DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am 70-year-old man from Asia, where old people are more respected. So it bothers me when teenagers or very young people whom I have never met before call me by my first name, when I have never given them permission to do so.
I think the protocol is that they address you by your last name, like “Mr. Johnson” or “Miss Smith,” until you tell them that they can call you by your first name, reflecting the relationship that has developed or whatever is your preference.
I have heard from many foreigners that Americans are rude in certain ways, and this is one of them. Can you please clarify this issue?
GENTLE READER: Yes, but you will have to turn your thinking upside-down. In America, youth is respected. Strangely, even many old people endorse this feeling, to the extent of feeling insulted if they are treated with respectful formality.
Mind you, Miss Manners believes that this is a terrible system. It means no one has anything to which to look forward. But so it is.
Furthermore, there is a widespread belief in instant friendship. Steps to intimacy, including the use of given names, have been all but erased. Therefore, the young who address you are not intending to be rude. They believe that they are being friendly, however unlikely it is that a friendship exists between you.
So their behavior is based on two patent falsehoods: that you are young, and that you are their friend. This is enormously patronizing, and Miss Manners shares your distaste.