Don’t Call Me Missus

I always have trouble feeling like an adult in my dealings with financial institutions. Last time I biked to the bank, I wore a suit. I also wore a suit to all of my recent DMV trips. It works wonders in situations when I feel somewhat intimidated.

It’s hard for me to complain in these interactions, because I’m so worried about offending people. Sometimes I feel like if I make a minor complaint, the whole system will come crashing down. But I’ve resolved to start complaining about a recent phenomenon.

People have started calling me “Mrs. Jones”, which is most definitely not my name.

First of all, I’m not married. I think that folks probably assume that I’m married because I sound older than I actually am. That’s not a terrible thing.

But I am annoyed by the idea of calling every married woman “Mrs.” Lastname. Even if I were married, I don’t think I’d be cool with a stranger saying “Mrs. Jones” to me. Why jump directly to “Mrs.” if you think your conversation partner is married? Do you have any clue whether that’s how she wants to be addressed? We fought for “Ms.”, dangit!

Actually, I wasn’t part of the group that introduced “Ms.” to the lexicon. That happened before I was born. So I can’t believe it’s not a moot point by now. I remember as a child being told that a woman used “Ms.” only if “she didn’t want other people to know she was divorced.” Yes. Someone (a woman!) actually said that to me. It wasn’t my mom, though! Thanks mom.

On top of all that, I recently had to fill out an order form for a JR (Japan Rail) pass, and the only options were “Miss” and “Mrs.” I didn’t use “Mrs.” because I didn’t want to lie, but I found the form ridiculous.

It’s no use kvetching about this all day, so I’ll list my possible solutions:

1) Please call me Jay. Just have the person use your first name.

2) Mrs. Jones is my mother’s name. A bit snarky, but it does the trick.

3) I’m sorry, is my name listed as Mrs. Jones? If so, I’d like to find out how to change the way it’s written in the (computer) system. This could come off as passive aggressive, and I’ve never actually said it to anyone. But it’s a surefire way to get the person’s attention.

4) Please call me Dr./Professor/Rabbi Jones. None of these apply to me, but I think that if someone knows your title then they should use it.

I do know that systems aren’t perfect. I once had a lady tell me off over the phone for calling her “Ms.” Lastname. Guess what? She goes by “Mrs.” Lastname. I was kind of surprised that she would be bothered by this, but she did have the right to complain, so I tried to go with her preference.

The other issue is the “Ma’am” thing. This debate is often centered on geography, and I’ve had a lot of folks sincerely try to explain to me that “Ma’am” is just an attempt at politeness.

Be that as it may, I’ve heard it used rudely plenty of times, and I’ve definitely started to dislike it. There’s one context in which I feel it is appropriate. If I’ve started a conversation with someone, but they don’t yet know my name. In that case, they can’t call me “Ms. Jones”, so “Ma’am” is perfectly fine.

But after that? When you know my name? No way. Please say “Ms. Jones” or say nothing.

I guess this really doesn’t have a ton to do with finance, but I do think we must demand our financial institutions treat us well. Getting a person’s name right is fairly basic. And if someone refuses to call you the name you’ve chosen, well, it might be worth taking your business elsewhere.

Don’t Call Me Missus

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