Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Article #79 Common Courtesy

What’s happened to common courtesy? Has it gone out of style? When I was a young girl, you never called an adult by their first given name, but out of respect you addressed them as Mr. or Mrs. Jones or Miss. Nelson (never Ms. Smith or by their first given name.) I remember the shock I felt the first time that my son’s teenage friend called me Lin. I stopped in my tracks and thought…What did he call me? I felt silly correcting him…Did you mean Mrs. Floyd? Somehow the respect between adults and youth has gotten lost and with it common courtesy. Although, most people today still refer to their teachers and also their doctors properly.

Then, there’s the matter of labeling. Consider this experience I had at my doctor's office recently with one of his assistants. A young girl (twenty something) kept calling me dear. For some reason that always rubs me the wrong way. You wouldn't call someone your own age dear. They would probably wonder what was wrong with you. But this woman called me that several times. Each time I controlled my urge to set her straight. Wanting to tell her that I may look old to her, but I am not 80 yet and won't be ready to be called dear, sweetie, or honey until I have one foot in the grave. Maybe she didn’t know whether to call me Lin or Mrs. Floyd?

Consider also the problem of expressing gratitude when receiving gifts. As a young person, on special occasions I always made a list of any present I received and who sent it. If they lived a distance away, I would write them a note of thanks. Thank you notes are another common courtesy we’ve lost. Emails do count, but there’s something special about the handwritten note and the effort to put it in an envelope, address, stamp and send it off. (Most brides today still do write thank yous.)

Both my grandmothers always remembered my birthday. I could depend on them to send a thoughtful card and some money in the mail. I would be sure to quickly write them a thank you. Now if I don’t remind my grown kids, most of them forget I have a birthday. (Although, I always remember their special occasions with a card and present of some kind.) Times change I know, but sometimes not for the better.


  1. At the very beginning when i started blogging i used to be so hesitant to address many of you by your first name because out here in India we would never dream of doing so...here it is a very common thing to address elders by a relation tag Aunty or we have many other Indian terms to do so.It is customary here to touch the feet of our elders to seek their blessings ,we do it,my kids too follow this.It was a big cultural shock when we heard students addressing teachers and the professors by their first name at NYU while we were studying there.I am bit surprised that even you feel the same way...i was wrong assuming that it was always like this.
    I remember that post of your where you mentioned this young lady addressing you as DEAR..

    Hand written notes are rarity now with increasing usage of computers and cell phones.

  2. ...and then there is my husband: He called his mother and father by their first names, Bessie and Glenn.

    However, he calls my mother Mrs. Chung, not Mom.

    And he expects my son-in-law to call him Mr. Hinchey.

    Go figger!

  3. Perhaps age has less to do with how many years we've lived and more to do with how many cultural eras we've experienced. I'm with you, but my kids, not so much. You'd think a simple thank you would be easy with email and smart phones. They're certainly on them all of the time.

  4. I never received a thank you for a wedding gift or the bridal shower gift I gave to a friend's daughter. I could not believe the couple couldn't come up with the time to do so. I am appalled by the lack of manners.

  5. Thank you notes are essential to a happy life. I am sure of it. I don't know how many wedding gifts I have wondered about because I never heard word one either way. Next thing you know, well be getting delivery confirmation and calling it gratitude.

  6. Oh my goodness! This post could have been written by me. It's been my rant from Day #1!!! I still rant about it. You have said everything beautifully, Lin. Thank you for this post. I love every word.

  7. It's so true..but my daughter does not behave like that and always sends a thank you note for any gift.. Hope she trains her children the same way...

  8. I think there's such a difference between the relationships with sons vs daughters. I have no answers for you. I have come right out and asked my son...so, have you mailed that Mother's Day card to your one and only mother?