for me.  It's mroe about tone, and how you treat the person than what you call them.

 

If I had my druthers in order of preference, kids I come into contact with regularly would call me Heather.  Next best is Mrs. J (I'm totally picturing my son as a teenager and a  bunch of his friends asking me for snacks, "Mrs. J, do you have any chips?"  Awwwwwwwww.  :lol  .  Next best is Mrs. Jones.  I'd really prefer not Miss Heather.    I have a couple friends that slip into it sometimes because it's what they're used to, and I don't sweat it or make a big deal when they call me it, but I always call myself Heather.

 

Also, I *DO* have my kids call adults by what they want to be called.  So if it's "Miss Jennifer", then by gum it's Miss Jennifer even though I don't prefer it. 

 

Look at me all riled up about this!!  :lol


Edited by The4OfUs - 11/17/10 at 7:18am
post #6 of 102

I live in the north, no one uses formalities up here and I miss it.  I'm married, and wouldn't want to be called Miss because I haven't gone through everything I've gone through to be called Miss, thank you very much.  :laugh

post #7 of 102

I never experienced it till we moved to the South. Now it just has kinda grown on me.My best friend had her kids call us Miss first name and Mr. first name. I don't bother me and I am sure it will probably be how DD address certain people as well. 

post #8 of 102

We don't use a lot of titles here...that I've noticed anyway.  I always wonder how to introduce my kids to people older than me...I guess I should ask them how they would like to be called.  I really think when people say "Miss" instead of "Mrs" they don't mean anything by it, we have just become lazy in our speech in our generation.  I actually prefer Miss over Mrs...I guess Mrs makes me feel old :)  I prefer children to call me by my first name (or Weezie, my nickname, which my step kids call me).  If it was important to another parent for their child to give me a title, I would prefer Miss Firstname...I dont know why.  The formality thing makes me feel so .....old.

post #9 of 102

I'm in the Northeast and that seems to be the norm here now, too. Not with older kids, but with the 2-5 crowd. I'm ok with it. I think it sounds a bit friendlier, less formal. I'm not a very formal kind of person. I would respect what someone else wants to be called, I've just noticed a lot of teachers and activity leaders using that phrasing. My son's gymnastics teacher calls herself Miss Amy. (He's 4.)

post #10 of 102

I'm from the northeast but I've lived in the south for 5 years, plus my parents now live in FL. I don't know this for a fact, but I've decided the Miss thing is not really Miss (young unmarried miss) but almost like Ms. It's a catchall for a woman. Maybe it's even a simplified pronounciation of Mrs. Mrs. is a strange title anyway, I believe it derives from Mistress but with a weird pronounciation, Missus or Missers. Miss as short of Mistress makes sense, and Mistress is certainly the female head of household, not a young girl.

 

I think when they say Miss Heather they absolutely do mean a married adult, and that there is no confusion over your status.

 

And I do know how strange it feels for us Yankees to be called Miss, oh yeah.

 

Oh, and I think while it was ostensibly nice that you were asked what you wanted to be called, that there was only one right answer in that woman's head: Miss Heather. She was asking you whether it was Miss Heather or Mrs Jones, and if you had said Mrs Jones she would have told her kid to call you that but felt you were putting on airs. (Mrs Jones being okay for older ladies though, or the wife or a doctor or something).

post #11 of 102

Could it also be from the use of  "Ms."  (as in, I don't know your marital status, so I'll use the one that doesn't imply marital status)?

post #12 of 102

I've lived in the Northeast for a number of years but grew up in the mid-atlantic region where Miss, Mr. and Mrs. was used commonly.  I don't mind being addressed as Miss "whatever."  DH and I have different last names, so sometimes I just tell kids or others to refer to me as [my first name].  Differing last names are common in my area, so at least from my perspective, it is respectful as well as safe to call someone "Miss/Ms. [first name] before they let you know how to actually address them.  I agree with the PP that "Ms." is a catchall. 

post #13 of 102

I'm uncomfortable with the Miss Firstname thing. I'd rather be called by my first name alone or Ms./Mrs. Lastname. I don't really care about the Miss vs. Ms. vs. Mrs. part of it.

 

I do think that correcting to "Mrs. Firstname" sounds a little odd -- I can understand saying, "You may call me Caneel or Mrs. Jones," but "Mrs. Caneel" sounds just as weird if not weirder than "Miss Caneel" to me. 

post #14 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by limabean View Post

I'm uncomfortable with the Miss Firstname thing. I'd rather be called by my first name alone or Ms./Mrs. Lastname. I don't really care about the Miss vs. Ms. vs. Mrs. part of it.

 

I do think that correcting to "Mrs. Firstname" sounds a little odd -- I can understand saying, "You may call me Caneel or Mrs. Jones," but "Mrs. Caneel" sounds just as weird if not weirder than "Miss Caneel" to me. 



That's true. Mrs. Jones technically means "wife of Jones" so saying Mrs Heather is like "wife of Heather"... hmm, doesn't sound right.

 

So Miss is more suitable for first names because it's merely a respectful term for a female.

 

It's just an inbetween, I guess. A way of differentiating adults without going as far as Mrs Jones (not that I personally care about differentiating but that's cultural). Also keeps the woman's identity more intact. And acts as a Ms since it doesn't matter if you're married or not.

