Dear Miss Manners • I am 70-year-old man from Asia, where old people are more respected. So it bothers me when teenagers or very young people whom I have never met before call me by my first name, when I have never given them permission to do so.
I think the protocol is that they address you by your last name, like “Mr. Johnson” or “Miss Smith,” until you tell them that they can call you by your first name, reflecting the relationship that has developed or whatever is your preference.
I have heard from many foreigners that Americans are rude in certain ways, and this is one of them. Can you please clarify this issue?
Gentle Reader • Yes, but you will have to turn your thinking upside-down. In America, youth is respected. Strangely, even many old people endorse this feeling, to the extent of feeling insulted if they are treated with respectful formality.
Mind you, Miss Manners believes that this is a terrible system. It means no one has anything to which to look forward. But so it is.
Furthermore, there is a widespread belief in instant friendship. Steps to intimacy, including the use of given names, have been all but erased. Therefore, the young who address you are not intending to be rude. They believe that they are being friendly, however unlikely it is that a friendship exists between you.
So their behavior is based on two patent falsehoods: that you are young, and that you are their friend. This is enormously patronizing, and Miss Manners shares your distaste.
Dear Miss Manners • These days, folks assume an invitation or announcement is a solicitation of a gift. How can I convey that my intent for sending an announcement or invitation is truly only to share news, and truly only to wish for someone’s attendance at a celebration?
Putting “no gifts, please” on the correspondence doesn’t work, and is rude. But I am chagrined to think that announcing family milestones is interpreted as a gift grab. There were times when the presumption was not inherent, but it is not these times. What to do?
Gentle Reader • How many times does Miss Manners have to state that invitations and announcements are not bills?
It is true that there are certain occasions to which presents should be brought by those who actually attend: children’s birthday parties, and showers for weddings or expected babies. Otherwise, presents should be given when the prospective donors care enough about the people to want to give them tangible evidence of their warm feelings.
Yes, there is a catch. People who don’t care enough should not be attending those weddings and other ceremonial occasions; and ones who do care, but cannot attend, should want to send a token of their affection anyway.
Dear Miss Manners • Servers in a fine dining room at an independent living home for elders have been taught to both serve and remove plates from the right.
Residents believe you serve the plate from the left and remove it from the diner’s right. Please comment.
Gentle Reader • The servers are wrong. As you are the clients, you may instruct management to retrain them.