• Mon, Jul 19 2010

Are You A Ms. Or A Miss?

True story: during one of my mom’s first job interviews, the interviewer asked her which magazines she liked to read. She really liked Ms., but just as she was about to say so, she realized she had no idea how to pronounce the word (it was a new word at the time). “Ems” she said, “I like Ems.” The interviewer looked taken aback for a second, and then went through the rest of the interview each time pronouncing it “Ems.” My mother didn’t actually figure out the word’s pronunciation until she got home, but once she did, she never forgot it.

Nor, it seems, did most women in her generation. Now, there are many women who not only know how to pronounce the word, but are irritated when they’re referred to as anything else. And perhaps they have a good point.

It is odd that women’s marital status should be revealed as soon as they introduce themselves, whereas men’s isn’t. If you really wanted to know someone’s status, couldn’t you just check for wedding rings? And, given the number of people who live with  a partner without being married, marriage may not mean what it did 50 years ago. It seems a little absurd and totally unnecessary to attempt to define someone by their marital status.

Still, I like being called Miss. Probably because I like being grouped in the same catagory as Miss Marple and Miss Daisy and Miss Golightly. In popular culture Misses seem like cool, independent women, often with interesting accessories. I’m a little harder pressed to think of good Ms-es to emulate, other than Gloria Steinem. And frankly, I don’t mind advertising my single status, because I think my single status is awesome (I have disposable income and can eat a pint of phish food ice cream for dinner while watching bad girly TV, yay!) If I get married, I imagine I’ll be equally happen to openly advertise that status.

That’s certainly different from Erica Jong’s point of view , who seems to feel that Miss or Ms is fine – just as long as you don’t go by Mrs.

Personally, I’d prefer it if there was just some equivalent title for unmarried men. I’m thinking something with a sassy flourish like “garcon.” But then, maybe I just need a few more Ms-es in pop culture to convince me to switch over to the Ms. side. Which title do you go by?

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  • Julia Friedman

    I prefer “Ms.” “Miss” makes me feel like I’m eight.

  • eEv

    I’m not picky, and enjoy it when people I know call me “Miss,” but with strangers– who often haven’t gotten a good look at my left hand– I prefer “Ms.” If someone who doesn’t know me calls me Miss, it means they’re making an assumption about my age/marital status, which bugs me.

  • Eileen

    “Miss,” definitely. I hate being called “Ms.” It doesn’t offend me, and it’s how I address women older than I am or whom I don’t know very well if I don’t have another title for them, but given the choice, I’d prefer to be called “Miss.” It’s just a pleasanter word, for one thing, and as you said – I’m perfectly happy with the fact that I’m not married. It really doesn’t bother me to have people know it.

  • Jamie Peck

    I don’t post my relationship status on my facebook and I sure as hell don’t want it in my title. Ms. for life!

  • nolalola26

    I don’t know if it’s a southern thing, but I live in New Orleans and people have always said Miss _____, not “Miz.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone here say “Miz ______” to anyone. I think of “Miz” as being really old-fashioned pronunciation.

  • Wolffwoman

    I’m married but Ms. Ms. has evolved to become a masked Miss. Everyone assumes that if you’re a Mrs. you wear it as proudly as a rock on your left hand, while a Miss may want to cloud things a bit. Makes no sense to me. Ms. should be the feminine equivalent of Mr.

  • Colleen

    For some reason, I’ve always thought of Ms. as a preferred term for a middle-aged divorced woman….I don’t know why. I like being called Miss. But really, call me whatever you want, just don’t call me late for dinner…..especially if someone else is making it!

  • narelle

    “I have disposable income and can eat a pint of phish food ice cream for dinner while watching bad girly TV, yay!”

    Find the right guy and that doesn’t have to change when your title becomes Mrs! I still wander around in my pyjamas with ice cream in one hand and the remote control rewinding episodes of True Blood for an Eric ogling in the other. My fiance just sits in the other room, quite happy he doesn’t have to sit through my ‘girly tv’ (even if he secretly LOVES Sex in the City and won’t admit it)!

  • narelle

    Sex AND the City! AND! Not in. That’s an entirely different genre of TV right there…

  • Carole

    I have used Ms. since I was single, and I’ve used it for 35 years of married life. However, the little boy next door calls me Miss Carole, and that’s just fine. We all used to call my mom Miss Daisy.

  • Sugarblind

    Either is preferable to ma’am. I hate being called ma’am.