No, you may not call me Mary. You may call me Mrs F....
Good on you Mum.
2. My friend Elizabeth, taking her children home after worms in goo (spag bol) and snot (stewed apple) on Hallowe'en:
Say thank you for a lovely supper and goodbye to Mrs C
Excuse me? Mrs C? Who is this Mrs C of whom you speak? I'm not Mrs C. Or at least I'm not if you're not the utility company, or my mates having a laugh. I'd like to say that Mrs C is my mother-in-law, but I think most of the time she'd be aghast at being called that too.
But why? When did that happen?
When I was a child my friends' parents (and my parents' friends) were all Mrs or Mr Whatever. There was an awkward stage when we were at university when we were all separately told, "Call me Marjorie" and we used to mumble "Mrs, erm, you, erm, Marjorie" and revert back to Mrs Whatever where we felt more comfortable. In fact there are still friends of my parents whom I feel much more natural calling Mrs and Mr than I ever will, despite my degree and my four children, by their first names.
But my children call people whatever I call them. And that's almost always first names. As a result there are, I think, only two categories of people that they call by their title and surname: teachers, and the elderly neighbours.
Because I call the neighbours Mrs Black and Mrs White. Of course I do. They're both in their eighties. They're both utterly charming and have said on numerous occasions "Call me Whatever" and firmly, both to their faces and behind their backs, I stick to Mrs Whatever. That's what you call elderly ladies, after all.
But is it still? And will it be what my children's friends will call me in fifty years time? And will I mind then, as my mother (not eighty) is clearly beginning to? Because somehow I feel that I will, and that it matters. That there is an element of respect implied in the use of surnames that people of an older generation deserve.
And so I wonder if Elizabeth is right, however odd it may have felt. I asked her whether she wanted my children to call her Mrs Cotton, and she said "It's entirely up to you, I'd just rather my children called you Mrs C".
I suspect it's too late to change the names of most of my existing friends, but should I be changing the names of the new ones?