Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I Am A Lady

The Lady of Shalott painted in 1888 by John William Waterhouse
Thought Number One:  Titles

I have a new title!  Yes, it's official...well...sort of official...I am a lady.

Before I begin to try to prove my case for "ME being a lady",  let's just throw it out there,  that it is so much easier being a man as far as titles go.  For the most part the title "Mister" is one of the few titles that would be used other than a professional  designation.

Women, however, have an array of  titles that they may be called over a lifetime. Throughout the world, many titles have to do with the marital status of a woman or her level in society.   In the U.S. some of various choices have changed over the years.

For example:  There was a time that married women took on the husband's first and last name when signing legal documents. For example a woman would write Mrs. John Doe when signing a check instead of writing her own given name such as Jane Doe.  My grandmother once got a call from the bank asking her to quit signing her checks like that after my grandfather died.  She was in her 90's at the time and seemed to be annoyed  by the request.  They knew who she was after all.  The same bank didn't have a problem cashing checks that had been stolen from her  with forged signatures on them so, I am prepared to just think they are a crappy bank but back to the subject at hand.

One of the reasons, I am bringing this up today is several times over the last couple of weeks, friends of various ages have talked about the period of time when a woman is referred to as "MISS" versus when she is routinely called "MA'AM" This appears to happen in the early 30's range of age. 

Many women seem to struggle with the onset of Ma'amism. Perhaps it is the fact that ma'am is the contraction of Madame.   Madame does have a certain matronly sound to it, I guess...oh and there is  that other connotation as well?  But is that any better or worse than the title "Mrs." that is a contraction for Mistress. 

It has been long enough now, that I don't actually remember the time that I was called "Miss" more than I was/am  called  "Ma'am". I am pretty sure that when I was 23 and pushing a stroller with 2 little babies in it, even then....  more often than not I was called Ma'am over Miss. Frankly, it didn't bother me much one way or another.  In defense to those involved, it was fair to assume I wasn't a "Miss".  If they had the advantage of knowing my last name I would of been called Mrs.

Today, 30+ years later, things have changed somewhat in terms of titles.  Younger women could be called Ms. if the person addressing them was unclear about their marital status.  The word "Ms." or at least words used in the fashion of not associating a woman to be the mistress of a man has been around since the 17th century but it didn't gain popular usage in the U.S. until the 20th century.

 In 1961, Sheila Michaels attempted to put the term into use when she saw what she thought was a typographical error on the address label of a copy of News & Letters sent to her roommate. Michaels "was looking for a title for a woman who did not 'belong' to a man." She knew the separation of the now common terms Miss and Mrs. had derived from "Mistress", but one could not suggest that women use the original title with its now louche connotations. Her efforts to promote use of a new honorific were at first ignored. Around 1971, in a lull during a WBAI-radio interview with The Feminists group, Michaels suggested the use of Ms. A friend of Gloria Steinem heard the interview and suggested it as a title for her new magazine. Ms. magazine's popularity finally allowed the term to enjoy widespread usage. In February 1972, the US Government Printing Office approved using "Ms." in official government documents

Around that same time other things changed as well.  More and more women retained their own surnames or hyphenated their name with their husband's name after marriage.   Many opted to use Ms. instead of Mrs. 

Thought Number Two:   Why I Am a Lady

Typically, if I am somewhere that people have to address me and they have the advantage of seeing my name on a charge card or some form of ID, they are still in a bit of a fix as to knowing how to address me.  Judging by my age, or the fact I wear wedding rings, it would seem easy enough to call me Mrs. BUT it isn't easy because no one can figure out how to say my last name.  I, actually, admire the people that give it a try.  Few ever succeed in getting it right but they get points for trying.  Mostly there are the apprehensive about making a mistake,  though and  just say...Thanks, Cheryl or don't use any name for fear of getting it wrong.  I respect that.

Sunday, though I was at a nursery getting bags of potting soil...big bags of potting soil that were beyond my capability of lifting.  After paying for the soil, the nursery  employee, walked me out to help load them into the back of my SUV.  After loading them, he was at a crossroads on how to address me.  I should tell you he was young and of Asian ethnicity.  After looking at my confusing name on the pickup slip, he grinned ever so sweetly and said, "Have a great weekend, Lady!"

So now I have been a Miss, a Ms., a Mrs., a Ma'am, and a Lady.  I think all of those need to be listed on the next government form I fill out so that I can check the appropriate box.

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Debra She Who Seeks said...

"Lady?" I think you should upgrade to "Dame." That's the British equivalent of "Sir" for when women are knighted by the Queen. As in, for example, Dame Judy Dench or Dame Maggie Smith. Then you could also go around singing "I Enjoy Being a Dame" from whatever old musical that is from!

Kathleen Barca said...

