Thursday, December 22, 2005

Call Me Mrs.

As Sean mentioned, there is a great article in the latest Gilbert (Oct/Nov) by Lorraine Murray (a new author for Gilbert and most welcome!) on her desire to be called "Mrs." and not "Ms."

I wholeheartedly agree with her.

And I found, over the years since I threw off my earlier forms of "Advanced Right-Wing Feminism" that the title "Mrs." is often missing as a choice when I fill out forms. So, I rather boldly write it in for myself. I will not be called "Ms." for whatever Miz is, I am probably not.

Often times, when I meet new children, I am confronted with the question, "What is your name?" and I have answered it the same ever since the first day I was married. "Mrs. Brown."

Occasionally, I will have a child who looks at me in disbelief, and asks, "But what is your real name?"
To which I firmly answer that that is, indeed my real name.

I find that the use of the title Mrs. goes along with a certain respect entitled to a grown, married woman. A level of respect which is not conveyed if a child calls me "Nancy" which I do not allow. In fact, there are probably quite a few young people out there who do not even know my first name, they so seldom hear it. Which is fine.

And, in the same way, I do not allow my children to call other adults anything other than their title, Mr. This or Mrs. That.

Even if the other adult says, "Oh, they can just call me Alice," I still don't allow it. The adults are sometimes offended, but I feel strongly that I am teaching my children an important lesson, and perhaps the adult needs a lesson in formality, too.

However, I have often wondered if this is right. I don't wish to offend the adults who hate hearing themselves referred to as "their mother-in-law's name" which one woman told me it sounded like to her.

So, for this discussion, let's just talk about the use of titles. Is it important to you? Do you introduce yourself to children (if you are an adult) as "Mr. Smith" or "Mrs. Jones"? Why or why not? Should I allow my children to call other adults my their first names if the adults insist on it?


  1. I prefer to be Mrs. C too, and that is the way I introduce myself to kids. However, if I know that another parent/adult asks my kids to call them by their first name, I allow it. Deferring to that preference is another way for them to honor their elders. I do make sure they know *my* preference and just as importantly *why* the Mrs. title is respectful.

  2. I agree that one should defer to the other parent's preference; after all, how would you like it if the other parent insisted that her child call you Nancy, no matter what you demand?

    I'm curious what you think of the "Mrs. First-name" construction, which is often used with pre-school-aged children who may find it hard to pronounce some last names. Is it sufficiently formal? (Personally, I don't like it, but only because it sounds awkward to me.)

  3. I agree with the importance of titles, especially by children, but I continue to be bemused over the animosity some hold toward "Ms." I've seen traditional Christian web sites that don't offer the option of "Ms."

    While I think "Mrs." is great for social life, in business life I don't think it should be of professional concern whether or not I'm married. And since I happen to be a thirtyish single person, I loathe "Miss" in both business and social life because it announces to one and all that I am unmarried.

    Call me "Ms." If I marry, then you can call me "Mrs." if inviting me to a social event. In business life, it's still "Ms."

  4. I just have one question. If a married woman prefers to be called "Mrs.," nobody blinks an eye, but they get all bent out of shape if a single woman prefers to be called "Miss," the traditional title for a single woman. I have actually had to threaten a few organizations to stop accepting their mail if they didn't stop calling me "Ms." I tell them, "There is no 'Ms. X' here, although there is a "Miss X.'"
    As for why I have such an animosity toward the title "Ms.," I couldn't tell you. All I know is, it makes my hair stand up and always has, since they day it was introduced.

  5. Anon said:
    If a married woman prefers to be called "Mrs.," nobody blinks an eye, but they get all bent out of shape if a single woman prefers to be called "Miss,"

    I think we all have our own perspective. Because I am a Mrs and have been for 17 years, I find that people DO blink an eye when I say that as my preference, I get the feeling they think I'm being quaint and old fashioned, and treat it as "cute" more than anything else. So, I think we are really both in the same boat.

    Shaun: You make a good point. And I think you are right. Turning it around like that, I can see that although my preference is to teach my children respect, I'm not being respectful if the adult prefers to be referred to in another way. Thanks.

