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M is for Mrs, by Kirsty
Here’s how it works:
If you’re single, you’re a Miss.
If you’re married, you’re a Mrs.
If you’re a big hairy feminist, you may be a Ms, but this is best avoided.
These are The Rules.
The great thing about The Rules is that it lets people know exactly what to expect. It’s very convenient. For example, if you introduce yourself as a Miss, then people can confidently assume that you fall within one of three categories: (A) child; (B) girl-about-town in rabid pursuit of a husband; (C) cobwebby old spinster who lives with her sister (also a Miss) and several cats.
If, on the other hand, you identify yourself as a Mrs, then you are letting it be known that you have attained the status of “wife”, to which all women aspire. Other married women can breathe a sigh of relief that you’re not trying to get your claws into their husband (see category (B) above). Single women will naturally be envious, but you can reassure them that with a bit of luck, and perhaps a bit more attention paid to their personal grooming habits, one day they too might hold that covetable title.
‘Ms’ is where things get tricky. How are people who don’t know you supposed to define you by your marital status if you don’t give them anything to go on? Etiquette dictates that married women who keep their surname should be addressed as Ms, but why would anyone want to keep their name? Divorced women might choose to be a Ms, but they probably shouldn’t go out in public because they might frighten small children, so the point is academic.
I’ve even heard of some women who choose to be referred to as Ms, despite the fact that they’re married and took their husband’s name. Being Ms when Mrs is available? Madness! Everyone knows that only men are allowed to have a maritally ambiguous title!
Of course, some people might argue that society shouldn’t define women by their marital status at all. That women – people in general, even – have a right to use whatever title feels right for them, use different titles in different contexts, or – the horror! – change their mind and their title as often as they change their big feminist Mooncups, all free from judgment.
Well. These people just obviously aren’t familiar with The Rules.