Post # 1
My Future In-Laws introduce their friends and colleagues to me as “Mr. Smith” or “Mrs. Brown.” I find this very irritating, especially b/c some of my FFILs colleagues are also my colleagues (we are both lawyers).
I’m wondering if there is any etiquette on this. It’s bad enough that I’ve never been invited to call my Future In-Laws by their first names after 6 years of dating their son and visiting them almost every week. I don’t know if it matters, but I’m 28 years old. Am I wrong to think that this is sort of rude? Would you say or do anything about this?
Post # 3
Well, it depends….for the colleagues, are they introducing you as “Ms. Rigby?” If so, then I think (while a bit weirdly formal) is fine. However, if they introduce you to colleagues as “Eleanor,” then I think it merits a talk with Future Father-In-Law. Just explain to him that you have no problem showing him and their friends respect by calling them Mr/Mrs, but if these people are colleagues, then please show you the same respect by introducing you as a “Ms.”
Edit: This is totally a FWIW – I have no clue about what might be proper, but this is how I would handle it!
Post # 4
They introduce me as “Eleanor” or “Eleanor Rigby.” I’m annoyed at the friends thing too, and annoyed at calling them Mr. and Mrs. It just seems so cold and formal and awkward. I got all fired up about this on the commute home, and I guess I’m just venting 🙂
Post # 5
@EleanorRigby: Ugh, very frustrating. I like what Rock Hugger said, I’d bring it up to them and say that you would appreciate being introduced to your colleagues in the same manner they are introduce to you. Whether Future Father-In-Law uses first names or titles for everyone is his choice (but a little odd, especially that YOU still have to call them Mr.FFIL/Mrs.FMIL) but it’s most definitely fair to ask for the same level of professionalism and respect, especially amongst colleagues.
And, because I’m a little mouthy sometimes, next time they call you Eleanor I’d say, “Ms. Rigby, please, Mr. Future Father-In-Law.” 🙂 Is it really “Excuse me, Mr. Future Father-In-Law, please pass the turkey” when you’re all together?!
Post # 6
Are they Southern? I moved to TN from NYC and it was a big adjustment for me to have to call people who are older than me by Mr/Mrs. It’s just sort of how it’s done here.
Post # 7
This is actually quite correct. I introduce my friends to one another this way routinely: they generally respond by saying “Oh, call me Sally, please” which is how adult peers move from a formal title-and-surname relationship to an informal acquaintanceship. As soon as either party accepts the invitation to use first names, it is assumed that permission is given to the other party to do the same.
If your in-laws are calling you “Eleanor”, then you should take that as permission to use their first names. If they are still calling you “Miss Rigby”, then you should continue to call them “Mr Inlaw” and “Mrs Inlaw”. If I had been calling you Eleanor for years, and you were still calling me “Miss Phipps” I might wonder whether you were the one who was trying to create a distance! (Actually, I probably would have tried explicitly inviting you to call me Aspasia, but it isn’t really necessary once I’ve taken that first step.)
If they are introducing you to their friends as “Miss Rigby” and their friends are near your age or are your business colleagues, then you may take the initiative by saying “please call me Eleanor”.
If they are introducing you as “Eleanor” without a last name, and their friends without a given name, then it is indeed a put-down: probably an unconscious one, but indicating that they think of you as a child and not an equal. You need to take a stand, but graciously. Look pointedly at your inlaw who did the introduction, then smile at “Mrs Brown”, and say “Eleanor Rigby — I go by Ms Rigby. But please, call me Eleanor.” Give another pointed glance at your inlaw, and then another gracious smile to their guest.
If, after that, the guest calls you Eleanor and you have heard their first name used, go ahead and use it. If you still haven’t been given their first name, say “yes, uh … I’m sorry, I didn’t get your first name?” If they still don’t provide it, you are quite entitled to say coolly: “I would prefer to keep things on an equal footing. Please call me Ms Rigby.” You won’t be damaging the relationship: you will simply be maintaining the dignified distance that they themselves have set.
Post # 8
@NDBee- We are in Maryland. I guess it is actually debatable whether it is a southern state- but I think it’s more northern.
@aspasia- I think it is a put-down… or at least I feel like it is. I don’t know if I should just start calling my Future In-Laws “Sally” and “Joe” and see what they say. My Future Father-In-Law signs e-mails and such “Mr. Smith,” so I feel like he might say somthing, and I’m not sure what to say in response. I don’t want to unnecessarily start drama… part of me thinks I should pick my battles, but another part of me is angry and insulted and wants to take a stand on it.
Anyway, thanks for the advice, and listening to the vent 🙂
Post # 9
This is a battle worth picking, I think, for a couple of reasons: first, because you will have social dealings with these people for as long as they live, so you might as well get that sorted out sooner rather than later; second because you are in the right and they are in the wrong; and third because as you have pointed out, it affects your relationship with all those third parties including your colleagues and potential clents. And fourth, because his breach of etiquette personally offends me: no gentleman ever gives himself a title! Even if you are on formal terms with me, and expected to call me “Miss Phipps”, you will see me signing my correspondence “Aspasia Phipps”! How pretentious and bourgeois of him!
So, yes, DO just start calling them “Sally” and “Joe”. If Joe decides to say something about it along the lines of “I’d appreciate it if you’d show a little respect, young lady, and refer to me as Mr Smith!” you need to reply coolly “I understand, if you feel that way; and I will appreciate it if you return the respect and refer to me as Ms Rigby.” And then you follow his lead from then on. Every time he calls you Eleanor, you make a point of calling him Joe. And if he “doesn’t hear” when you refer to him as “Joe”, then develop a hearing problem yourself.
And, accept the fact that this is NOT going to be the most rewarding relationship, alas! You are not going to go from being snubbed and put down, to being the favoured daughter-in-law, just by putting up with the bad manners.
Post # 10
I think some people are more formal than others. I wouldn’t take it as an insult that they’re introducing people as Mr. & Mrs. I know it seems like they still think you’re 12… but they may just be that formal.
Post # 11
Your FFIL should not be introducing you to your professional peers in a way that puts you on an unequal footing. I am graduating law school in a couple of months and I have never had any attorney introduce me to another attorney in such a manner. Maybe I misread your post, but I think that you said that your future father in law is an attorney as well. If this is the case, then he should be well aware that his behavoir is not in line with professional etiquette. Additionally, I think it is really odd that both of your future in laws insist upon you calling them by their surnames. This is especially offensive since they continue to call you by your first name. While I would not take their behavoir as a personal affront, I would be bothered by it. Have you discussed the fact that their behavor bothers you with your significant other? Maybe he has some insight into why they act this way and how you can tactfully address the situation.