You are so funny! I never knew that Mrs stood for Mistress, I really could have had fun with that when my husband was alive. Now the Ms I was never sure of that on so I never used it. Thank you for informing me about all of this stuff, I always get so educated on your blog.

Love and Blessings,

Cheryl P. said...

The Brits have all kinds of cool titles. I went on the Internet this morning thinking I would swipe a few choice titles off the Queen's rather monumental list of titles. Turns out that is like a full page of assorted titles. She is considered both a Lord and a Governor, among other things. I didn't want those as they sound rather masculine.

I am waiting for someone to call me "Your Highness" so I can claim that as well. Still...Dame Cheryl has a certain classy nuance to it.

Cheryl P. said...

Funny how all the female titles are linked to husbands or having/not having husbands for the most part. I never have used Ms. either. I was always fine to be Mrs. I didn't realize until I was researching for this post, that the Queen of England can be called by one of her titles such as "Your Majesty" or ma'am. If ma'am is good enough for the Queen I guess, it's good enough for me.

Have a great day, AngelBaby!
I will be over to visit your blog in a bit.

meleahrebeccah said...

"When a woman is referred to as "MISS" versus when she is routinely called "MA'AM" This appears to happen in the early 30's range of age. "

I will NEVER forget the day someone called me Ma'am for the 1st time, I could have died right then and there. I prefer MISS!

And now, I am hysterical laughing at the way the young man addressed you after loading up your SUV.

PS: Speaking of no one being able to pronounce your last name, that's basically my whole life with my first name. It's pronounced MA-LEEEEE-YAH. Sadly not too many people say it properly and I have spent my life correcting people.

Cheryl P. said...

You definitely still look like a Miss. I on the other hand really did look like a ma'am in my 20's...not old but more matronly..if that makes sense.

No one can say my name right but I am so used to it, that I answer to about any word that starts with P. I don't bother to correct them because no one will remember it anyway. Too unusual.

I am surprised that people don't get Meleah right.

meleahrebeccah said...

Aw. Thank you for your lovely compliment. Good thing for instagram filters and airbrushing!

Just Keepin' It Real Folks said...

When we first moved to this southern town I was so offended being called Ma'am 'cause it made me feel so old. I would rather be called bitch than Ma'am 'cause at least there's some truth behind the title. A term of endearment if you will.

Riot Kitty said...

I love it! When we were little, my brother and I laughed our asses off when a piece of mail came to "Mrs." followed by my dad's name. We couldn't believe anyone would make such an anatomical mistake.

I still get annoyed because I kept my own name and people assume otherwise...although Mr. RK has been referred to as Mr. Madison (my last name) more than once, which makes him laugh.

As for Miss vs. Ma'm, I have lived in the south, where anyone over the age of 15 was called ma'm, so I have to say I grew up hearing that...but think I prefer miss. To delude myself, anyway.

Although I'll go for "lady" anytime. Although it's usually, "Hey, lady!"

Chubby Chatterbox said...

My wife is a bit irrational in her disapproval of being called ma'am. Frankly, I don't get it. I've been called much worse.

Wendy said...

Well, kinda depends on the use of 'lady'. Most often I hear it said in the sense of - look lady, we just don't have any in stock;or lady, you better move your car, now! Well, it doesn't seem like those uses of 'lady' are very ladylike, hum? I too have been a Mrs for so long, but looked so young, people called me Miss, even with the kids tagalongs. They thought I was babysitting. I find it only slightly annoying that so many titles have to do with the marital status of a woman or her level in society. I take that back, why is so much based on whether a woman is married or not? As for Ma'am. I too remember the first time I was called that, and I knew in that moment, I was officially no longer young. However, I will take Ma'am any day over being called, by another woman, "dear' . As in, "we'll get that to you in the mail right away,dear". Sigh...I rather think Crabby Pants has came to visit with me today.

Trina said...

I just got Ma'amed at the store. I caught myself thinking "Really, am I that old?" It is a tough realization for me, but yep... I'm a Ma'am...

Kimberly Wyatt said...

I've gotten "Ma'am" before, and I'm in my mid-20s. I get "Girl" from time to time, too. My parents sponsor a little boy in the Philippines, and when he writes them letters, he addresses them to "Sir Paul and Madam Mary." When they were sponsoring a different child (he was my age, so they had to stop when he reached adulthood), he would include us in the letters. My favorite was my brother: "Master Adam."

Cheryl P. said...

I grew up in the south and knew that at some point everyone is a either a ma'am or a sir and it isn't necessarily older people, so I never took offense when I got called ma'am. I guess I would of been offended if they had they called me sir. I think being called a bitch in today's world might not be considered a bad thing. Usually smart, assertive women get labeled as bitches. I would also, take into account who was doing the name calling. Not much would hurt my feelings if I felt the name caller was an idiot.

Cheryl P. said...

