Proud to be ‘Miss’ in this age of ‘Ms’

2008-01-02 00:00

Lately when I fill out forms, I ignore the deliberately ambiguous “Ms” and firmly check the “Miss” box. Don’t get me wrong: I respect “Ms”. It’s the logical equivalent to “Mr” and it represents hard-won territory in the history of women’s issues. Ms. magazine is great and I use the prefix for other women. But, personally, I’m a 43-year-old “Miss”.

I choose “Miss” from acceptance of my status as a never-married woman. I choose it as a tribute to the many single women who had no choice but to be “Misses”, before the popularisation of “Ms”.

Many of those women carried that prefix proudly or without concern, no doubt. For some, particularly those beyond a certain age, “Miss” may have carried a whiff of lavender sachets; it may have suggested images of a house full of cats, evenings spent on solitaire or some other old-maid cliché.

I read recently about an event in which her publicist called the Hollywood star “Miss Renée Zellweger”, which was encouraging, but many misses in popular culture have not been so appealing. Think of Gloria Swanson portraying aging film star Miss Norma Desmond, cooing “I’m ready for my close-up.” Or Charles Dickens’s character Miss Havisham or William Faulkner’s creation, Miss Emily — both spinsters. The former catches fire in her ancient and tattered wedding dress, worn since the day she was jilted. The latter killed her lover and kept his skeleton in an upstairs bedroom.

I don’t know if there is a typical “Miss” today, but I sense that stereotypes remain. For one thing, when I tell people that I have cats but no children, I sometimes get a knowing look, as if they’re thinking, “Ah, future crazy cat lady”.

At times, I have found myself giving a long explanation: “But I love dogs, too, really all animals, and children, but I never got married, I just happen to have cats, they just turned up”, and so forth. And I say these things as if I’m not proud of my two cats, Peaches and Mango, and don’t carry pictures of them in my purse. Shame on me.

I like the Mexican custom a friend tells me about. To be polite, one may call any woman “Señorita” (Miss), rather than “Señora” (Mrs), until instructed or invited to do the latter. One would not presume to know a woman’s age or relationship with a man.

I liked, too, being called by “Miss” and my first name when I lived in the deep south. A woman of any age and marital status may be called “Miss” in this affectionate and friendly manner, and it’s particularly endearing when said in the drawling lisp of a child.

When someone first called me “Miss Lisa”, I knew I finally belonged in my adopted state.

So, for now, I’m claiming my “Miss” status with self-respect. Maybe I’ll get married someday, or maybe not. Maybe someday I’ll establish a magazine called Miss. Maybe I’ll be a role model to other misses, young and old. Or maybe I’ll become a crazy cat woman, which is not such a terrible thing, really — at least for the cats.

— The Christian Science Monitor.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.