One step closer to crotchety curmudgeon

As a note: this is the worst and most self-indulgent kind of blog entry. I am about to rant about the good old days. I am groaning right along with you already, just thinking about it.

My Bride and I have disagreed for years over what the kids are supposed to call other adults.

It started with our own family. Growing up, I called all my aunts and uncles by their first name. It wasn't "Uncle Raland." It was just "Raland." Except with my aunt Paulette. We called her "Aunt Potty." Partly because one of the cousins came up with that as a toddler-friendly version of her name. And because it was "Potty." And that's a name worth copying.

My Bride, on the other hand, grew up in a large Filipino family, where every relation and close family friend gets a title. Older brother Fred? That's Kuya Fred to you, kiddo. Aunts, Uncles, next door neighbors, the guy at the grocery store that you've known for years, they all get an honorific tacked in front of their name. What started to confuse me was that your aunt became your kid's grandmother, and your uncle is your kid's grandfather. Or at least they were all called by the same title. But there's something generational and respectful about the habit, and while it confuses my white-bread mind, I can get behind it. So I didn't object too much when my brother became "Uncle Paul" rather than just plain old "Paul." (But my head spun when one of her cousins called me "kuya" for the first time).

So you'd think, based on this, that my Bride would be the more traditional between the two of us about extending this type of traditional social honorifics to those outside our family circle, wouldn't you? Yeah. You'd think that. But you'd be wrong.

Not to make myself sound too old (though I know that's hopeless when I start any sentence with "when I was young") but when I was young (see? told you) my parents were insistent on a few rules for how I spoke to a grown up. It was always "Mr" or "Mrs", and it had better be "Sir" and "Ma'am" unless I was real confident that the person wouldn't mind. And even then, it's a good idea.

I tried initially to pass on the first part at least (the Mr/Mrs thing), but my bride wrinkled her nose and informed me I was being old fashioned. Excuse me? This is the same woman who told me that part of why she married me was my vaguely old-fashioned Southern upbringing (except, you know, without the Jim Crow, but with the grits and banjo). I thought this was a good thing. Apparently it is, but only in the retro-can-be-cool kind of way that makes keeping a few last giant pandas around in captivity desirable, but not really worth the effort of getting them to successfully propagate.

We've grudgingly compromised on "Mr First Name" when introducing to a family friend. Though the kids do have to call their teachers by Mr/Mrs Last Name. Which is likely enough to keep my father, the Surgeon from clawing his way out of the grave and (politely) haunting me for my failings in the matter. But barely. Just barely.

I guess maybe I am old-fashioned. I think the demise of these little courtesies has something to do with the triumph of email over the letter. Remember when writing a note entailed selecting just the right weight and grade of fine paper for your letter, crafting a greeting of "Dear so-and-so" and spending a paragraph or two on meaningless pleasantries before you got on to the topic at hand? Now, with email, the quick note is the rule - Maybe you put the name at the beginning, maybe you just whack them over the head with the subject at hand right up front like a face-smack with an electronic shovel. Do you put 'sincerely' or 'warm regards'? Or do you just hastily jot your name - or worse - a single initial - at the bottom because typing those few extra characters would take an extra three seconds which in the name of all that's holy you do not have?

I've sulkily retreated into the corner of my panda cage to cling to "sir" and "ma'am" and plot the resurgence of manners as a social requisite and quietly mourn the slow demise of old fashioned etiquette. My Bride occasionally stops by to pet me on the head and replenish my pile stationary.

Someone asked me why I don't 'text' with my cell phone the other day. I muttered something about "damn kids" and "turn that awful music down."

Now get off my lawn before I call the police.

Cranky Old Man