Miss(ed) Manners

November 15, 2007

Ask Dave! Vol. 16

Filed under: Humor — missedmanners @ 7:51 pm

Dear Dave,

My husband passed away at the age of 47 from cancer on September 17, 2007. I am wondering do I address myself now as MRS., MS., or MISS. Please advise me so I can sign my name correctly.

Thank you,

Heart Broken in Indiana

Dear Heart Broken,

First of all let me offer my sincerest condolences. I won’t sully the memory of your husband by trying to come up with anything flowery to say, I’m sure those who know you better have already done so. There is no greater loss than that of a life partner. There are certain people that if they were at once gone from my my life I would have no clue as to how to go on. The fact that you’re even able to type and contemplate questions such as the one above already makes you a more functional human being than I know how to be. So… kudos, I think?

The answer to your question is simple, really, though it may fly in the face of some commonly held societal beliefs. Far be it for me to ever say anything against the way we as a people perceive death, but the answer is that you can call yourself whatever you want.

The honorifics, “Mr.” Mrs.” “Miss” and “Ms.” are holdovers from various times in social antiquity. Master became Mister. Mistress became Misses. Miss was coined during the 17th century, some say as a way of further ostracizing the unmarried female.

Honestly, their histories and uses are pointless. They are just words. The words for females just so happen to have a built in bit of self disclosure. If I were any kind of feminist I’d say that you ought to call yourself Heart Broken in Indiana, Esq. just to poke a little fun at the patriarchy.

Popular thought on the subject since the great bra fire of that year in the 60’s I forgot, is that all women should shirk this demeaning naming ritual and just use the Ms. title, regardless of marital status.

My advice to you? Don’t listen to advice on this topic because it’s no one’s decision but your own. There are no federal laws regarding this situation. In fact, I am positive that you can call yourself whatever you want and have it protected under the first amendment. Just look at celebrities who name their kids after moods.

The only advice you should be listening to your own. If you’re more of the old fashioned school and feel that still using the Mrs. title would bring honor to the memory of your husband then do it. If you feel that using Ms. instead will help you deal with this sad time more effectively, then do that. If you feel that calling yourself Empress and joining a live action role playing club will make you smile, then grab that scepter and silk frock and head over to Chuck’s mom’s basement.

Titles are just that, titles. Just like the title of the book often has nothing with what’s inside so does the title of the person often not match the caliber or quality of the person.

Good luck, and again, I am truly sorry for your loss.


  1. My sympathies on your loss. My mother, who has been widowed for 8 years, goes by either Mrs. Dadsname Miller or Ms. Momsname Miller, depending on the circumstances, how formal she’s feeling, and whether the person or organization she’s corresponding with was more familiar with my dad or with her. The same is true for her widowed friend, whose answering machine after several years still says “Dr. Hisname Bundy’s residence.” That’s also a good way to prevent calling potentially unwanted attention to the fact that an older woman is living there alone.

    Comment by tiffanytaylor — November 15, 2007 @ 11:01 pm | Reply

  2. Again, sincerest condolences for your husband.

    Just for the record, Of Mice and Men is an awesome book. And there are several mice in it. Lennie accidentally kills them. So suck it.

    Comment by alfa9er — November 17, 2007 @ 7:38 pm | Reply

  3. I have a friend who lost her perfect-mate husband in her mid 30’s very suddenly to a viciously quick leukemia. So in the course of one month she went from happily married to devastatingly alone.

    Because the husband could be wonderfully amusingly cynical, she embraced the term “Widow Husbandslastname” amongst friends – which allowed us all to remember him as the happy smart-alecky guy he could be.

    Otherwise she used Ms. Herself. I share this to agree with Dave that the choices are for the wife to pick as pleases herself.

    Comment by conundrum — November 18, 2007 @ 2:30 pm | Reply

  4. Okay, after my friend Keith berating me for making an obscure sarcastic reference to the poem and title of “Of Mice and Men,” I took out the little blurb because he was annoying me to no end.

    Happy Keith?

    Comment by missedmanners — November 19, 2007 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

  5. you have such a big heart *hugs* for you. as a divorced woman, I now go by Ms. though it really makes no difference to me as long as I’m not referred to as Mrs. Idivorcedtheasshole.

    Comment by BluJewel — November 19, 2007 @ 9:02 pm | Reply

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