They call me Mrs T and they are wrong

(No disrespect to Sidney Poitier!)

My aunt is gorgeous. I think she probably made this dress. But getting married didn’t mean she wasn’t who she was.

Do you have people like this in your life?

The people who know you use your maiden name but still call you “Mrs Husband’s Last Name?”

For a while, it was my mom.

In her defense, I did change my name when Mr T and I got married.

But shortly after we married, I realized I did not like my new name. I didn’t like not having my own name, the one I’d had my entire life.

(And yes, I know I am still perpetuating The Patriarchy because my maiden name is my dad’s name, but whatever.)

The other factor was I didn’t like sharing a name with Mr T’s parents, who hated me for reasons to numerous to list here but included the following:

  • I eat bacon wrong.
  • I use cabbage wrong.
  • I use cloth napkins.
  • I didn’t sit in the living room to watch a football game with them.
  • I don’t cut off and discard broccoli stems.
  • I don’t peel apples for pie.
  • (I STOLE THEIR SON’S LOVE BECAUSE LOVE IS A ZERO-SUM GAME.)

For his mom’s funeral, I helped Mr T look for photos to show at the reception. Not that I cared if I were (literally) in the picture, but in their house, we could not find a single photo with me in it.

Even though I sent them copies of the photos my mom took at our wedding.

(They were cranky about that. There were no photos with them! How about because when my mom was taking photos, they didn’t ask to be included. They had their own camera and didn’t ask anyone to take a photo. And rather than coming to the lake to take more photos with us, they went back to our house to drink.)

They must have discarded the wedding photos I sent.

Whatever.

But I did not want their last name.

I changed back to my maiden name.


Mr T has a friend from high school who has taken a hard turn to the right since he and Mr T used to smoke pot together and since HS Friend had a one-night stand with one of the bridesmaids at Mr T’s first wedding.

Before we got married, Mr T wanted me to go with him to visit HS Friend.

HS Friend insisted that Mr T and I sleep in separate rooms.

I didn’t care because my mom used to ask the same thing when I took boyfriends home.

With Mr T, I guess she just got tired and she didn’t feel like making up two rooms, so she put us in the same room the first time we visited her.

But Mr T refused to visit HS Friend under those conditions and HS Friend finally agreed.


HS Friend has had his revenge. Every year, he sends us a Christmas card addressed to “Mr and Mrs T,” not to “Mr T and Ms Texan.”

Because dammit that’s who a woman is: She gets her identity from her husband.


For the record: Women get to decide what they want to be called! If you want to take your husband’s name when you get married, that is fine! It’s your decision!


When our next-door neighbors got married, they combined their two last names into a new name.

Mr T mentioned them to HS Friend, who scoffed and said that Neighbor 1, who had a baby two years ago, is a single mother. There is no way, HS Friend maintains, that our two neighbors, who are both women, can be married.


My friend C’s husband, after about ten years of marriage, decided to change his surname to hers. I don’t remember all the details, but I think they wanted all of them – C, her husband, and their two boys, to have the same last name.

HS Friend would probably have a stroke upon hearing that.

(C, apologies if I got the details wrong!)


HS Friend will always address me as “Mrs T.”

My mom, however, now uses my maiden name, as I have asked her.

Because my mom is not a jerk and HS Friend is.

I have Resting Friendly Face

That does not mean I want you to sit next to me. Well, maybe YOU, fellow female human being, but even though #NotAllMen, I don’t want a man sitting next to me

You know, I think I like it that despicable stupid ignorant people are branding themselves. Makes it easier to avoid them.

I consider it a great success that on my recent flight on Southwest Airlines – a flight that was not full, I maintained an empty seat next to me.

Those of you who have never flown Southwest might not know what a monumental accomplishment this is.

For me, it meant I made no eye contact.

Head down.

Even though one of my favorite things is to watch people board and try to guess their stories.

But I kept my head down.

I don’t want women sitting by me

Women will sit next to me rather than in another empty seat. This would not be a problem except for the woman who whipped out her phone and started playing a loud game on it as soon as she sat.

After takeoff, after I had sent several her several Death Stares of SHUT THE HECK UP, Death Stares she had ignored, I finally asked, “Would you mind using a headset, please, so I don’t have to hear the sound?”

She rolled her eyes and said, “I FORGOT THEM.”

“Then,” I asked through gritted teeth, as this woman was older than I me – that is, Old Enough to Know Better, “would you please turn the sound off.”

She heaved a deep sigh, rolled her eyes again, and turned the game off completely.

I guess she showed me?

But at least she did not hog the armrest (although as the person in the middle seat, the armrest was by rights hers) or spread her legs into my space, moving them even further into my space each time I pulled my legs in so I would not have to be touching a stranger.

But I really really don’t want men sitting by me

I was in the middle seat on a flight from Atlanta to Dubai.

That’s a 16 hour flight.

Maybe 13.

Whatever. Very long.

Even before the plane took off, the big man in the seat next to me was screaming in his phone. “FUCK YOU RENEE!” he yelled before he slammed the phone down.

(That is a disadvantage of cellphones – there’s not really a satisfactory way to hang up on someone. It’s a quiet hangup, no matter what you do.)

His arm was on the armrest, as was the arm of the man on my other side.

Both of them sprawled into my leg space.

I pulled myself in and tried to make myself small. I didn’t even dare to ask them to get out of my space. The man had shown that he was willing to scream in public.

I did not want him to scream at me.

