Since getting married, a lot of people have asked me if I feel “different.” I always say no. While my relationship feels a bit different, I am the same person I was before getting hitched. Yes, down to my name.
As I’ve written before, changing my name – even to a hyphenated last name – was never really an option for me. Didn’t want to do it. (So you can imagine my annoyance when I received this in the mail) I feel the same way about the ‘Ms.’ title. I’ve always used it, always will.
I’m thinking about this after reading Judy Berman at Broadsheet, who writes about how Time‘s Nancy Gibbs thinks that the “Miss, Ms. Mrs.” debate isn’t really necessary anymore.
Whether my children’s friends call me Ms. Gibbs or Mrs. May or any combination of the two, I view it as a sign of respect and don’t worry about the particulars. My husband never remotely suggested that he was bothered by my not taking his name; in fact, he’s accustomed to occasionally answering to Mr. Gibbs. My late father, a fine writer, thrilled to see that name in the pages of this magazine. All these identities are me: Ms. when I’m out slaying dragons, Mrs. when I’m in the company of those I love most, Miss when I want to stay home under the covers and daydream. Feminists a generation ago fought for the title and dreamed of Freedom and Choice and Opportunity; maybe the surest sign that they’ve won is not which title we pick, but that we can have them all at once.
But isn’t this the problem? That each title announces something specific about who we are, when the truth is every woman is more than the sum of her married or unmarried parts? Men are always ‘Mr.’, and in that way they’re always themselves. I understand the inclination to embrace all parts of yourself – but language matters, and titles that exist to categorize women by marriage don’t do women – or men! – any favors.