Ms., Miss, and Mrs.

I have not been able to contribute as frequently to this site. This is because I spent many hours this past week thinking about writing the short story I was assigned for class. In fact, I spent so much time thinking about writing it that I may have forgotten the due date was approaching. I may have also forgotten to, um, actually write the damn thing. Two days before the 20-page manuscript was due, I decided to stop worrying, since I always worry but everything always ends up fantastic, and I was probably going to write it all the morning it was due anyway, because–let’s face it–inspiration on the face of panic is the best kind of inspiration. So I wrote it all hours before I had to turn it in, over pretend coffee and imaginary tears and very real exasperation. (I couldn’t have very real coffee, because then I would just pretend to be a very real writer instead of really writing.) Then I told myself I would never do this again, which of course is a lie.

SO ANYWAY, Consider the Tea Cosy writes the following on her blog,

I am in the process of buying a thing online. I get to the page where I am asked to enter my details. One of the required fields is ‘Salutation’.

The available salutations are as follows: “Mr, Miss, Mrs, Dr”.

This, gentle readers, is what we call a Conundrum. I go by Ms. Always have. Unless I get myself a PhD, I always will. I have no desire whatsoever for utter strangers to call me by a name which demonstrates, primarily, whether or not I am considered by polite society to be available to fuck.

This leaves out Miss and Mrs. My marital status is none of your goddamned business unless you want to marry me. In which case you hopefully know me well enough to know my marital status already.

The only other two are Dr and Mr. Given that I identify pretty strongly as female and have (so far) an MA as opposed to a PhD, neither of these is entirely honest, either. However, I am currently in a situation where I have no choice but to pick one.

The question, therefore, is this: Do I have more respect for the institutions of education and academia, or for those of arbitrarily-defined gender?

Mister it is, then.

I used to address letters (back when I used snail mail) to my friends like this:

Miss [Name Redacted]
Universe
Observable Universe
Milky Way Galaxy
Solar System of the Sun (Our Star Should Have a Name; This Annoys Me)*
Terrestrial Inner Planets
Earth
North, Western Hemisphere
North America
United States of America
Pacific Coast
California
San Francisco Bay Area
Silicon Valley
[County Redacted]
[City Redacted]
[Rest of Address Down to House Number Redacted]

And yes, they always did receive my letters, which was very kind of the mailpeople, because I imagine they must have been entirely bored and greatly unamused with my nonsense. I could not restrain myself from doing this, because I had to be as specific as possible. I just had to be. (Also, aliens.) It’s at least better than another friend of mine, who never uses her real name when purchasing things but addresses her packages to “Sexy Hot Pants.” I’ve since lost touch with her. But I digress again. (I’m recovering from laryngitis and an ear infection and cannot focus.) I always used Miss, not because my friends and I were (are) unmarried, but because I planned to continue to use Miss for myself even after/if I married. I’ve realized since reading Aoife’s post that while using Miss would be much more defiant than using Ms. while married, it is virtually ineffective used when unmarried.

Consequently, I will be promptly switching to Ms., which is derived from Mistress just like Miss, and is therefore still awesome. Better yet, I should just adopt the title of Mistress.

Mrs. and Miss should perish into extinction from lack of usage, especially the former, whose very existence grates on my nerves.


*I was about to suggest ‘Capella’ but I see it is taken.

17 thoughts on “Ms., Miss, and Mrs.

  1. I’ve always loved the idea of going be Madame. It just has such a lovely melodramatic ring to it.

    Also I think our sun goes by Sol in Latin, so that’s probably about as close to a “real” name as it is gonna get.

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  2. I’ve actually been a bit put-off by Ms (despite the fact that I use it regularly) as I thought it was indicative of my status as a divorcee, which is also nobody’s business. However, I’m not sure that association with Ms. is as common as I thought it was.

    I’m in the habit of having things addressed as to me with ‘Consul General to the State of Insanity’ or ‘Department of Awesome, Win Division’. My friend had me address a package to her as to ‘Princess Consuela Bananahammock’. As long as the correct address is in there somewhere, Canada Post doesn’t seem to care.

