Thursday, August 17, 2006

Stepford Traditions Die Hard

I am putting together the annual for a garden club (I'm a designer by trade).

I feel suddenly transported back 50 years. The garden club is 90% female. At least half of the members have two addresses. Several have nicknames like "Mimi" or "Tippy" (a lot of them are traditional Southern nicknames which may be silly but I actually find adorable). A few of them even have a formal name for their home (the address is preceded by "Windy Grove" or "The Windsor" or some other odd name that sounds like a hotel). One thing, however, is almost universal. All the women are noted as their given name and then "Mrs. Rutherford Fancyname III". I can see who is and is not married, as each listing includes the name of the spouse further down in the personal information. Only one married woman in the entire booklet has chosen not to list herself as "Mrs. whomever".

It reminds me of that scene in "Something To Talk About" (You know - the Julia Roberts movie in which Dennis Quaid plays her no-good cheating husband whom she forgives and goes back to which always irritates the crap out of me?) where Juila's character is in a planning meeting for the women's club and they are discussing the annual cookbook. She suggests that they modernize the format by listing their own names intead of "Mrs. Husband's-Name-Here." There is much objection to this suggestion and then one woman sums up their perspective by asking, "How will anyone know WHO I AM?"

It's one thing to know there are women who think like that in this world IN THEORY. It is a completely different matter to type up the names of dozens of women - many of whom have sucessful careers, all of whom must have an identity beyond that of "wife" - who are willing to be known as "Jane Smith, Mrs. John Smith". Maybe some have only listed their name in that way because it is the format all the other women are using. That would be a little better... but not much.

I am tempted to add "Mr. wife's-name-here" to the men's names.

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