15 Comments

  1. Lisa

    I am married but have never liked being addressed as, for instance, Mrs. “Jeff” Smith, but rather, if being formally addressed, would prefer MY name to be used instead of my husbands (!?!?!), i.e., Mrs. Jane Smith. I’m sure there are many women out there who would agree with me. I guess you could call it a pet peave of mine. What is interesting, although, is that most people who are using this “old-fashioned” way of addressing, are women. So how could we “update” society to formally address a couple, e.g., on a wedding invitation? Would it be Mr. & Mrs. Jeff & Jane Smith, or, Mr. Jeff Smith & Mrs. Jane Smith? Or other?

    • Elizabeth

      Lisa, I am someone who shares your point of view. Although I am married, I go by Ms. and not Mrs. (I did not change my name.) I encourage you to read about the history of honorific titles. Wikipedia has a short article that describes how they change over time, and how they change country to country. You will notice that in fact customs have been changing – today, many women go by Ms., which is not indicative of marital status. However, since we are in a period of transition, we have many customs that compete. Or, different people or groups have an idea of what is proper, which others might find less than satisfactory. This is all to say: no one is trying to make a comment by how they address you on an envelope. I receive mail sometimes addressed to me as if I had taken my husband’s last name. This is something I ignore in favor of the sentiments inside the envelope – a birthday or holiday card, an invitation, etc. If you make a point of asking people to change how they address you (socially – business is something else), you’ll be making a mountain out of a molehill. It doesn’t make sense to take personal issue with a custom that is most certainly not personal. If you receive a lot of mail to “Mrs. Jeff Smith” it could be that you have many ladies of an older generation writing you, who simply have been trained to do this.

      • Lisa

        That is fine and I am not making a mountain out of a molehill. I’m simply asking a question about a pet peeve that I have had after 23 years of marriage, so, it’s about time, actually. Also, I find the younger generation is also continuing this tradition, so, wanted to find out if things have been updated. Actually on an Emily Post.com article – Guide to Addressing Correspondence, it says it is acceptable “formally” to be called Mrs. Lisa Smith. It’s just that I am trying to determine if formally addressed as a couple, you take on your husband’s first name as well. Would you go from Mrs. when addressed individually to Ms. when addressed as a couple to avoid having your first name changed? I am not really a formal person, so it doesn’t really matter to me but I am just thinking the younger generation would prefer as I do and want to make a change.

        • Chocobo

          Dear Lisa,

          It is definitely difficult to determine in these times how to address women on an envelope, and trying to guess can often feel like stepping into a mine field. Unfortunately, there is no current standard. Women who prefer to be called Mrs. Man’s Name feel robbed when their husband’s name is ripped from them without their consent. Women who prefer to keep their own name, either first or last, feel slighted when their own name is ripped from them. There’s no winning that battle.

          Until we gently settle upon a universal standard — which will take time, and cannot be forced — the only solution is to ask each woman how they should like to be addressed. It is not important how we feel women should be called, but how they themselves would like to be called. Time consuming as it may be, we will have to manage the best we can with asking each married woman if she would like to be “Mrs. Man’s Name” or “Mrs. Her Name” or “Ms. Her Name.” In return, women will have to be patient with others who slip up, and gently remind friends and family of their personal preference.

          As a side note, the abbreviation “Mrs.” technically means “wife.” So Mrs. John Smith literally means “wife of John Smith.” A woman cannot be wife to herself, so it would be grammatically incorrect to say “Mrs. Lisa Smith,” meaning “wife of Lisa Smith,” unless she were the wife of Lisa Smith. No one really knows this anymore, however, so I see nothing wrong with using “Mrs.” and the woman’s own name, if that’s what she prefers.

          • Lisa

            Thanks for the reply. I just googled the definition of Mrs. and the first thing that popped up was from bing.com and it stated that it is a title used before HER name OR the name of her husband – which, then, according to the side note (above) that, technically, Mrs. means wife – the term has obviously been “updated” – which is good! Where did you find the info that says Mrs. means wife? Relating to the comment that women will have to be patient with others … in regards to myself, I had said nothing of this pet peeve of mine – except to my husband and children – for 23 years and feel I have been very patient. I never really made the effort to tell others because it is uncomfortable to do so and it is quite trivial – although, my daughter feels quite the contrary as do several of her friends.

