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Something's a-Ms

I support ERA. I am liberated. I stand behind, and for, Helen Reddy's declaration, "I Am Woman." I am also embarrassed and annoyed when addressed in person or in correspondence as Ms. It makes me feel like a nonentity.

This fault has been difficult to root from my consciousness; surely it was a fault, part of my genteel upbringing and advancing years, no doubt. But today I read an Associated Press release in the daily newspaper that perked me up considerably. My consciousness-rooting is unnecessary; I'm not at fault.

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The item began, "The Times of London has banned the title Ms. from its new and editorial columns." It quoted Times writer Trevor Fishlock as calling Ms. a "forlorn fatherless and motherless little word." And further: "It is artificial, ugly, silly, means nothing, and is rotten English. It is a faddish, middle-class plaything, and far from disguising the marital status of women, as is claimed, it draws attention to it. It is vanity."

My sentiments exactly, put so succinctly. The Times of London, no less, had verbalized my annoyance. I was impressed. No, smug. My genteel upbringing and advancing years, probably.

I was Miss until I was 20; I bore my father's name. At 20 I married and took my husband's name.Mrs. was my new title which I've held for 36 years. This title has in no way stultified my growth and development as a person. I, we all are individual entities. For better or worse I am me, you are you. No title, be it Monsignor, General, Doctor, Sister, or Ms. can change that fact. But I am proud of my title, proud of my years as a wife. Whether the marriage has been blissful (no marriage is, every day) or miserable, I wear my title with pride.

Why can't an unmarried woman, of any age, be called Miss? Why can't a married woman be called Mrs.? Even a widow or divorcee, unless she chooses to take back her family name, should be able to be Mrs. John Jones. Perhaps, like a general, Mrs. John Jones, Retired. Why is she forced to be Ms. in order to be "equal?"

I've heard all the arguments. My own daugther-in-law uses her maiden name hyphenated with her husband's family name.That's fine. It's her choice. But I can't understand why she's an advocate of Ms. in front of it. It's too long. To me it smacks of ye-I'm- possibly-married-but-I'm-an-independent- person.

Another argument is that some given names can be used by both men and women -- mine, for instance. This seems to cause consternation in the business word. I'm sure that somewhere there's a man named Carmen T. Springgate. If you're trying to sell him something or to answer a complaint, Ms. Carmen T. Springgate wouldn't do much to further your case. Ms. isn't the answer.

I sign business letters with my name, my entity name, my person name, Carmen T. Springgate. In parentheses I add (Mrs. D.V.). The reply is usually addressed to Ms. Carmen T. Springgate. And it frosts me?

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I had just about given up until the Times of London sent down its opinion. To the author I say, "You have addressed yourself to a very sensitive situation. Write on, Trevor Fishlock, write on!"


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