A Downhome Perspective on All Things Southern
|Manners and Etiquette||Answer to Question on creating a Southern Home||Manners and Etiquette Q & A|
I just moved from California to NC. I'm an RN in my early 60's. By my peers, bosses and locals I have been called ma'am a lot. (In California it is kind of an insult it shows age) and have also been called Miss Breck from instructors when I've asked questions in class and have heard my peers call some RN's Miss and others not. No order of age or rank. What is proper for me. I can't find any pattern that would make any sense on when and why or timing or place or rank.. what gives.. Breck
I am 42 and live in Tennessee. I was raised to always say
“sir” and “ma’am” to anyone older than me. Now that I am “middle
aged” I am unsure if it is polite or if its condescending to use these
terms to people obviously older than me. Are they my
contemporaries or still viewed as older and should be shown respect?
It was recently brought to my attn by a friend that using those terms to someone our parents ages can be viewed as condescending—it had never occurred to me that it was anything but being polite and respectful. I would appreciate your feedback. Jennifer
Southern mothers begin early teaching their children to say "yes ma'am" and "no ma'am, "yes, sir" and "no, sir" to their children when addressing adults. It is considered disrespectful for children to speak to their elders or those in a position of authority with a simple yes or no. My husband, an attorney, addresses all of his adult clients, regardless of their relative age with "ma'am" and "sir" out of respect. I said "yes, ma'am" and "yes, sir" to my mother and father until the day they died and would never have considered doing anything else!
This is not a term of derision. Saying "ma'am" and "sir" does not demean your own position.
While I realize personal relationships might develop where "ma'am" and "sir" may be dispensed with, there is still a time and a place to maintain the professionalism and respect those terms acknowledge. Using a person's first name is also considered a form of familiarity. Not knowing the marital status of a woman, the term Ms. has become a common form of address. Many, including my husband, have a problem with younger people in their profession continuing to address them as Mr. or Ms. after being asked to call them by a first name. After being requested to address a person by a less formal name, that request should be respected.
A college or university classroom setting is considered a formal setting though in high school classrooms a first name is usually used. Students should always address their instructor with "ma'am" or "sir".
I am a firm believer in maintaining civility in society and think we've gotten way too casual in our personal relationships. A respectful form of address may help to provide the distance needed to keep office relationships from sliding into problem causing personal relationships between men and women. I would suggest that maintaining that buffer in the male female office relationship might be proper and should be considered.
Yes, it is rude. People deserve their privacy. Plus, it makes others uncomfortable. Those of us who consider good manners an important attribute cringe at the thought of making another person uncomfortable.
Why is it when someone dies in the South it is common for neighbors to bring food??? Dave
food is the very best way one can comfort a grieving person. You feed
their family until the shock is gone. You don't have to talk. They feel
your love and concern through your actions.
What is proper etiquette when it pertains to politics? Do southern women speak about politics in a diverse group?
You know, that is a very good question. Southern women have intellect and opinions. But, a southern lady would temper her opinions with thoughtfulness, respect and consideration for another's opinions, without compromising their own firmly held beliefs. Let no one mistake the iron backbone in that gentle spirit. And when sterner stuff is needed, there may be a glove on the fist, perhaps?
At what age should young gentlemen stand when a woman approaches the table? I think around 12. Bob
I think you are right. That is the age they are identifying with their father and should definitely be encouraged to be a gentleman.
My wife and I raise our four daughters in New Orleans, and we were seating ourselves on the sidewalk tables of a restaurant yesterday when a woman about 20 years my senior (I'm 38) passed us and said hello, and I offered up a hello in return, however I offended her. Here's how. Let's say her name is Jane Doe. Well, I said, "Hello, Ms. Doe." She stopped and protested albeit playfully. Then I offered "Hello, Ms. Jane?" Which she still stood dumbfounded. So hastily and finally I said "Hey Jane!" To which she seemed ok with but - - -
So who's right? My original actions? Or was she right to be offended? Jean-Pierre
She was not right to be offended. Your address to her was your example to your daughters as to how they should address her. Making you feel uncomfortable in an innocent exchange in front of your daughters was improper on her part. It is credited to Jonathan Swift to have said, "Good manners is the art of making those people easy with whom we converse. Whoever makes the fewest people uneasy is the best bred in the room." She could have smiled and said, "Call me Jane, dear." Still, your daughters, being well-bred southern girls would know to call her Mrs. Doe unless there is a close relationship there and they have been given permission by their parents to address her as 'Ms. Jane.'" Simply being a professional peer would not warrant that address. (My opinion -- Sharman Ramsey)
I am hosting a “couples shower” perhaps a tool and gadget shower along with 2 other ladies. We are all good friends of the grooms mother and all of our sons have grown up together and are in this young mans wedding. Any suggestion as to what we should refer to this shower as? It will be fairly casual at a very nice outdoor pavilion in May. Also what is the proper protocol for gifts? Beth Ann
What a fun event! As friends of the groom, I think the perfectly
fine to provide this family with guy necessities rather than the usual
items considered under the woman's domain. Calling it a "Tool and
Gadget Shower" lets folks know exactly what you are trying to do. All
of those boys will really enjoy shopping for the things they are bound
to be borrowing. Send me a picture. That sounds like something others
would be inspired by!
God bless the happy couple that is so lucky to have friends like you.
Is it correct for my fiance who sat next to me at a dinner party to talk to a woman at the end of the table for a full 20 minutes. I told him this was in extremely bad taste and it is wrong. He was sitting at the head of the table and I was seated to his left. Many thanks for your reply.
me get this image straight. You and your fiance attended a dinner
party. The hostess sat at one end of the table and she seated your
fiance' at the other end of the table. That in itself is odd because
the host usually is seated opposite the hostess. If the woman is not
married then her date or significant other would assume that duty.
I chose the word duty because the reason for spreading the host and hostess among the guests is precisely for the purpose of conversation. It is considered polite to make conversation with the person to your left and the person to your right, drawing out those who might be shy or uncomfortable and allowing them to speak and become a part of the group. If conversation between your hostess and fiance' was so dominant that all others in the group were left out of the conversation, I would indeed say that was rude because it made everyone else feel excluded.
I posed this question to some friends and one responded:
I am married to a social butterfly and learned early in our relationship that he was going to talk to EVERYONE and make sure everyone feels welcome and included at events and functions. I think it is far worse to let someone sit alone and miserable than to spend some time chatting with them. While there have been times that I have sat waiting for him to wrap things up "visiting" - I have never thought it in bad taste. Several times it lead to great business opportunities or trips - so well worth the conversations. Did you feel excluded? You have to jump in and include yourself. If it was a party for your engagement - I am sure there were people you could have chatted with while he talked. I barely saw my husband at our wedding reception because we each had SO many people to catch up with and see. You have a WHOLE lifetime together and I wouldn't let 20 minutes muck up your future.
If it makes you uncomfortable, figure out why it makes you uncomfortable first. Are you focusing on what other people might be thinking? Was there something about that particular woman that makes you uncomfortable? Were you just feeling left out? Figure out your answer first and then have a heart to heart with your fiance'. Yall are going to be at social gatherings together for the rest of your lives so you should make sure yall are on the same page from the get go. Unless he was brazenly flirting with her, it doesn't strike me as so much an etiquette concern as it is a communication gap.
Another pointed out:
Think now, because it isn't going to change. Do you want to live through that evening over and over?
My son, who is married to a lovely southern belle, has is insisted that
my note to thank his mother in law for inviting us to share our
grandson's first Christmas was too much and, in his words, crazy.