Monday, October 21, 2013

Miss or Mrs.?

"Mom," said my 7-year-old daughter while I was making her breakfast, "are you a Miss or a Mrs.?"

"Well, I guess it depends on how you look at it.  I was married to your dad and he died, so that still makes me a Mrs...."

"But you're single now so that makes you a Miss," she finished, proud of herself for figuring out this riddle.

"You can look at it that way," I said, giving her a little smile and turning back to the pancakes.

Suddenly, there was a loud noise behind me.

"MY MOM IS SINGLE!" my daughter yelled out to the empty breakfast room.  "SINGLE MOM, RIGHT HERE!"

I stood there for a second, spatula in my hand, wondering how I needed to proceed with this conversation.  And then she erupted into a fit of giggles and asked for her pancakes.

My daughter's question wasn't a new's certainly one that I've pondered myself (without that last part - I've never yelled out that I'm single as I'm waiting for my breakfast to cook).  And I know that it's something that's come up quite a bit in other online forums and discussions.  It's not even a question of the title.  It's a little broader than that.

Who are we?

For some reason, I've never gotten offended when someone calls me a "Miss."  I don't get upset when I get things in the mail that say "Ms."  And I don't insist that everyone call me "Mrs."  I didn't get irritated with it when I was married and I don't get irritated with it now that I'm a widow.

I guess it's because I think I'm all of the above.

I will always, in a way, be a Mrs.  But now, let's face it, I'm also a Miss - at least to most of the people I know.  And Ms. doesn't offend me because...well, I don't know why but it doesn't.  I guess it's because I'm part of a generation of women who heard the tail-end of the feminist argument that was so pro-Ms. many years ago. 

I guess I figured that if it was good enough for Gloria Steinem, who am I to argue with it?

But I get it.  I get both sides of the argument.  I get that it's frustrating when people start calling you "Miss" because who the hell are they to tell you that you're not married anymore?  I get the people like me who realize that, like in many instances after you lose a spouse, others just don't know what to do with you anymore and might just make a mistake.  I get that you might feel strongly one way or the other and not know why.  And I get why you've decided to go to medical school, just so you can get the title of "Dr." and not have to worry about it anymore.

I get it.


Boys have it so easy.  They don't have to change their names or change their titles, depending on life's events.  They didn't have to stand in line at the Social Security office when they got married (vowing they'll never get divorced because they don't want to go through that shit again) and their "Mr." includes single, married, divorced, or widowed.  They don't go out to their mail everyday, look at how the electric company titled their name and think, "But is that really who I am now?"

That question won't distract them from the actual bill that's sitting in their hands that they will forget to pay because they're still questioning their place in the universe.  Then their electricity won't get shut off and they won't have a complete mental breakdown when they call the electric company and politely ask to have it turned back on, only to have the customer service rep respond, "We really need to speak to your husband about your service."

Then they won't run screaming from their darkened homes because they're so tired of people saying that and then they won't get sent into a 72-hour psyche hold all the while yelling, "I just want to know - am I a Miss or a Mrs.?" only to have the staff start calling them "Ms." sending them completely over the edge.

See?  This question really is more life-altering than it originally appears.


  1. This is hilarious because I've asked myself the same questions.

    Confession time: Once I snapped at being called "Miss"--but that was due more to the circumstance than the title itself. (Regarding the first anniversary of my husband's death, the speaker complained, "But that was last year, so what's the problem this year, Miss?")

    I've written in "Widowed" where it wasn't an option on forms, too.

    1. I know that the "Miss" or "Mrs." thing hits everyone different ways - it's never really bothered me when people refer to me as Miss, but I can understand why it would bother some. I just didn't know how to answer the question! I should have told my kid what I normally do when I don't have an answer to the question:

      "Google it."

      HA! :)

      Thanks so much for your comment!