How do you address others? How are we supposed to address others? The internet serves to mix cultures and polite manners. My internet friend in San Francisco calls me Mr. Tone. I call her Ann – thinking by so doing I would subtly give her permission to call me Ohg. She figured me out and rejected the idea – the idea is just beyond the barriers of Ann’s cultural upbringing.
When I was a boy we were taught to address men as Mr. LastName. We addressed women as Miss FirstName. Except for our school teachers, we always called them Miss AuthorityFigure. (I am referring to times when the teacher was actually present.) My friend Ann has taken me back years, reflecting on the old neighborhood. “Hello Mr. Thornton. And how are you Miss Charlotte?” The Thornton’s never liked me much – so their polite response was something like, “Hrummph!” That worked for me, I did not have to feign any more politeness.
Church had different rules. We grew up in a fringe religion. All adult men in The Church were addressed with the prefix of brother. “Hello Brother Bezona, how are you today?” “Brother Cawley, where can I find the crayons?” Women of The Church were addressed with the prefix of Sister. “Sister Smith, is our Sunday School Class about over?” I know I used the correct prefix but Sister Smith always seemed annoyed with me.
I was young when I overheard one of the men at The Church refer to me as a “Little Shit.” With my new found knowledge I went home and said to my brother, “Hey, LittleShit David. Get me a coke!” My mother, whom we called Mom, was not impressed with my cultural enlightenment.
We lived in an urban, mixed race, neighborhood. There was a Catholic Priest who sometimes came by, he introduced himself as Father Gabriel. I have five brothers, including LittleShit David, and the Priest seemed to enjoy our visits. One evening at supper I told my father (we called him Daddy) about Father Gabriel. My father was never one for cultural politeness. He told us we could not call the Priest Father anything: “I don’t call no man Father!” My solution to this dilemma of cultural conflict was to make sure I was absent when Father Gabriel came around.
When I was in High School some of the teachers preferred to be called Coach. Some wanted Coach LastName, some were happy with just Coach. Most of the Coaches taught Gym, or Typing, or Basic Business. My high school sports activities were limited to street corner slap-boxing. Our coach was called Experience. A good slap across the face will teach more than an hour in typing class.
I guress I should be grateful I grew up in America. I never had to worry about Kings or Queens or Lords or Barons or Monsieur or Mademoiselles. The biggest problem I had was figuring out why Tonto called The Lone Ranger kimosabe.