I grew up with a long, rather annoying last name. It has caused both my mother and sister-in-law to just go by “Z” with their high school class rooms. I had that name for the first 30ish years of my life and made a successful theater career with it and still use it when I’m working professionally in that venue. Personally though, with the day job and with my kids, I use my married name when I have to – usually when introducing myself (FN LN) or very rarely with the title “Ms.” For me, the “Mrs.” is something I associate with the old guard methodology that women take their husband’s names and become their possession. I blame my mother for this and her 60s/70s feminist ideals. I use my husband’s name because it is easier for my children to spell and easier to associate with them for school purposes. It is shorter, easier to pronounce, easier to spell and moved me alphabetically to the beginning of the alphabet after years of dealing with sorting to the end of every list. I correct all the places I can and get rather frustrated in the places I can’t (i.e. plane tickets). More often than not, I don’t use a title at all. I’ve even entertained working on a Ph.D. just to get the “Dr.” title to avoid this situation. However, this is not often a problem as I have a rather rare first name and most people know me by that and my department…usually referring to me as the person who solves things.
As I’m getting settled in to the chaos of the early day this morning, I hear the heavier steps of uniform shoes I associate with the security detail on our site. About four or five months ago, they changed up their processes to include more frequent laps through the building and not an hour goes by that I don’t hear them go by. They don’t interact with the staff as I’ve been able to observe, but seem to do their work efficiently as they pass through the building and grounds making sure we all have our badges and our cars have our green dots. Mind you, I sit with my back to the door of my cubicle in my office. It’s the only way the cubicle built-in counters & cabinets work for my methods. It isn’t ideal, but there’s a mirror on the cabinet right in front of me so I can see behind me as people walk by all day. In some ways, it is distracting, to have that constant movement in the corner of my eye as I stare at my screen processing emails, hunting down clues to various problems and connecting disparate pieces of information to remove roadblocks for the assorted people and teams I work with on a daily basis. It’s as if you’re constantly Dug from Up having a conversation about things that are –SQUIRREL- interrupted. I hear “Good Morning Mrs. LastName” causing me to start and mildly panic about who was around. It was the security guard and either in an attempt to be friendly because I looked up as he passed or in a big brother attempt to terrify me he called out a greeting as he passed.
This proceeded to bother me for the next several minutes and discomfort me. What this means is that if you use the wrong title when addressing me, I know that you don’t actually know me nor care about me as a person. If you did know me, you’d use my first name. You might call me by any of the half dozen or so variations of names I use or have used online – some that are not related to my name at all but an online handle. You might even use a term of endearment that we have accepted as reasonable between us. But you wouldn’t call me “Mrs.” Not if you know who me. Maybe I haven’t given up being a Yankee as of yet.