Monday, December 16, 2013

My Issues With The M.R.S.

My Issues with The Mrs.

While waiting to get a facial, I overheard the esthetician remark to a woman, “You better get that body in shape for that wedding.” I chuckled at the irony of the statement because I was perusing a book, If I’m Looking for a Prince, Why Am I still Kissing Frogs? And just as the esthetician’s words hit my ears, the words on the page jumped out at me: “Girls are socialized to expect few alternatives to being someone’s wife.” Still waiting for my turn, I read a little further: “Traditionally, women have been socialized to believe they need a man for financial security, emotional stability, and social status. The idea of becoming Mrs. So-and-so to gain entrance into the social circle has been an accepted practice.”

There it was—the hiss of —M.R.S. in my ear again. The idea of being The M.R.S. had been like hot breath on my neck, and I needed to deal with my issues with M.R.S. It started when I went to see Baggage Claim—a film that I knew would be a no-brainer comedy with a clich├ęd ending but promised lots of eye candy. So, I settled in for light entertainment, and while I was happy that her character’s wish came true, I was annoyed by the message: There’s no room in the world for us single girls.

Paula Patton’s character, Montana Moore is beautiful, witty and terribly flawed because for the life of her, she can’t get a husband! And to make matters worse, her younger sister has snagged a man and is engaged, and her multiple-married Mama doesn’t know what is wrong with Montana. The hunt for the husband is bananas! But it ends well because the man she’s looking for has been right there all the time. Don’t we always overlook the good ones? At least that’s what these men who are experts on women want us to believe—but that’s another story for another day.

I guy I used to date a guy sent me a text recently that said, “Hello Mrs. Gates.” And I replied, “Are you looking for my mother because I’m Ms. Gates.” We’ve known each other for years, so why he calls me by my mother’s name, I’ll never know. He got the message because the next message he sent was Mrs. Singleton—his last name. I laughed, not because he used his last name, but because it is common practice to date before getting married, and a few random text messages does not constitute dating. Or did I miss the new millennium dating memo?

I had a message on my voicemail from the women who periodically do housework for me. They also address me as Mrs. Gates, but I don’t bother to correct them. I shake my head and laugh because people are always giving me something I don’t have—a husband. It’s not that I’m anti-marriage; I’m still a sucker for a happily-ever after ending. But I don’t like being judged as less than a woman who happens to have a husband. I get the—what-is-a-good-woman-like-you-doing-single? or it-must-be-something-wrong-with-you-if-you’re-still-single lines all the time. I’d be better off if I say I’m divorced, but to be over 40 and never married—I’m definitely damaged goods! Why is my worth as a woman tied to my marital status?

I thought that if men didn’t have to be identified by their martial status, why did I? Married or single, a man is Mister, but a woman is Miss or Mrs. or now the more non-identifying moniker of Ms. Which is what I prefer. Time has actually mellowed my staunch stand on the Ms Vs Mrs. Back in the day I use to go into a full speech about how I was a Ms and not a M.R.S. I wore Ms (still do) as proudly as married women wore Mrs. because some of the married women I encountered were quick to correct anyone who called them Ms. It was if that extra letter and extra syllable gave them something that single women didn’t have and they flaunted it. And some married women think that all single want women want their husbands. I had to tell a paranoid married woman that single doesn’t mean desperate! What’s even sadder is that some of the women waving their wedding flags the highest have wandering husbands. But I learned long ago that it’s not wise to tell someone about their mate.

I put my book away and settled in for a relaxing facial with no more references to Mrs. until I tuned into Scandal and Olivia Pope’s daddy, Eli, took her to task for even thinking about settling for being just a Mrs.—even if was First Lady of the United States of America! He told her First Lady was aiming too low; that she should at least try for Secretary of State. I almost fell off my couch. There it was again—this idea of being a Mrs., but Papa Pope had turned the fantasy of First Lady on its head! So I started thinking—AGAIN!—about this whole idea of Ms. Vs. Mrs. and I know that for me the title of Mrs. is not only political, but intensely personal as well. Society dubs single women as misfits whereas the title of Mrs. earns a certain level of respect—deserving or not.

