You: Hello, I’d like to purchase some vastly overpriced gas, please.
Person on end of phone: Certainly. Can I just take some personal details? Is it Miss, Mrs or Ms…..?
Let’s break this down. Here’s the options.
Are you a sad, lonely spinster who will die alone surrounded by cats…?
Are you normal and respectable and predictable with the faintest whiff of being about to run amok like a Stepford escapee?
Are you a ball-breaking, man-hating, angry feminist divorcee who will be eaten by feral cats…?
Ok, it’s not that bad. But I always feel a sinking sense upon hearing this and hesitate momentarily between Miss and Ms.* I’m not married, you see. I have a partner (more of this anon) with whom I have two children. I’m sure I remember reading somewhere that you weren’t supposed to use Ms unless you’d been married. Maybe this is not so.
If I was married it wouldn’t cross my mind, I expect. But I’m not, so I’m wondering why must women still define themselves by their marital status in 2014?
It’s not the case everywhere. In France, you are Mademoiselle until you reach adulthood, then you become Madame. That’s it. You also keep your surname as a matter of course. One of the questions we ask participants at Mothers Uncovered is whether their children have the same surname as them, which can bring up a surprising amount of hitherto unnoticed animosity.
Can’t we just pick one of those three terms and be done with it? Think of all the ink it would save on forms – it’s an environmental issue!
If it comes to it, do we need titles at all…? Gasp of horror from the titled establishment, who wouldn’t then receive the requisite amount of cap-doffing. Well, they can buy a catflap and be done with it.
Also, if you’re not married, what do you call your ‘significant other’? ‘Partner’ smacks of a legal or work term to me. That’s the one I generally default to, but I don’t like it. Other half, fella, geezer, bird, ‘er indoors….? Boyfriend and girlfriend are fine, but once you’re past forty seem a little inappropriate.
Suggestions on a virtual postcard please….
* I generally opt for Ms. I’m training all the nearby cats right now….