DEAR MISS MANNERS: What do you think of a daughter who sends her mother the following requirement (among others) for a "cordial" relationship with her?
"Accept that husband is going to call you by your first name. We need you never again to register a verbal or nonverbal complaint about this."
This couple both hold Ph.D.s and appear to believe they are above all rules. The mother has no objection to being called "Mrs. Smith," or has even suggested MIL or Milly (for mother-in-law) but the couple insists it's their way or the highway.
They have also pushed off their family tree an aunt who verbalized that she and her husband did not appreciate being referred to by their first names by the nephew-in-law. This couple had invited themselves to visit the now-outcast aunt. After the visit (when the aunt and uncle bent over backward to not bring up any subjects that could cause dissension), the aunt wrote that future visits would not be in the cards until nephew-in-law referred to them with their familial status.
When has it become standard practice that the younger generation calls the shots on what to call family members? Is it that courteousness has given way to higher education?
GENTLE READER: You will forgive Miss Manners for leaping to the defense -- not of these rude doctors of philosophy, but of higher education. Lower education, too, for that matter.
It has long puzzled her that reports of rudeness are often accompanied by the surprised reaction of the complainers because the offenders were supposed to have been "educated," either at college or when earning graduate degrees.
There is education and education. Miss Manners does not expect universities to teach etiquette, other than insisting that students meet their particular behavior requirements, which are usually rather broad. Nor should etiquette training be expected in lower schools, where --just to have a workable classroom -- teachers have the burden of doing the parents' job in addition to their own.
Home education should include not only the etiquette rules necessary to navigate life, but the underlying principles of manners. These include respect (such as addressing people as they wish to be addressed), fairness (granting others the privileges one claims for oneself) and congeniality (not using threats as an argument).
Apparently this couple failed home education. If you attempt to do remedial work, Miss Manners suggests lecturing first on the principles before taking up the example of name choice.