Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ms Big Deal

We got an invitation in the mail this weekend to the college graduation of one of Monkey Man's cousins. It was addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Monkey Man and Family. Where do I start with how many ways this offends me?

If this had come from someone of an older generation or from someone who didn't really know me, I would have just rolled my eyes and moved on. But this particular young woman is 10 years younger than me, and I was a bridesmaid in her wedding.

First, those of you who know me personally will know that I did not legally take the name Man, prefering to keep my own. But I don't mind all the mail I get addressed to Passing Man. I understand that some people don't get the whole idea of a woman keeping her last name (I mean really, the audacity of these women - it's a miracle they manage to find someone to marry them at all!). I've gotten used to the looks of utter confusion when I explain to someone that my legal name is different and usually just tell people I was too lazy to do the paperwork. I realize it hurts the cause, but I'm just too tired to explain it some days.

And I'm far from crazy about the title "Mrs." Yes, yes, yes, this is from family and of course they know we're married so being addressed in a marital-status-neutral way isn't important, blah, blah, blah. But don't you think, just maybe, a woman who chooses to keep her last name might prefer being addressed as "Ms"?

But of course it's not just the "Mrs" and the "Man". Rather it's the combination of those two plus not even getting the courtesy of my own damn first name. Go ahead, lump me into a category of crazy, angry feminist. Laugh and roll your eyes and dismiss my consternation as just being too uptight. Then start addressing all the men in your life as "Mr. Wife Wife-Surname". The first time, most of them will think it's sort of cute and funny. Keep doing it. Great fun for all of us angry, ugly feminists! Apparently it's only-a-little-thing-not-really-important to people who are only-a-little-thing-not-really-important.

Oh, but the story gets better. The return address label? It was her first name (with her married name). Now why the hell does she get to be Wife Married-Name while I'm Mrs. Husband Married-Name? Arg! At least if her address label had her listed as Mrs. Husband Married-Name I could grumble about her just needing to join the 21st century.

While I know this might come as a terrible shock, it turns out that this issue isn't just about me. The first woman I heard voice a desire to be addressed by her own name was my mother. A woman who came of age before second wave feminism and who was too busy raising a family to participate. A woman who cooked and cleaned and sewed and always baked birthday cakes from scratch. But also a woman who made her own money and demanded that her daughter get an education and be able to take care of herself. The only thing she asked in return was the luxury of being addressed by her own name.

So I think of her when I look at this envelope. You're right, it's just an envelope. Just one invitation. Just a few silly words dictated by tradition. No big deal.

Well it is a big deal to a woman who deserves so much more than such a little thing, and so it's a big deal to me.

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