We put so much pressure on women to get married that women hurt themselves and others in the process of trying to get him, as Beyonce’ says, “to put a ring on it.” I’m still trying to figure why Beyonce’—no last name needed—decided to name her tour, The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, after her husband, Jay-Z who doesn’t use his own last name. I’m not mad—just curious as to the reasoning behind it. She was Beyonce’ after she married and had a baby, but now she’s Mrs. Carter? Hey, it’s not for me to figure out.

Beyonce’ aside, I am disturbed by the deals some women make with the devil to get married. But once they are married, they retreat behind the halo of marriage. The irony is that the term “Mrs.” originally meant Mistress which is who some of them were before they actually became the Wife. A lot of women believe that man is eligible even if he’s in a committed relationship because he’s not married. There are women who know they’re the jump-off, chick on the side, wifey or whatever, but they grow tired of their second class status and try to “upgrade” themselves.

I know a woman who is her husband’s third wife. He cheated on Wife No. 1 with Wife No. 2, and cheated on Wife No. 2 with Wife No. 3, but the third wife says that he knows better than to cheat on her. Really? I know of another woman who was her Wife No. 2 after being the mistress. A friend of mine was supposed to attend a wedding, but it was called off. She shared with me that the bride-to-be received some photos of her husband with another woman the night before the wedding. The other woman sent the photos. The bride-to-be called off the wedding; he later married the other chick.

I had a friend who was dating a woman that he liked, but he met another woman. The second woman was a Christian and didn’t believe in pre-marital sex, but she somehow ended up pregnant. Go figure. He kept seeing the one he liked even after the Christian woman got pregnant. So, she waited until the other woman was at his house and showed up with her pregnant belly in full view. He was definitely wrong for not coming clean to his girl, but the other woman was wrong, too. It wasn’t her call. My friend and the Christian woman got married after he prayed and God told him that she was to be his bride. They married. The marriage ended after she cheated on him.

As a little girl I didn’t dream about planning my wedding and getting married. I thought one day I’d get married because that’s what was required. In my 20s I fell in love with a man I thought would be my husband. We talked about marriage. Even though we had our ups and downs I hung in there because I thought he was the man I was supposed to marry. One day I called his house and a woman answered the phone. Our relationship ended. Five months later he was married. We dated longer than they were married, but she’s the ex-wife; I’m the ex-girlfriend. In society, she matters; I don’t.

Even though my parents were married, I was raised in a single-parent household. When I got older, I used to joke with my mother about me being the make-up after the break-up baby because I never remember my father living in the house with us. I am the youngest of seven so it’s easy for me to figure out the relationship was unraveling before I was born.

When my parents divorced, my father remarried. He married his mistress. When my father died, my sister helped his wife write the obituary, and my mother was listed as the first wife and mother of his children. But on the day of the funeral, when I looked at my father’s obituary, my mother’s name had been whited out. So, he was survived by his second wife, their six living children (me and my siblings) and two stepchildren (her children). I balled it up. What was there to say—she was in fact the M.R.S.

I know of women who had sex with other men leading right up to their weddings because the men they really want won’t marry them, so they’re settling for less than they want and deserve by marrying men that could give them the coveted title of M.R.S. even though they don’t love the men they married. How sad for them if the love doesn’t grow into something worth sustaining. Maybe settling is better than being single. I don’t know. But I’ve met plenty of married people who I wouldn’t trade places with because I can be bad by myself. There’s no point in being a married single woman. And I know a few of them—they do everything with their friends and family, but rarely anything with their husbands. They are married in name only.

I probably won’t get married, and I’m ok with that. I don’t find myself longing for a husband. I just want to be happy. .If I happen to meet a wonderful man who wants to get married, I’d consider it. But if it never happens I still want to live my best life. I’m not hatin’ on married women. I wish women who are already married as well as those waiting to walk down the aisle well. It’s not the M.R.S. that I have issues with, but the ways in which some women become M.R.S.