    Also, I think the "Mrs. First-Name" construction is silly. Children can learn, no matter what the name is, how to pronounce it, and even if they can't say "Mrs. Schellhammer" they will say something close to it. I think people continually expect less from children than children can give. I recently heard an audio program for children (Cat Chat) which I generally really liked, but the dad is teaching a class and his name is Mr. Miller. How hard is that? Easy, right? But then he says, "but you can call me Mr. 'M'" and all I could think was, "Come on!" Miller is like Smith is like Brown! We're not saying Mr. Muencherhousenstern. We're saying Miller. It's as if adults don't think kids can handle the simplest things. And I think they can, so I think, even at the preschool level, adults can be called by their title and last names.

    Mia: I think it all depends on if you want to be married one day. If you do, wouldn't you want the world to know you are single, and not assume based on your age, that you were already married? Single men might pass you by if they can't identify if you are married or not.

    On the other hand, if you are called to the single life, what is the matter with people knowing that you are single? I guess I don't really see why it is a problem, even in the business world. Maybe the problem isn't so much with the title, but with what it means. I have a lady friend, about 75, who is "Miss White" and she's been single all her life. When I first met her, I accidentally assumed she was "Mrs." She corrected me, and that was that.

  6. I prefer Mrs. because I saw that with my parents as a respectful title, but I don't insist on if someone is uncomfortable (though I still tend to refer to them as Mr. or Mrs. with the kids - it's my habit - and they generally pick it up)

    We do abbreviations sometimes. Often in our homeschool co-op Mrs. Van Hecke is Mrs. VH and Mrs. Zelinski is Mrs. Z - a little easier to say, true, but also more convenient in conversation sometimes. Often it is the littlest ones who insist on saying the full name. :)

  7. The problem is the people who introduced "Ms." went about it backward. They took a useful way of telling a woman's marital status, when what they should have been doing was inventing a title to indicate the marital status of men.

  8. I know that growing up during the '90s, I was always uncomfortable and uncertain when addressing friend's parents because I never knew how I should address them because of this social ambiguity. To me, she was really just "Sally's mom," my mom called her Debbie, but should I call her Mrs. Rocks? When possible, I avoided addressing adults by their name while I was young.

    Also, I think it's an interesting point made by Narwen. However, the emphasis of the last half century has been the "liberation" of women. Society today would not favor any person's marital status, male or female, to be published in their title. Really, a person's marital status doesn't mean as much these days since the meaning and importance placed upon marriage has largely, and wrongly, been left behind by society.

  9. The encroachment of Ms into even conservative Christian schools, a matter of the last year or so, bothers me. I'm old enough to remember the radical man-hating gynofacists comimg up with the unpronouncable term in order to attack the covenant of marriage by disguising their marital status.

    To this day I associate the term with radical anti-Christian feminism and a rebellion against the concept of marital fidelity.

    I assume that they are "divorced" and are looking to commit adultery against their husband, or wish that they could. If they were single, they would use the perfectly honorable 'Miss', and if they were not ashamed of their husbands, they would use Mrs.

  10. Narwen, I quite agree, though I haven't got a notion of what the term should be. Especially when I -do- hold a Master's degree. The old Goodman doesn't cut it, because I am a magister divinitatis - thus the only academic status that can be righly called Mr., but what -should- we use?

  11. I wish to be addressed by all people, including children, as Louise.

    It is how I wish to be addressed. If other people wish to be addressed as Mrs/Mr... then that is how I and my children will address them.

    How am I being "respected" by other people addressing me in a way I don't wish to be? Is this the appearance of respect rather than respect itself?

  12. As a child, I found Mr and Mrs too formal for friends of our family, or for the parents of friends, although I felt happy to call teachers and neighbours by that name.

    I like the old-fashioned way of calling them all aunty and uncle, even if they're not blood relations, because they are actually acting that sort of role. My children have many such aunties and uncles, and the titles honour that close, family relationship.

  13. Don't know why my post above came out as Anonymous - it was me, Caridwen!

  14. Louise:
    You said:
    I wish to be addressed by all people, including children, as Louise.

    Just curious.
    Do your own children call you Louise?

  15. I introduce myself as "Nicholas Milne, the remarkable man."

    I don't feel I've earned the "Mr." yet, but I'm no run-of-the-mill pleb either. Something had to be done.

  16. LOL!

    I *forgot* that my kids call me Mummy!

    Everyone else calls me Louise. (Or Lou, if they're close friends).

    Caridwen, I always like Aunty/Uncle for those adults we were very close to, but who were not actually relatives.

    I quite like being called Aunty Louise.

    Have to finish putting presents under the tree now - Merry Christmas everyone!

