Wednesday, December 27, 2006

What's in a name...

Article in the Grauniad about 'women keeping their name after marriage'. I remarked upon this yesterday when addressing a thank you letter to my aunt as Mrs [husband's initial] [husband's surname]. Since when did she become 'Ramon' anyway, poor soul?

This is as much generational as being ' statement about who you are and how you regard yourself within a marriage'. I have a seriously dubious surname and my mother took on more than a guy when she married. She would have loved to register me on my birth certificate with her maiden name. But in those days (sometime during the Late Jurassic) this would have looked bad both for her AND my dad, suggesting that I was a b*****d in the literal sense. I would have had as many problems from my perceived illegitimacy as my surname. So addressing to 'Mr and Mrs Smith' is as much about traditional morality norms as it is about Mrs Moorhead being chained to a sink, since these norms applied to both genders.

One issue she doesn't mention is the 'Miss' and 'Mrs' issue, which I've always regarded as more of a biggie than the whole naming thing. I've always hated being 'Miss' since it suggests I either have a short skirt and bunches or I'm a 70-year old spinster with all related connotations. At senior school, I made the decision to call myself 'Ms' after a female history teacher. She started using 'Ms' after a somewhat messy divorce and loathed men as a result. I still remember studying the execution of Anne Boleyn and her remarking 'typical man'. I've been a 'Ms' (or a 'mess' as my mum mispronounces it) ever since.

But after passing my doctorate, I'm completely 'degendered'. A nice side-effect of doing a PhD. I'm doctor 'X' - the perfect synthesis of sounding like an expert and having no apparent gender. I associate myself by nomensclature with such greats as Dr No and Dr Evil. The only problem is that people now think I know how to treat pustulescent boils or contagious illness. Or when a group of well-oiled guys decided to sit around me on the train back from my PhD viva:

'So where have you been then? Shopping?'

'No, I've been attending my PhD viva'

'What's that then?'

'I've done my doctorate. It means I've learnt something original about a subject for several years and then wrote about it'

'So what can you do with that now then?'

'Well, I can become a university lecturer and I get to call myself 'doctor''

'Oh, you're a doctor. My friend needs a doctor to examine him. I think he's an alcoholic'

'I'd love to help, but only if you buried him in snow first'

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