From the time we’re old enough to respond to our names, we’re able to pick up on the subtle differences between being called and being in trouble.
When your mother calls you by your full name, you know you’re in big trouble. That kind of formality is reserved for serious infractions.
We never had trouble distinguishing things with our Dad. He only called us by name if we were in trouble. Otherwise, we got called ‘My Boy’ which was usually accompanied by a noogy.
There were 4 boys in our family, and he would just run down the list from oldest to youngest until we responded – and we had better respond, or else! The more mad he was, the more convoluted the list sounded. It’s no surprise that now with his condition, not remembering our names doesn’t come as any great shock. For half our lives, he called us by the wrong name.
Out in the big scary world, there are names given to you that can be considered either respectful or condescending, depending on the circumstance. Case in point; Being called ‘Sir’ can be a show of respect from a youth, although it still stings a bit, since it means that you’re old. “Will you be getting the senior’s discount today, Sir?“. Ouch!
On the other hand, being called ‘Sir’ by a police officer has a whole different meaning. It’s on par with your mother calling you by your proper name.
When I’m introduced to people, especially someone of a generation ahead of my own, I tend to call them ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’ until they offer back a more relaxed option. “Call me Harold. ‘Sir’ was My father’s name”.
At home now, we generally refer to each other with pet names; honey, sweetheart, and so forth. I know I’m in trouble or something has gone wrong when my lovely bride calls to me by saying ‘Troy’. We call our kids ‘Boy’ or ‘Girl’, and refer to them as such with our friends. I don’t know how that came about, but it stuck.
In my neighbourhood, there’s lots of kids. Since we live smack-dab in the center of our street, our activities are almost always visible to curious little eyes. This is also why we have good curtains.
The children next door to us call us ‘Mister Troy’ and ‘Missus Darlene’. I guess our Polish last name was just too much for their little tongues to navigate. I think it’s cute – as soon as we come outside or pull into our driveway, they compete to see who can say ‘Hi’ first.
“Hi, Mister. Troy. We’re going to the zoo today” the little boy would rush over and announce.
Somehow, even without introductions, our names are now known all around the neighbourhood, which is kind of cool. But not today.
While I was picking up the mail, a kid who couldn’t have been more than 10 and doesn’t even live on our street was walking home from school, and as he passed, he said ‘Hi, Troy‘, with a casual wave of the hand. No ‘Mister’ Troy, or Sir. Heck, even ‘Mr. T’ would be better.
It came out of him with a familiarity like he was someone I had a beer with while fixing the lawn mower. This was a little too cozy for my liking, especially from someone his age.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not one of those formal people who insists that people refer to them as Mr. I’ve met people like that. “Hello, I am Mr. Stephens“. Yikes!
It’s just that there’s something about respecting your elders that got lost on this kid. You should follow a more formal introduction until offered otherwise. Is that being stodgy or frumpy?
I know it’s not the kids fault. He wanders the neighbourhood a lot, with little if any adult supervision, so it’s not like he’s getting a good mentoring.
Maybe ‘Mister Troy’ should take him under his wing and teach him about respecting his elders, and on properly addressing people he doesn’t know. Who knows, maybe one day, he will be sharing a beer with me while fixing the lawn mower. Then he can call me ‘Troy’. But for now, he can call me MISTER!