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KatawaGrey's avatar

Is there a non-awkward way to ask my boyfriend's mother what she would prefer to be called after this long?

Asked by KatawaGrey (21467points) May 13th, 2011

As some of you saw over here, I have been invited to my boyfriend’s sister’s baby shower by his mother. Here’s the problem. I have no idea what to call his mother. In all the time my boy and I have been dating almost three years she’s never actually introduced herself to me and it wasn’t until recently that she and I became anything resembling friendly. She is very odd and somewhat drawn into herself, but can be very sweet when she opens up a little.

She has a different last name than my boyfriend so I can’t just call her Mrs. Boyfriend’s-Last-Name and I feel like the time past long ago that I could just come out and ask her if she would prefer if I call her Jodie or Mrs. Smith. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

I have asked my boyfriend what she prefers and he has no idea. Furthermore, I have asked him to ask his mother what she prefers to be called and he always forgets.

Please help!

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40 Answers

nikipedia's avatar

Not 100% non-awkward, but you could take a direct approach—“Hey, can I ask you a quick question? I’d been wondering lately, do you prefer to be called Jodie or Mrs. Smith? I’d hate to think I’ve been offending you all these years!”

Failing that, maybe ask the sister at the baby shower what she thinks the mom prefers?

Seelix's avatar

I’d presume first name in this case. And I’d call her by name to test it: “Hey Jodie – oh, I’m sorry, would you prefer Mrs. Smith?”

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

If she’s a little different I would ask her what she prefers. No need to be pissing her off every time you call her something she doesn’t like.

bkcunningham's avatar

When you met her for the first time she didn’t say anything like, “Hi, I’m Jodie, your boy’s mother.” Or someone else didn’t say, “This is Jodie, your boy’s mother,” ?

KatawaGrey's avatar

@bkcunningham: Nope. I shook her hand, said, “Hello, my name is KatawaGrey. It’s nice to meet you!” and she shook my hand and said, “It’s nice to meet you too!” and that was it.

When I said that she had never introduced herself to me, I wasn’t lying.

@Adirondackwannabe: See, I’m worried that after almost three years, if I just come out and ask her, she’ll be offended that I didn’t know. I honestly have had almost no contact with this woman and every time we’re together, I don’t call her anything. I’ve never called the house so I’ve never had to ask for her or address her. It’s super awkward and I just don’t want her to go back to thinking that I’m not a very nice girl for her son. It’s taken us a little while to warm up to each other.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@KatawaGrey Let me think that over for a bit. I had a similar experience with my S/O.

AmWiser's avatar

Since your boyfriend has no idea, IMO etiquette would dictate that she be called Mrs.?so&so until she invites you to call her by another name. Or if you feel comfortable by calling her by her first name, I would go with something like, “hello, Miss Jodie?, it’s nice to see you again”. Don’t worry, it will all work out in the end. Just play it by ear.

bkcunningham's avatar

At first I agreed completely with @Seelix. But after some thought; I’m thinking, you are an adult on equal ground with her. Call her by her first name. I don’t mean that in a pretentious way. But in a way that perhaps you are giving it too much thought and that is how adults greet each other. The polite way and the rules of etiquette way to address another adult you’ve met before. Does that make sense?

If it was a very elderly person, like his grandmother for example, out of respect, I’d say “Mrs. so-and-so. But for his mom, I’d smile my best smile and casually call her by her first name. I’d also be curious how the pregnant daughter-in-law addresses her. (If she says “Mom,” I’d not go there. lol)

JLeslie's avatar

I would ask her. First name is my guess.

JLeslie's avatar

If she is from the northeast, and you are going to just guess, don’t use Miss firtsname. Not sure where you live.

You can always say, Ms. Lastname and let her correct you.

You can ask your SO to find out.

I would just say, “I feel awkward asking, but I am not sure how you would prefer I address you after all of this time, should I use Ms. Lastname?” And then she can tell you what she prefers. I can’t imagine she will be offended.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

bk, the pregnant one is his sister, but asking an in-law is a good idea if it’s an option. What’s the family situation? Is she remarried, etc.
The rest I’ll send in a PM.

JLeslie's avatar

@bkcunningham I don’t think it is exactly equal ground, it depends on how the person looks at it, how formal they are, and their own expectation when it comes to these things. I would hope in a family, first name is comfortable, but everyone is different.

krrazypassions's avatar

Can’t you call her “My-future-mom-in-law”

KatawaGrey's avatar

@krrazypassions: Then my boyfriend would break up with me.

JLeslie's avatar

Oh, I just noticed you have tried to get your SO to find out. Men suck.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
krrazypassions's avatar

Then i guess its better to ask her when the mood is light and fine (maybe you can buy her flowers or some other little-something so that she is cheered up and in good mood) and then ask casually something like, “Do you mind if i call you Jodie?” She might say “Oh yes :)” or ” Well, you can call me <her preferred name>”

suzanna28's avatar

U don’t need to ask her. Just continue to caller her Ms. whatever her last name is.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

If you live in the South, it’s very likely that calling her by her first name would offend her. I’ve been married for 5 years, am almost 30 myself, and still call my in-laws Mr/Mrs because it’s seen as rude not to here.

JLeslie's avatar

@krrazypassions I don’t see why she has to soften her up and put her in a good mood. It seems respectful to me to ask someone what they prefer to be called. I think better she does not ask, “do you mind if I call you Jodie?” because then if the mother is more formal she will have to worry about seeming stuffy by correcting her to the more formal address and saying, “yes I mind please call me Mrs. Lastname.” That seems more awkward for everyone in my mind. I always start with the formal and let the individual bring down to the informal.

