What's the image that comes to your mind when somebody tells about a woman in her early 30s?
Married, maybe with a kid or two? Definitely with a title Mrs. In recent years, whenever I book a doctor's appointment or even apply for a job, the default title is Mrs. Most of the time I have already told them that I am unmarried. But whenever I get the final receipts, I could see myself addressed as Mrs. Somehow the world does not want to accept me as an entity that can exist without relating to a man. During the first few instances, I was amused. Then as the years passed, I could see that people don't want to see me as I am. It is a common perception and I can't blame everyone for not being able to see a woman beyond these titles and tags. But it worries me a little bit more whenever I am getting such treatment from another woman.
Maybe there is nothing wrong in getting addressed as Mrs. What is there in the title anyway, right? Somehow I couldn't simply leave it as it is. Do you know there are three different titles for addressing women out of which two is specifically used for identifying the marital status? The most surprising fact is that there is one title that does not give away the marital status and yet we don't see it used anywhere. If anybody is confused about the marital status, they could simply use Ms. It might be because of pure ignorance. With all the diversity and inclusion initiatives corporates boast about, nobody seems to get the basics right. Also, nobody seems to think that men need titles to divulge their marital status.
"But can you imagine how some of them were envying you your freedom to work, to think, to travel, to enter a room as yourself, not as some child’s mother or some man’s wife?…we have no familiar, ready-made name for a woman who defines herself, by choice, neither in relation to children nor to men, who is self-identified, who has chosen herself."
I came across this quote by Adrienne Rich some years ago and it has stayed with me ever since. These days I wonder if it is just envy or it is the plain disappointment in not knowing that there was another path available. I remember my grandmother's disappointment when she heard that my 18-year-old cousin was going to be married soon and at the same time she was delighted that I was leaving home to pursue higher studies. She used to say anybody can get married and have kids and why people are hurrying so much when there are so many alternatives to choose from. She got married at the age of 13 and had 13 kids. I could sense that she would not have chosen that life if there was some other option available for her at that time. I have heard many similar comments from my mother's generation as well. When I hear such stories, it makes me feel that so much has changed. Yet, when I look around and reflect on my experiences, we are still struggling.
In a professional atmosphere, we would assume that such things would not matter. I attended a mentorship conference for women last week and when I asked how to network effectively to the chosen "mentor", I was suggested that I should arrange more fun things for my kids involving parents of other kids. No question was asked about marital status or kids. It was based on the input of my years of experience in the IT industry. I was dumbstruck and didn't know how to respond.
I wish there was never a default. In my case, I approach it with amusement. But I think about women who genuinely want to be married or to have kids and are unable to. Aren't such presumptions hurtful towards them? That said, I still wonder about the inner thoughts of the woman who kept my title as Mrs even after asking twice about my marital status. What was she thinking?