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  3. I was always a Miss until I became married and gleefully embraced Ms. My great aunt and mentor was a hardcore feminist from the 1930s and was always a Ms (unmarried to the end because she could never see herself as belonging to a man – though she certainly fooled around and had her lovers). I wanted to be just like her.

    Besides, since I didn’t change my last name to the Hubby’s, there’s no way I could have been a Mrs. D. That belongs only to my mom.

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  4. I actually prefer not to be referred to by any salutation. None of the typical choices are right for me, as (1) I don’t have a degree, therefore cannot use “Dr”, (2) I am genderqueer, so neither “Mr.” nor “Ms.” works for me (though “Ms” isn’t offensive, it’s just incorrect). It’d be great to have a salutation like “Mx” to go along with “xe/xir” as a non-gendered pronoun.

    If I *must* choose a salutation, I’ll choose “Ms.” Any website that doesn’t have at least “Ms.” doesn’t get my business.

    My reaction to people calling me “Miss” really depends on context. Out in the white-bread upper-middle-class suburbs where my Dad lives (and where I grew up), being called “Miss” rankles me, because it’s being used in the context that Cosy talks about – it’s the other person’s judgment of whether they think I’m owned by a man or not, and I get very churly very fast when I’m called “Miss” in white-bread land.

    However, in the working-class neighborhoods that I live and work in, “Miss [first name]” is often used as a term of respect and friendliness, and does not imply an assumed marriage status. It gives me a little jolt of happy to be called “Miss [first name]” by someone in these neighborhoods.

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  5. I am vaguely pleased by Mx. (It’s pronounced “mix!” Best genderqueer thing ever!) but I usually use Ms. I like Ms. It reminds me of what our feminist foremothers fought for. :) It’s like a fuck-you-patriarchy in two letters and a punctuation mark!

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  6. yeah! as someone else said a ms.-less system is especially strange if you don’t take your husband’s last name. am i miss j? well, i guess not if i’m married. but i’m not mrs. j, that sounds like i’m married to my dad. ms is a necessity, and i’m shocked they didn’t have it.

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  7. Narjis

    I’ve always been a feminist, but I go by Mrs. I did change my last name to my husband’s, though he never asked me to, I just really hated my given name (sorry, Dad). I actually enjoy Mrs. for two reasons: it makes me feel like a real adult, because I always felt juvenile being called Miss, and because it feels somehow romantic/intimate. This reminds me of your other post, Nahida, about the men’s razors. My hubby and I can be a little possessive of each other, but it truly goes both ways. I want him to know how much I’m dedicated to our marriage, and I want society (especially men) to know I am unavailable. Also he has a classic Arab/Muslim last name, so I enjoy the confusion it causes in people who see that I am a “regular”-looking suburban white woman and yet….there’s something different about her? What’s with the name? Is she one of THEM?!? (evil laugh, mu hu ha ha!)

    Anyway, I totally understand why this salutation conflict exists for so many of us. It is terribly intrusive, no matter which salutation we choose. Names in general can be so personal. Don’t you hate it when you are called by your name, by someone who doesn’t know you? Comcast always does that to me on their customer service line. Ugh.

    Happy to read new posts from you again, Nahida! I missed you!

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    1. Oh, I wouldn’t want it to perish into extinction if it meant that much to anyone!

      Don’t you hate it when you are called by your name, by someone who doesn’t know you?

      Ugh, yes exactly! I have this weird excuse me?? reaction. xD

      And thanks! <3

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  8. Flint

    You should be aware the Milky Way Galaxy is in the Local Group (of Galaxies), which is itself in the Virgo Supercluster. The observable universe is a big place, if you’re going to be specific anywhere it should be at that point.

    One time a friend sent me a package addressed to ‘Lady Satine’ (as in, Satine from Moulin Rouge) to my personal college PO Box, and I almost didn’t get it because the postal worker wanted to give it to someone who presented as female. -_-

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