That is funny that the Mrs. was attached to your dad's name. I have gotten crazy spellings on my junk mail but I have never noticed gender related titles mixed up.

I am rather surprised in this day and age that people assume that a couple share a common name. I think that's great that your husband laughs. There are probably guys out there that would be irritated which would be a waste of effort.

I too, grew up ( at least a good portion) in the south and got used to every woman that looked at all like an adult being called ma'am, so I never took offense. I can understand if someone comes from a region where it isn't common they might not be so comfortable with the word ma'am.

You make a great point, RK, while I don't take offense, I would of loved being called Miss for as long as possible. Who doesn't want to appear young. I would of kissed someone on the mouth had they asked for my ID to get into a bar, after I turned 30. It never happened...or at least not that I recall.

Cheryl P. said...

I guess, I would rather be called ma'am at this age as opposed to Miss. Miss would imply that I am not married...which would mean I got knocked up a couple of times and still no one would commit to me. In some western European countries ma'am denotes royal status as well. So perhaps I should consider myself royalty.

I agree that there are worse things to be called,

Cheryl P. said...

I love your comment. I thought the same thing about the word lady...it is often used with some serious "toneage" involved. Funny really when you think about the actual history of the word was often to describe status, superior social position, or gentility. Loses something when someone says "Ya lady, I am talking to you!".

I didn't look overly young when I was young but I have aged well...well enough anyway. I don't look my current age but it still would be very much in the ma'am category.

As I was reading all the articles researching what I was going to say in my post, I found it interesting how the titles that indicate our marital status have remained in play for woman but not for men. I don't mind being called Mrs. at all.... But at my husbands age, whether he is married or not, he would still check the Mr. box on a government form.

Being called dear...I have never thought about it. I guess if it was said in a condescending tone it would irritate me. I rarely, if ever, get called dear by women...oops that probably says a lot about my lack of endearing qualities.

Cheryl P. said...

I find that hard to believe that someone would call you ma'am. I have seen your picture and you don't live in the South where ma'am is used pretty freely. You might want to suggest to the person that called you ma'am that they perhaps have glaucoma.

Cheryl P. said...

I think you and I are probably about the same age so...I have to agree that to a 20 year old we are old. Hey but the good news is...to a 85 year old we are VERY, VERY young. I think the trick is to hang around as many really old people as you can.

Jo-Anne said...

I went from Miss to Mrs but always thought it was stupid to for a woman to be Mrs John Smith instead of Mrs Jo Smith what way wrong with her own name it was as if a woman stopped being a indivitual after she got married...........as for being a lady I remember the first time some little kid called me a lady it felt odd................now I am of course use to the term

Cheryl P. said...

Surely, any ma'ams you get are a result of the Southern preponderance of saying "yes ma'am" You being called Girl or Miss would make far more sense.

Regional differences are interesting. Sounds like the boy from the Phillipines also, used Sir and Ma'am as a sign of status.

I remember as a kid, if mail came to the house for my brother it would of said Master as a title as well. That seems odd today but the correct way to fill out a mailed envelope back then would of had a title for whatever name it was going to... Master, Miss, Mr. or Mrs.

Cheryl P. said...

Thank goodness, most woman are using their own first name now. (for that matter a lot are keeping their last name as well) I think only using your husbands name would be confusing. What happens if Mrs. John Smith gets a divorce and John Smith remarries? Then aren't there two Mrs. John Smiths. Most women with children keep their married names.

This could get complicated, Jo-Anne.

I am pretty OK with whatever someone refers to me as as long as they aren't being mean or insulting.

oldereyes said...

Well, I've officially been a "Sir" for about five years now, which is, I think in most cases a term of respect. Fortunately, I haven't yet been called, "Coot." By the way, I LOVE The Lady of Shalot.


Brenda said...

That's really funny Cheryl. My husband still pronounces your last name "Perez"! I have corrected him many times, but now when he says it, I am beginning to believe him...LOL.! Frankly, I love it when addressed as Mrs. Ma'am, Ms....but when addressed as hon, darlin, honey, baby, sweety, and other such terms of endearment by those barely out of grade school, I get a litle warm under the colar!!

Cheryl P. said...

In your case, of course, it would be a term of respect.

I wonder what the female equivalent of "coot" is. Maybe I should prepare myself for the time that it gets directed my way.

I hadn't ever seen the painting, that I recall...until I was researching the word "lady". She does look like a lady. Turns out there are 3 Lady Shalott paintings to describe parts of Tennyson's poem.

And down the river's dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance
With glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott

Cheryl P. said...

Yes, a lot of times when people try to pronounce our name it ends up as Perez. Doesn't bother me in the slightest. You-know-who feels the need to correct them.

Others people that get it wrong are thinking the ee is pronounced as a long A.

It's just a hard name with too many e's and that z throws them off.

