Thursday, May 18, 2006

paging emily post.

ok, here's a capital 'E' Etiquette question (because i know you all read miss manners like it's your job, right).

if a woman gets married and takes her husbands last name, can she then request mail as "mr. and ms. john smith?" or does she have to go by "mrs." if she's requesting the "mr. and mrs. man" model? because i know the point of "ms." is to have a term that doesn't designate a woman as married or unmarried, and i imagine she could get away with being referred to singularly as "ms. smith" or even" mr. and ms. smith." but with the full husband's name, i don't think "ms. john smith" makes sense. or does it?

either way, i have definitely overthought this. and in practice, i couldn't give a flying fuck what prefix a woman uses. but the theoretical side of me is screaming, "figure it out!," which is drowning out all rational prioritization of ideas in my mind at the moment. so humor me.

14 comments:

Toast said...

If "Mr." can be used in that structure, why not "Ms."? But, more importantly, do real humans actually still use the "Mr. & Mrs. Man" format?

Cinnamon said...

Ms. completley replaces Miss and Mrs. So everyplace that you would use a Mr. if you were referring to a man, you would a Ms. At least that's my understanding.

And while I think that Ms. John Smith is radical, I think a Mr. Jane Golightly is even better.

That said, my name ain't changing for nobody, not one, not no how. I don't care how much I love him. Thankfully Andrew is okay with this. I think I mentioned that to him before we even started dating.

He told me that everytime he'd had a girlfriend he'd see how her first name sounded with his last name. I snorted and asked if his girlfriends ever did the same. "Of course not," he said. "You've been dating the wrong people then," I said. His eyes got wide, and that's when I think I had him.

kate.d. said...

so cinn, then mr. and ms. john smith is technically correct? you're an editor, i trust you :)

and yeah, i'm not changing my name either. regardless, the Great Name Debate will rage on...

toast, this is an example i ran into on a mailing list this very day. whether they are real humans or not is up for debate.

Mike said...

Well, as someone with no authority on the subject, I think it is acceptable to use Mr. and Ms. John Smith. I actually think that it is a nice mix of the formal, which is the only time I ever see the Mr. and Mrs. John Smith format, and the revolutionary, like, I'm not just a part of my husband. I mean, clearly the Ms. in question is a Mrs., but I think it's a nice statement. Then again, what do I know?
If ever I get married, I would take his name in an instant, but only if it was a good one. No other reason.

kate.d. said...

mike, good point, but i wonder when "nice mix" turns into "contradictory," you know? because part of me feels like the idea of "ms." and the idea of "mr and mrs. man" just should never attempt to co-mingle. like ammonia and bleach, or something.

i dunno. why am i still wondering about this?? anything to distract myself from this job, apparently...

LaMuerta said...

I am completely ignorant as regards the etiquette question, but my viewpoint on taking a man's name when one marries is very contrary to that of most feminists.

He was fine with whatever I wanted to do, but took my husband's name because I like it. I like his family. I like the way my first name sounded with his last. BUT those were just added bonuses.

What really motivated me was the realization that my "maiden" name (which is a term that irks me mightily) was my FATHER'S name. I had absolutely no choice as regards my surname -- it was a man's name that was forced upon me, in our best patriarchal society's tradition, at birth (or adoption, in my case, but I was a baby, so whatever).

Taking my husband's name was MY choice. I did it because it's what I wanted to do. And choice is a big part of what feminism means to me.

I guess I just don't understand why hanging on to one man's name is any more liberated than taking another's.

Heather said...

It's proper to use, but it's difficult getting others to use it for you. I prefer using Ms. (but I rarely use formal address regardless so it's mostly irrelevant).

My biggest regret is taking my husband's name. I didn't think it was a big deal, and I'd had some conflicts with my family so it seemed like a good idea to take his name. But I neglected to consider that it wasn't just the name of my family, it was part of my identity. I had spent 25 years identifying myself with that name. It was also a connection to my family history. I might have conflicts with my immediate family, but my background has always been important to me, and I'm sad that I've lost that.
Steve wouldn't mind if I changed back, but I think that would send some very strong and wrong messages about our relationship, as well as being unduly complicated. So I'll cope. But I would definitely advise other women to think pretty carefully about it.

educand said...

Hmm.. I had thought somewhere in my head that if you used "Ms.," you couldn't combine the names like that. In other words, I had thought it should be "Mr. John Smith and Ms. Jane Smith" instead of "Mr. and Ms. John Smith." Which, really, that preserves more of Ms. Smith's identity; sort of preferable from a feminist standpoint, I think. I'd have to go look it up to know for sure, though.

momcat said...

ok...if I understand the history correctly.."Mrs." was the abbreviation for "mistress of"...hence the use of the male name..the meaning being... Mr. John Smith and his mistress(otherwise known as his "possession"). Hence..if Ms. is the term being used..it should read..Mr. John Smith and Ms. Jane Smith or just plain old.. Jane and John Smith.
Now if we want to make the sociological jump to equality (without the "dreaded sociological chaos") that no name changing might cause...logic says..if we create a legal partnership, i.e. marriage...the partners becomes Jane and John Smith-Doe , hyphenating the two last names..hence the legal partnership. Now...female offspring, should there be any, take the mother's surname and male offspring, likewise if there be any, take the male's surname.

Equality, order, no chaos or confusion....so what's the big deal? Other than getting one male, somewhere, to be willing to change his last name and concede the naming of his female offspring..... any takers?

kate.d. said...

ah, but MomCat, whose name gets to go first in the hyphenate? the power struggle continues... :)

Momcat said...

Ahhh.. make it easy..the alphabetical first goes first in the hyphenate..so it becomes Doe-Smith:)


Don't look for the power struggle to end soon..but at least now there is dialogue..that's movement in the right direction:)

karen gsteiger said...

This is just one of the *many* reasons that I just kept my own name, with no hyphenation. (I'm not opposed to other people changing their names, btw. Everyone gets to do their own thing in my book.)

It was a controversial choice at the time, but I can tell you with 100% certainty that you make your choices at the time of your wedding, and someone somewhere will try to make a big stink about it no matter what you do, and then after you're married, no one will care ever again. I promise.

Amy said...

I LOVE laMuerta's answer. Wow..now THAT is powerful :)

And as far as experience. I SO wish I hadn't taken Jeff's name. I mean...his last name is DRUZBA...god...try getting RID of that name..the kids think its cool...all that shit. However, my biggest regret is that Isabelle doesn't have both of our names....it almost robs me....

Mike said...

Who says you can't learn from HBO? I learned watching Big Love that in polygamist cultures, the children always take the mothers last name, regardless of gender. I'm not sure if this is because in all but the first wife, the couples are not legally married, and therefore the other "Sister Wives" do not have the husband's last name, or if it just makes it easier to figure out who belongs to who. Actually, now that I think of it, I believe the children of the first wife do take the father's name, so I assume it has something to do with legality.
I just thought that was intersting.