  2. Lisa

    Or, could you address as Mr. & Mrs. Smith and leave out the first names entirely(especially if addressing an envelope with a home address listed)?

  3. Alynn

    I volunteered my home as the site for my daughter-in-law’s baby shower which is being organized by 2 of her close friends. In addition to being responsible for cleaning and preparing my home for the shower I will also be preparing some of the food. By accident I discovered that young children are being included in this event. It has been years since I have had young children in my home and most of the guests are people I do not know. Perhaps I am old school but I assumed that this would be an adult event. My home is not child-proofed, I do not have toys or even an area that would be safe for children to be left unsupervised. I cannot allow them in the yard since this is where my dogs will be during the shower. Am I wrong to be concerned about this. I feel that I should have been asked if including children was acceptable. I really don’t feel that a baby shower is really a children’s event.

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      The hosts should have cleared the children on the guest list with you. It sounds like it’s already a done deal though so it might be best to go with the flow at this point. Baby showers can certainly be child-friendly events. It all depends on what type of shower it is. You don’t need to fully baby proof your home. Just get rid of any obvious dangers. Parents will be responsible for watching out for their children. You will not be responsible for entertaining them.

    • Jody

      I think you are definitely in the right to feel concerned. It’s your house, and you should definitely have been asked if including children was acceptable. If the invitations have already been sent out there may not be much to do. I think you should call the hosts as soon as possible and express your concern — maybe also tell them that you need their help by arriving early to set up an area for the children to play in or making sure they have somebody to supervise the children. Just because a parent is there doesn’t mean the children will be sufficiently supervised — the adult will likely be distracted with the adult-oriented activities.

    • Elizabeth

      I am about to host a baby shower for a friend as well, and I was lucky enough to be asked whether a child of an invitee could attend. Since you are not the organizer, I wonder if you should contact them and talk through how the childrens’ visit will be handled. You need to know: how many kids, how old are they? Do you have a room where the kids could play or watch TV if they start getting bored? (Luckily, I do have such a room, and it is mostly danger-free.) Do you want the organizers to let the guests know that they have to bring a play-pen, etc? While I totally agree with Winifred that it is not your job to entertain them, but that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be smart to do some preparation or thinking through of what you might need or like to have on-hand.

    • Alicia

      Well you need to speak to the hostesses either to clarify that you do not want children to attend or to ask them what plans they have for the children to be properly taken care of. Age makes a big difference. A baby for example may just be held or put in a pack and play, a older teen could enjoy the baby shower itself, the middle ground of a toddler or young kid may be difficult. Yes they should have discussed it with you but now that you know that they have extended this invite you need to talk to them prior to the party either to get things so this kid can be accommodated or so that they can either move the location or make sure the parent realizes the kid is not invited.

  4. Carrie

    While at a concert, game, movie, etc., what is the proper way to pass someone seated to get to your spot? Your front facing them or your backside? Is it different when they stand up to let you by? Recently, my family and I went to an opera performance and had a lot of butts in our faces… and we were wondering if this was proper etiquette :)

    • Country Girl

      I’ve have not found anything that says one way is more proper than the other, but as long as preceded by an “Excuse me” I think you could almost make a case for either. Back towards the seated person seems a little less “confrontational” if you will, so as you’re not face-to-facing in close proximity. And of course face towards the seated person relives you from coming face-to-butt with a stranger. =)

    • Alicia

      I have always viewed it as dependent on the shape of the theater seats, the shape of person passing and the one being passed , the walkway space, if seats fold or not. Basically I think you try and make as little a hassle of yourself as possible when passing and sometimes that means front to front and sometimes front to back.

    • Elizabeth

      I would have been proper for you to stand, thereby giving the passers-by more room, and having the added benefit of your head not being at butt-level.

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