Excuse me, ma’am

I believe I’ve mentioned before how when I so much as liked a guy, I’d match my name to his last name to see how it sounded.  My high school crush and my college boyfriend had middling results.  I had a passing fancy for a guy whose last name was Kelly, and I thought ‘Caroline Kelly’ sounded like a movie star’s name.  But the best, by far, is my new last name.  (Which I’m not revealing at the moment because you know, internet anonymity, etc.  Not that many stalkers or dangerous people would have mu.ch patience for this blog, but meh).  It’s unusual and elegant sounding, and with it, I sound like a Jane Austen character.  Plus, I get to keep my CCC monogram.  CCCC if I hyphenate.

I was very much looking forward to the time when I could be Mrs. C instead of Miss C, and devoted a good deal of time fantasizing about it and crowing about my new last name to anyone who would sit still long enough to listen.

In the months leading up to my wedding, I resented filling out forms and still having to call myself Ms. or Miss, because I was so close to being a married woman.  I reflected how beautiful the word ‘wife’ is, and how I longed to be Mr and Mrs C.  Some people may think this terribly old fashioned and not at all liberated, but I do wonder how liberated I am in actual practice, despite being very women’s lib in theory (more on that later).

Now, though, people are starting to use my new last name.  It’s on my British bank card.  There’s a package of moving boxes addressed to “Mrs. C C” in my living room.  My students, who I keep in touch with, bless them, have great fun with it, addressing emails “Hi Ms–I mean, Mrs!”  Even my mother sent me something and addressed it to “Mrs. C.”  Of course I like it–I love it–but there is still a part of me that can’t quite believe that’s me.  Case in point–I was doing the calligraphy for my sister-in-law’s wedding invitations and saw “Mr and Mrs M C” on the list.  As I’d done all the invitations for that side of the family for my own wedding, I wondered who that was because I hadn’t seen the name before.  Then I realized–it was the invitation for me and my husband.

I admit, it’s a bit weird, being a Mrs.  I think because I was a Ms or Miss for so long, and, being a teacher, my last name gets used a lot.  In a way, too, it makes me feel older.  Which is silly, but it does.  ‘Miss’ is used for young girls and women, and I’ve always taken secret satisfaction in the fact that when strangers want to get my attention they mostly say “Excuse me, Miss.”  It’s a great sitcom joke when women get called “ma’am” and it makes them feel old, and I’m certainly brainwashed in that regard.  I’ve been clinging on to youth for awhile, and suddenly I’m Mrs, and with that comes a very grown up life where I’m thinking about selling and buying houses and having children.  I suppose this might have been different if I got married in my early 20’s like some of my friends, but as I got married in my early 30’s, it’s very different.

It’s not that being Mrs is bad, mind you.  It’s a wonderful feeling to be someone’s wife, and it’s so interesting to think seriously about things I thought I would never have two years ago.  It just takes some getting used to, that in taking on a new prefix, I’ve taken on a new life.

But of course, now that I’m applying for a visa and carefully reading over the application so as not to miss a single line, I note that it says the visa will be issued in the same name as my passport–i.e., my maiden name.  Despite all my ruminations on how odd it is to suddenly be Mrs, I find I very much want to be.  I wonder now if all my documentation will, depressingly, have my maiden name.

It’s funny–in principle I’m very women’s rights, and have crusaded often on the very subject, be it contemplating writing a story from the point of view of the voiceless women in Hamlet, or decrying Twilight for its treatment of women to my students.  Yet in practice, I find myself very traditional.  I always knew I would take my husband’s name, without hesitation.  Should I ever have the good fortune to be a published author, I’ll publish under my married name.  I’ve never had a moment’s scruple about it.  I know some women think that it’s a sublimation of the self to take on a married name, that suddenly your identity gets absorbed in your husband’s by becoming Mrs John Smith (or what have you).  I don’t quite see it that way.  Getting married is, to me, starting a whole new family, and that new family deserves a new name.  I want the world to know my husband and I belong together right on the very surface of it.  It’s the same reason I was very keen on my husband wearing his wedding ring.  I just hope that I get the chance to get used to it!

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