  17. I absolutely believe children should call adults Mr. This or Mrs. That, even if they are family friends. I call for a return to degrees of politeness, formality and respect.

    And to call a parent by a first name is even more disrespectful.

  18. Greetings to Sailor, and it's great to see so many commenting on the ACS blog. Is there any way to find out how many hits we're getting?

    (for the record, I'v always hated "Ms."

  19. I am a 25-year-old young woman who is single. I am not a part of the feminist movement. I do hope to be married at some point---if and when God so wills it.

    I also am well aware of the times in which I live. These times, whether any of us like it or not, are not any too friendly or even necessarily safe for a well-proclaimed single woman.

    The title "Miss" is one such rather obvious proclamation of singleness. Thus I choose to use "Ms."

    Another reason, given the culture we live in, for why I prefer "Ms." is that while I do indeed hope to marry if and when God wills, I do not want to marry just anyone. I want to marry the man God would have me to marry---an eventuality which I firmly do NOT believe will be impeded by any ambiguity in my marital status.

    Also, and perhaps more pertinently in terms of day-to-day relations, there are rather many men whose attentions (if I am well known to be single) I decidedly do NOT want.

    In short, there is a certain status one has and there are certain ways in which one is treated differently as a single young woman in this culture. I do not welcome that status or those differences of treatment. So, until I am married, please call me "Ms."

  20. A hit counter has been added, my dear sir.

    Ms. Anonymous.
    You are free to have people refer to you however you please.

    But do keep in mind that there are also negative connotations to the word "Ms." And some of the best people have those negative connotations. Including, possibly, your future husband.

    I rarely hear "Ms." pronounced out loud. It seems to me it is more of a written thing.

    "Would you care for more tea, Miss Anonymous?" has a nice ring, it's polite and respectful.

    "Would you care for more tea, Ms. Anonymous?" sounds, well, like we should really be asking Ms Anonymous when the next board meeting is, or if she has custody of the children this weekend.

    Perhaps "Ms." is more of a written thing, do you think?

  21. I have to ask: are married (or possibly married) women really protected somehow from men who would make advances? Do these men really refrain from making moves by the title "Mrs." or even "Ms." ? Do they refrain from giving their "attentions" to a woman whom they aren't sure is married or not?

    It seems to me like, in the culture we live in, no woman is safe from the wrong kind of attention from men.

    But it also seems to me that if a woman is proud and desires respect, and calls herself "Miss Smith", that she would stand out in a crowd as someone who knows who she is.

    So, stand tall. Be proud of your title, whether it be Miss or Mrs. The "times" do not dictate what you should be called. Each person can make up their own mind to bow to the culture, or take a stand against it. It seems to me that insisting on being called 'Miss' and 'Mrs.' may be taking a stand.

  22. Some of the men I've known through the years "hit on" women BECAUSE they're married. Food for thought.

  23. Hi Mrs. Brown,

    Haven't received the publication yet- haven't been home so actually may have in the past few days but wouldn't know it :)

    Personally I do not care for the militant origin of 'Ms.' but think it is a good idea otherwise. Insisting someone call you 'Mrs.' is also a matter of preference, altho I doubt anyone would insist their own children call them Mrs.- but you never know.

    Some people do prefer being called by their first name- had one of my school teachers sit behind me in choir & he insisted I call him by his first name- which took getting used to. Then their is our sweet elderly neighbor who overheard me referring to her as 'Mrs.'... I had to talk fast to explain that that is how I refer to her to the kids, but that is actually what I do call her, behind her back.

    When someone calls me by my first name, or Ms. or otherwise, it doesn't bother me. Had a neighbor who would ignore any child who called her by her first name.

    Hmmm- Chestertonian's remarks were interesting- have met women over the years who hit on only married men, and are very grateful to the other that is actually doing his laundry.

  24. Children are naturally social.
    Nothing wrong with giving your
    given name and then saying you
    prefer Mrs. so and so.

    They don't care if you are married
    or not, but they do know what Mrs.
    means at an early age.

  25. My wife likes her grandchildren to call her Christina for some reason I don't quite understand - she thinks that the title grandma might cause our grandchildren to confuse her with her own mother, who is called grandma by our children ... or something like that.

    This gives rise to some interesting situations, such as when my daughter mentioned to a friend that "Granddad and Christina will baby-sit the children when we come to dinner." To which the friend replied, "Oh, has your father got a new partner?"


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