Dear Katie & Kelly,

How do you decide what to have your children call other people’s parents? Recently, I had a new mom friend tell her children without asking me to refer to me as “Aunt Alex”. She didn’t ask me what I wanted to be called and I found myself in the strange predicament of wanting to correct this child because I am not their Aunt and wanted to reserve that title for my nieces and nephew but I felt as if I’d have been rude if I had corrected her.


A Classic in Cleveland


Dear Cleveland Classic,

As a fellow Classic, I yearn for the days when children referred to all adults as either Doctor, Mister, Missus or Miss [insert last name], no deviation until you were so old it seemed absurd. I mean, watch The Graduate, we NEVER learn Mrs. Robinson’s first name. But alas, those uptight halcyon days are gone, replaced by relaxed formality. Sigh.

So, in these days of anything goes, it is even more imperative that you ask someone what they want to be called by your child. It doesn’t count after you’ve told your child to call them something and you say, “Is it okay if they call you Aunt Alex?” because then they’re an automatic beyatch if they say “No”. I’d also add that it’s helpful for your child if you tell them it’s okay to ask an adult what they would like to be called. If a kid is too shy to do so, you can tell them to call all adults by a default rule that’s socially acceptable. For my kids — no surprise — it’s to refer to adults as Mr., Mrs. or Miss [Insert last name] unless they tell you otherwise or you ask.

The next time your new mom friend’s kid calls you Aunt Alex, “Oh my goodness, what an absolute honor but you do not need to be so FORMAL! You could just call me Miss Alex or Alex.” Obviously, referring to someone as “Aunt” isn’t being formal but it puts a nice societal fig leaf over your correction.

All my best,

Kelly (as if Katie is ever going to be allowed to answer an etiquette question! LOL)

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