@BBSDTfamily That is interesting to me, because I hear Ms. Firstname thrown around so much here, which never sounds right to my northern ears. I once was talking to someone about it, and I said if I want someone to us Ms. When addressing me I would ask them to use Ms. Lastname, and my friend said then I would probably be perceived as snooty.

Seelix's avatar

The only time I ever heard Ms. Firstname was from the neighbour kids at my cottage. When we were little, they called my mom Mrs. Anne and my dad Dr. Paul. It was cute, but to me it would seem really weird to call an inlaw (or pseudo-inlaw) by that kind of name.

JLeslie's avatar

@Seelix It’s weird to me for anyone to use it. Maybe for very little children it is easier to take? But, here in the south I have adult women call me Miss JLeslie and I find it very very odd. I always wonder if they ever notice that no one in the media uses it? No mainstream TV shows, journalists, movies, no one. Maybe there is a TV show based in the south that has used it, but it would be a big exception.

Seelix's avatar

@JLeslie – Yeah, I thought it was strange for the kids to call my parents by those names, but like I said, we were little, so it was just cute. Personally, I think it’s stupid. Use either Firstname or Ms. Lastname, but not Ms. Firstname. Just weird. <shrug>

JLeslie's avatar

@Seelix It’s just a regional thing here. To me it sounds uneducated and reminiscent of the old south, but for you it probably does not conjure up those thoughts. You are in Canada, right? But, I know the reality is it is done out of respect.

Seelix's avatar

@JLeslie – Yes, I am. To me it just sounds weird ;)

KatawaGrey's avatar

@suzanna28: I’ve never called her anything. I call her husband by his first name and I know that some couple prefer to remain consistent, however, she is very proper in some ways so I don’t know if I should call her by her first name. I’ve actually just found the invitation for the baby shower and she only signed her first name, not Firstname Lastname, not Mrs. Lastname, just Firstname. I’m going to take that as a hint and if she doesn’t like it, I will apologize and point out that I was confused because she signed the personal invitation with a first name only.

Seelix's avatar

@KatawaGrey – I think you’ve got something there. If she signed the invite with her first name, it’s really unlikely that she’d be insulted if you called her by it.

KatawaGrey's avatar

Thanks for answering everyone. I know this seems like a really silly problem but the relationship we have has always been a little tense. She didn’t like me in the beginning and I’m fairly certain the only reason she’s making an effort now is she thinks that I’m her son’s only hope for children. I really appreciate everyone’s help and patience!

tedibear's avatar

@KatawaGrey – It’s not a silly problem! I went nine years not calling my ex-MIL anything. (Some of that was dating time too.) Not her first name, not Mrs. Lastname, nothing. I would say “How are you?” or “Would you like to go out for dinner?” or whatever, but only said, “You.” The only thing I can think of is that while she liked me, she was also an unpredictable alcoholic and I was a little scared to ask. Sometimes an innocent question would set her off. Anywho, I’m glad you found the invitation. Now you can just call her “Jodie” and hope for the best. And let us know if you accidentally call her Jodie instead of her real name! LoL!

bkcunningham's avatar

Not a silly question at all. That’s what everyone is here for. Relax and have fun. When she gets to know you and see how you make her son happy; she’ll love you!

JLeslie's avatar

I think if she signed just first name, you are fine calling her by her first name.

Brian1946's avatar

Does your boyfriend know what her surname is?

bkcunningham's avatar

Perhaps I should rephrase that part about “see how you make her son happy.” Mothers don’t like to think about that part of their son’s relationships. You know what I meant though. Good luck. lol

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Your feelings are completely understandable. Unless the parent of an SO offers up their preference of what to call them, it can be an awkward situation, especially after three years of dating. If I was in your shoes, I would call her Mrs. ____, unless she asked me to call her something else. Another choice is to not call her anything until (and of course if) the two of you marry. That provides a new opportunity to ask her what she would like to be called.

KatawaGrey's avatar

The reason why this is coming up now is because, at some point in the near future, I’m going to have to call the house and ask for her. If my boyfriend happens to be home and he picks up the phone, I can just say, “Can I talk to your mom please?” but if her husband picks up, it would sound pretty weird to say, “Can I talk to your wife please?” especially if another man answers the phone and I think it’s her husband. If she answers the phone, I would feel super weird just talking as if I know it’s her, again, if another woman answers the phone. I’m thinking in terms of relatives or if my boy’s sister is there. I’m not expecting random folks to be answering the phone. :P

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

How about, “Hello, this is Katawa, (boyfriend’s) girlfriend. Is his mother there?”

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@JLeslie That’s what I mean, I just wasn’t clear. I call them Mr. Firstname and Mrs. Firstname, but I always put the Mr/Mrs in there. I also say mam/sir when speaking to them.

JLeslie's avatar

It is a regional thing. To a northerner it sounds awful. All of it, ma’am, sir, Mrs. Firtsname, everything you said. I don’t mean it is awful. I understand in the south it is said with respect. Mrs. Lastname would sound better to a northerner, then it would just be respectful because of the age difference, it would be rather formal as well, which is different than ma’am and sir and Miss Firstname which sounds obedient and heirarchical based on power, not age, wisdom, or simple respect. To us. To a northerner.

JLeslie's avatar

@BBSDTfamily I just realized I should clarify that when you wrote you use Mr./Mrs. I assumed with their last name, that is why I wrote that comment to you in the first place. I misunderstood.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)

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