What's in an honorific?
I'm not paying it, I said, until you actually address it to me. I'd like to think I flounced out, but I expect I stomped. And, if memory serves, a new bill to Miss L and Miss D was forthcoming.
I didn't have the stamina at that point to challenge the Miss -- I was a Miss when I got there and a Miss when I left and am a Miss to them still, but everywhere else, ever since there have been forms to fill in, I've been ticking the Ms box.
It's great being a Ms. I remember when I opened my first bank account at 15, running my fingers over the MS that was embossed on the cash card, and thinking 'I chose that'. I love it when they ask, as they still SO OFTEN do, 'is that Miss or Mrs?' Neither, I still SO OFTEN enjoy saying, it's Ms. Yeah, I can see some of them thinking, that figures. I don't care. I am happy to be defined by the fact that I won't be defined by my marital status. Make of it what you will, that's why I do it.
And every now and again, especially online, you see a form that just has Mr or Ms as the main options. That, brothers and sisters, is progress. You'd never have seen that in the 80s. Although, now I think about it, it still doesn't leave space for people who identify as neither male nor female. I am not sure they have any option except to get themselves a PhD.
But it's not all progress. As I get older, and have to talk to people about boring grown up things, those who used to default to Miss (which is at least technically accurate) now default to Mrs. What I particularly hate, and I'm sure I'm not alone, is when someone rings up for M, aka Mr D, and I answer instead. "Is that Mrs D?", they say, in that flat monotone that call centre people have.
"There *is* no Mrs D," I say in my scariest voice. "Well, actually, there is, but she's in the attic."
And then yesterday I had the pleasure of calling an anonymous appliance service centre FOUR TIMES, because our cooker is playing up, and I can't get through a recession without a working hob, thank you very much. The whole experience, with the automated menu that doesn't have any of your options, the checking with the kitchen installer to find out where the gas isolation valve might be, the inexplicably getting cut off twice, was so exhausting that I didn't have the energy to disentangle myself from the lazy assumption that only married women might need their burners servicing. Fnarr.
The phone rang this morning and it was the engineer, telling me what time he'd be coming round. 'Is that Mrs L?', he said. Yes, I said. Yes it is.