Gentleman Scholar

How Does a Gentleman Deal With Crazy Soccer Parents?

Also, stop calling me “Nate.”

Troy Patterson.
Troy Patterson

Photo by Christina Paige

My name is Nathan. I have always introduced myself as such, and do not go by “Nate.” Usually when I introduce myself, one of two things happens.

1. The person I’m introducing myself to, in an attempt to be friendly, asks if he can call me “Nate.” I say something to the effect of, “I just go by Nathan, actually,” and leave him with a less than spectacular first impression.

2. The person I introduce myself to starts calling me “Nate” later on in the conversation, never asking if it’s OK. Then I’m left with the choice of correcting him or continuing to be called Nate, which, again, is not my name.

I’d like not to come across as unfriendly, but I’d also like to be called by my name. What’s a gentlemanly way of walking this fine line?

Thank you for your question, Nathan.

To address a man according to his wishes is to show him the most basic form of respect. One should extend this courtesy to every individual, even if he is so odious that one is disinclined to extend him a handshake. For instance, if A says to B, “Can I call you ‘Benny’?” and B replies, “Actually, I prefer ‘Il Duce,’ ” then A must comply.

The first scenario you describe seems straightforward. You’re dealing with someone already indicating interest in your preference, so there’s no need be excessively sensitive about ticking him off. Keep your tone light and your smile wide and mention that you’re very glad he asked. The other party won’t give your request a second thought—or, if he does, it will only be to appreciate your firm forthrightness.

The second situation requires greater tact, I suppose. Perhaps you should develop a script for quickly correcting these people. Consider sweetening your correction with some flounces of apology and self-deprecation: “Sorry, I hate to seem fussy, but it’s ‘Nathan,’ please.” Or: “This is always awkward, but I prefer ‘Nathan.’ ” And then maybe you make a joke about how Nate’s a great name and you wish you were laid back enough to be called such. Anyone who is put off by a friendly request such as that can bite you.

When I attend my children’s sporting events, I watch intently and cheer appropriately (for example, when a point is scored) but mostly remain silent. However, I am surrounded by parents who run up and down the sidelines, screaming encouragement and instructions to their progeny, and these parents look at me askance. They comment to my children what a shame it is that their father “doesn’t care.”

How does a gentleman respond, if at all, to disapproving comments of fellow parents who are clearly living vicariously through the dubious accomplishments of their offspring? As it is, I ignore them, further cementing in their minds the idea that I am aloof and elitist, when in fact I am simply not flamboyantly demonstrative in my support of my children’s sporting activities.

Thank you for sharing your pain.

As we all know, the worst part of raising kids is dealing with other parents—demented beings who, in ways ranging from competitive breast-feeding to performative sandbox-hovering, never tire of exhibiting status-anxious and self-righteous behavior. The Gentleman Scholar cannot stop rolling his eyes at such people, which is why at the playground he never removes his sunglasses, which are Ray-Ban Clubmasters.

Obviously, the sideline loudmouths deserve your judgment. Judging other parents is, in itself, an excellent sport. But one that must be done in a low-key fashion. While I wish that I could advise you to say, “Don’t pollute my kid’s mind with your nonsense, dillweed,” I must rule that out as setting a bad example. Nor can I counsel you to comment on the other parents’ behavior by using an index finger to draw an invisible circle around your temple while making a helicopter sound with your tongue and teeth.

The most correct response is to fix the other guy with a cool stare and say, “Seriously?” Then take the kid out for pizza.