first name basis


I have the hardest time knowing what to call someone, especially now that I am an adult and am often considered a peer of people who were once in authority over me. I blame this on my upbringing. My dad was in the military, and while I never had to refer to anyone as ma’am or sir, I was expected to use their title: Sgt. Maj. [last name here], Mr./Mrs./Mrs. [last name here]. Never would I call an adult/authority figure by their first name unless it was a close close friend and even then it was Mr/Mrs/Ms. [first name here]. Even my aunts and uncles were always referred to with the aunt/uncle reference before their name while my cousins boldly were on a first name basis with them. As a child, this was fine. In fact, I think its better to be “over polite” than too familiar, but it has caused some awkwardness as I am making the transition to adulthood.

In graduate school this is definitely a sensitive situation. Apparently (sometimes even in undergrads) professors often see their students as peers and want you to drop formalities. Some, not all. There is still the professor who feels they worked so hard for the doctorate they will be called Dr. So and So. But as I become more familiar with my professors, employers, future employers and sources for my articles, I feel like we have reached first name basis, but I still hesitate. Even when professors say, “You don’t have to call me Dr” or sources or employers sign emails with first names, my mouth has a hard time forming that first name without feeling awkward or wrong. I literally need people older than me or in authority over me to say “Charlotte, you can call me [first name here]” in order for me to use your first name with confidence.

This post was really random, and I guess that happens when its the end of a semester and your brain is so jumbled with immense amounts of research on several different topics. I guess I’ll pass it on to you the reader: Anyone else struggle with this or have any other weird “growing up” transitions that you’ld like to share?


6 Responses to “first name basis”

  1. 1 Dr. Miller

    “Charlotte, you can call me [first name here]”

    It will be hard for me to get used to being called “first name here,” but I’ll just have to deal.


  2. 3 Jessica

    I definitely can identify with you. What’s really weird is calling people by their first name only who are my parents or grandparents age! It’s just California casual, I guess.

  3. 4 Kendra

    now, you never once called me “ms. moberly”!!!!!!!! what’s up with that??? 🙂

  4. 5 Miss Melinda

    Hi Char,
    I truly understand your dilemma. I, too, was raised to call everyone Mr./Mrs.
    Here’s a trick that has helped me cross that bridge. I think the first time you have to use a first name is the hardest, so it’s best to use it right away.
    When Dr. Miller says, “You can call me Brett.” You immediately respond, “O.K., thanks, Brett.” or something like that. Use the person’s first name RIGHT AWAY. Next time it will be easier and easier. Just remember, they don’t call it “growing pains” for nothing. It’s hard to “grow up”, but you’re doing it beautifully!

  5. 6 leafitz

    I completely agree with the name situation. For professors I was already familiar with them on a first name basis because in ASL, you use a sign name for someone, regardless of status/position. I was used to calling them and talking about them using first names. This year, though, half of my professors insisted we call them whatever we want… THAT I don’t like! Tell me you prefer “Bill” or “Professor Mayes” – don’t make me choose!
    I went out on a limb and chose first name and now it’s easy and I’m going to be working with one of them this summer hopefully, so it’s a lot easier now that we’re “first-namey” 🙂

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