 

I used to get offended by all the name stuff but I've stopped caring. It does sound weird to me to be called Miss Laohaire but I consider it just cultural. I work with Russians and they have "translated" my name to a Russian version that sounds more natural to them (kind of like calling Mikhail, Michael - only the opposite). There really is no harm intended for Miss Heather, I just shrug and accept it the way it's meant.

post #15 of 102

I guess I was always taught that Miss equaled young, never-married women, Mrs. equaled married of any age, and Ms. was for divorced women, whether they kept their ex-husband's name or switched back.  But you never went back to Miss after having been Mrs.  FWIW, I split my childhood between the NE and the South, but my part of the South is full of NE's...go figure!  lol

 

Anyway, nowadays, I don't hear Mrs. as often, and when I do it's not always used "right", but that's besides the point.  I think people, especially kids, are just too lazy to pronounce that pesky extra syllable...Miss is easier to say than Missus.  Plus many women get married but don't change their last names, so maybe the title doesn't chacnge either?  Dunno.  So sad, our society today.  lol

 

For simplicity, our female teachers usually go by a generic "Miss".  I practically never hear Mrs., although I do try to force my jaw to go up and down that one extra time if I know the teacher is a married woman.

 

As for "Miss Firstname", I HATE that!  I understand that it's taught to children as a way of showing respect, and in some cases it's akin to "Auntie Firstname", but I still hate it.  If a parent wants to teach their kids formality and societal convention, I think that's wonderful.  Just do it right and use Miss/Mrs./Ms. Surname. 

 

I recently spent a few weeks doing after-school babysitting for 2 little girls who called me Miss Firstname and it drove me crazy.  I  kept saying "This is not a daycare and I am not your teacher.  I'm your mama's friend.  Call me Firstname, just like my kids call your mama Firstname."  They finally got it after I started adding "Miss" to their names too!  It was done in fun and we all laughed and they got the hint.  :)

post #16 of 102

Oh, forgot to say that I DETEST Mrs. Firstname.  My ds1 used to go to a school run by a lady from India who had a 20-something letter surname and an easy first name, so all the called her Mrs. Firstname.  Drove me batty and I made a point to explain to ds why and he ended being only one of a few who said Miss or Ms. Firstname. 

post #17 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by blessedwithboys View Post

I guess I was always taught that Miss equaled young, never-married women, Mrs. equaled married of any age, and Ms. was for divorced women, whether they kept their ex-husband's name or switched back. 

 

Ms was not intended as a designation for divorced women at all - it was supposed to be the female counterpart to Mr.

 

Men are Mr. no matter whether they are married or not. Before Ms. was "invented" in the 70s, a woman was Miss (unmarried) or Mrs (married) - completely defined by her marital status.

 

So Ms became the third option for women who did not wish to be defined by their marital status, whether they were never married, married, divorced, whatever.

post #18 of 102


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by laohaire View Post

I'm from the northeast but I've lived in the south for 5 years, plus my parents now live in FL. I don't know this for a fact, but I've decided the Miss thing is not really Miss (young unmarried miss) but almost like Ms. It's a catchall for a woman. Maybe it's even a simplified pronounciation of Mrs. Mrs. is a strange title anyway, I believe it derives from Mistress but with a weird pronounciation, Missus or Missers. Miss as short of Mistress makes sense, and Mistress is certainly the female head of household, not a young girl.

 

I think when they say Miss Heather they absolutely do mean a married adult, and that there is no confusion over your status.

 

And I do know how strange it feels for us Yankees to be called Miss, oh yeah.

 

Oh, and I think while it was ostensibly nice that you were asked what you wanted to be called, that there was only one right answer in that woman's head: Miss Heather. She was asking you whether it was Miss Heather or Mrs Jones, and if you had said Mrs Jones she would have told her kid to call you that but felt you were putting on airs. (Mrs Jones being okay for older ladies though, or the wife or a doctor or something).



:yeah to the bolded.  I'm from the South.  Miss FirstName is a catch all regardless of age or martial status.  There is very little verbal distinction between Ms, Miss, and Mrs where I'm from.  In fact I rarely ever pronounce Mrs. correctly. It's almost always shortened to "Miz".  That's true for most of the people around here I think.

post #19 of 102

I grew up in the south, and this was the common way to address adults.  I've never liked it.  Where I am now, in the PNW, kids generally just use first names by themselves, although teachers are Mrs. LastName. 

 

What I find annoying in your story is that the other mom asked what you would like to be called, you said "Caneel" or "Mrs.Jones," and she told her dd to call you "Miss Caneel," which is neither of the options you presented.  If she wasn't going to listen to your answer, she may as well not have asked.

post #20 of 102

I'm kind of surprised that so many posters prefer "Mrs." Personally, I do not ever want to be called Mrs., whether my first name or my last name is what comes next. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Makes me feel like I'm living in 1962. The worst is "Mrs. Husbandsfirstname Husbandslastname." Makes me want to smack people. lol.gif I'm a Ms. and always have been. When talking to my DD and referring to other grown women, I do sometimes say "Ms. Firstname." So apparently we all have different preferences, and the polite thing to do is ask. Of course, you then have to actually listen to what the person prefers, unlike the lady in the original example. duh.gif

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