I am with you...I never take offense at Ma'am, or Mrs.....even Ms. is fine...although hardly ever hear that one applied to me. There is a certain discomfort that comes with being called hon, sweety, and such endearments by strangers. That seems to be picking up steam with severs in restaurants these days. Being called hon by someone young feels esp. insincere.

AletaObrien said...

Aww, I like the idea of being called "Lady." I think that's sweeter than the other forms :) I don't mind how someone calls me Mrs. Ma'am. But then, about 70 percent of the time, people don't pronounce my first name correctly any way. I answer to anything that starts with "ahhhh" Lol

Cheryl P. said...

You and I have that in common. I don't care what title someone calls me as long as they aren't purposefully trying to offend me. Mrs. Ms. Ma'am,...whatever. It is interesting though that our marriage and whether we are a mother weighs into how people title us. At some point, no one will know your name...everyone is going to refer to you as Gregory's mom.....at least for a while when all his little friends are hanging out at your house.

lisleman said...

All the titles in your list sound fine to me. I started to enjoy being called sir while in the Air Force. I hate being called late for dinner and other things like SOB etc.

Cheryl P. said...

Who can find fault with a title that is respectful. I agree it's the names that one could be called that aren't respectful that are hard to bear. I can't be called an SOB but I could be called a B.

Bodaciousboomer said...

Well as usual here you go with your deep observations...down here most everybody usually calls a woman "Miss" unless they know different.

Sorry I haven't been around much. Hope all has been well with you. We've been ensconced in our own little world again.

Robyn Engel said...

I use "Ms." and kind of like it. I don't like folks calling me "Ma'am." I've been called worse, but "ma'am" makes me feel ancient.

I'd taken my (ex) husband's name when we married. That meant a lot, but not nearly as much as getting my maiden name back did. I also got to drop an "f" word - in more ways than one. It's interesting how names/titles can hold so much significance.


Cheryl P. said...

I know you are busy and I continually admire your ingenuity. I think your flowers are genius as well as pretty.

That's interesting about the use of Miss in your area. I never noticed it's use in Dallas. In Arkansas, though a lot of women were called Miss placed in front of their first name. For example ,my 2nd grade teacher was Miss Marry,

Cheryl P. said...

When I was typing up that post, I got off on a tangent about changing titles such as in the case of a divorce...but then it was getting complicated so I deleted it. I totally, appreciate why you would of gone running back and gleefully embracing your maiden name if you were dropping the "f" you were married to.

Really, Ms. makes sense...I use Mrs. but then why does anyone need to know if I am married or not....or why would they care???

babs (beetle) said...

As teenagers, we were always called a 'girls' and one day a little girl, on the train, was swinging her feet and her mother said "Mind you don't kick that lady". I never felt so old! I was only 18 or 19 and to be called a lady made me feel ancient.

Cheryl P. said...

Surely, she didn't really look at you and see that you were a teenager. Yikes, that would sting to be referred to as a lady at that age. The only thing worse if she would of said, Excuse us ma'am. Although, in the UK the word lady can be a royal title...let's go with the idea she thought you were royalty.

abeerfortheshower said...

The first time someone called me "sir" and wasn't being facetious I realized I had entered the uncontrollable spiral into old age.

babs (beetle) said...

Maybe she didn't want to insult me by calling me a girl. We tried so hard to look like adults and the only thing we could be called was 'young ladies', which was such an old fashioned term. It was just a jolt to be called a lady for the first time.

Cheryl P. said...

I am dying over here!!! You aren't old!!!! You haven't gotten even close to the threshhold of old age. I probably wouldn't even consider your parents old. Well unless your parents really are old then I guess I would.

Cheryl P. said...

Yah, it's just the first time that is a shock. The same goes for the word lady..when someone yells or has tonage using the term, you realize they don't mean in as a term of respect.

I suspect in Walnut Ridge, Ark. the bank doesn't micro encode checks yet. The tellers are probably in their 80s. The "new" Walmart there looks old.

Bodaciousboomer said...

Dallas folk are in their own little world young one. That's probably why you never noticed it. Dallas and Houston are like oil and water.

Nicky said...

See, that's the thing with living in Montreal - we use Madame (usually over 30) or Mademoiselle (usually under 30) and it doesn't sound pretentious. :-)

Cheryl P. said...

Everythings sounds beautiful when spoken in French. Well, unless it is me speaking because I suck at it. (my former French teacher would concur)
It should be rather cut and dry here as well between the "miss" and "ma'am" controversy but Americans are hung up on ageing. I have a 58 year old friend who has been telling us all for several years she is so thankful how well she is ageing, when in fact she looks 70. If someone called her ma'am she would lose her mind. Frankly, if the word dowager was still in fashion she probably would hear that....well technically only if her hubby were to die...which he won't because he is 60 and looks 40. Life is not fair.