When I am on a plane, I tell the person in the middle seat (if it’s a woman – I never need to tell this to men) that the armrests are theirs.

But these men had not gotten the memo. They thought any available air was their space. That none of the space was mine.

It’s not just me

The always-brilliant Caroline Criado-Perez wrote about women and public transit in her book Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. (If you have not read this book, please get it immediately. You will not regret it, I promise.)

A recent Brazilian survey found that two-thirds of women had been victims of sexual harassment and violence while in transit, half of them on public transportation. The proportion among men was 18%. […] A 2016 study found that 90% of French women had been victims of sexual harassment on public transport; in May that year two men were jailed for an attempted gang rape on a Paris train. A 2016 Washington metro survey found that women were three times more likely than men to face harassment on public transport.

Caroline Criado-Perez’s free newsletter

There’s a reason we shrink

When I lived in Miami (long before the flight to Dubai), I took the train to work. I got on at the first stop, which meant the train was always completely empty when I boarded.

One morning, a man boarded with me. We were the only two people in the coach.

He sat right next to me.

Right. Next. To. Me.

“There are a million empty seats on this train,” I said. “Why do you have to sit by me?”

He did not say, “Oh I am so sorry! Of course I should not have invaded your space? What was I thinking?”

No. He glared at me and said something along the lines of “F U bitch.”

He did move.

But not before making me afraid of what he might do.

That’s why I don’t say anything now. That’s why I keep my head down.

Things women just know

These rules come as part of the standard uterus package

Maybe it would be OK for the mother of the groom to wear white if the bride wore black? That was not the case in this story.
Source

When Mr T and I got married, his mom asked what they should wear to the wedding.

I told her that we were getting married in a church on a Friday afternoon, so, you know – church clothes. Not super fancy, but – in a church. A wedding. So.

Not a fancy wedding but a wedding in a church.

Mr T’s dad was cranky because that meant he was expected to wear shoes. He had commented often (with great pride) that since retiring to Florida, he had worn nothing but sandals.

This was a wedding. In a church. In Wisconsin, where it can get cold, even in September.

But he wore shoes.

I’ll give him that.

Mr T’s mom dressed as if she were attending a funeral. A casual funeral, but a funeral nonetheless. She wore dark, heavy clothes.

She did not wear what one would wear to a wedding in a church.

I don’t have any photos because when my mom was taking photos, Mr T’s parents did not ask to be in the photos. My mom didn’t want photos of Mr T’s parents. And Mr T’s parents, who had a camera with them, neither took photos nor asked anyone to take photos of us with them.

(But then they were really ticked off that there were no photos of them. My mom sent them copies of the photos she had taken of Mr T and me and their reply to Mr T was “Why aren’t there any photos of us?”

I dunno – because YOU DIDN’T TAKE ANY?)

(Also – and have I told this story before? Probably but I am still ticked off about it – when Mr T and I were looking in the house for photos to display at Mr T’s mom’s funeral, we found years’ and years’ worth of bills and junk mail but not those photos. They must have thrown them away.)

(WHATEVER.)

I say all of this as a prelude to the fact that women know. We know things. It’s part of the water we swim in.

We know The Rules.

I thought everyone – women and men – knew The Rules, but maybe I was wrong.

Because when Mr T and I had lunch with some college friends, Paul and Joanne, they told us about their wedding 30 years ago.

Paul’s mother, Theresa, wore white.

I know.

I know.

I KNOW!

Wait.

Mr T did not know.

He did not share my shock.

When Paul and Joanne told us this story, I gasped but Mr T did not.

Is this hormonal knowledge? Is it genetic? Is this secret limited to women only?

In both cases – with our wedding and Paul and Joanne’s wedding, the mother of the groom violated what I thought were widely-understood rules.

Narrator: In both cases, the mother of the groom did not like the bride.

But Mr T did not know why it was bad that Paul’s mom wore white to his wedding.

I asked my friends if I could use the story, anonymizing it of course.

Paul replied, “No, it’s OK. Use ‘Theresa [LastName], Founder Of The [Nice Thing To Do] Foundation.'”

(I didn’t.)

(But I wanted to.)

But – equality!

I mean, do we want equality with men er no?

From this post on twitter

Neal O’Kelly is a piece of work. Women with a broken-done car alone on the highway or a back road deserve no special treatment. We’re equal now, right? And how long does it take to change a tire, really?

Honestly, it’s our own fault if we get murdered.


Years ago – before cellphones – I was driving from Texas to California and I don’t even remember why. I was on a highway in Arizona and blew out a tire, which is not something I wish on anyone going 65 mph in a Chevette.

I managed to make it to a truck stop, driving on the rim, which yes I know you are not supposed to do but I think there wasn’t much of a shoulder and I didn’t feel safe pulling over to the side of the road.

I was in a truck stop.

It was the middle of the afternoon.

The sun was out.

I pulled out the tire iron and started working on the tire, to no avail. I could not loosen the lug nuts.

Two men in a pickup drove up next to me.

They got out.

They said nothing as they watched me trying to remove the wheel.

They looked as if they hadn’t bathed in a few days. Or shaved. Shaved maybe ever. Long, scraggly hair with dirty gimme hats, t-shirts with the sleeves cut off, dirty blue jeans.

Sullen.

I was concerned.

I stepped back.

No, I was scared.

I looked at them and looked at the convenience store, wondering how fast I could run.

(Not very. I am a very slow runner.)

They approached me.

I stepped back again.

They looked at the tire and at my tire iron.

“Got a four way?” one asked.

What on earth is a four way? Was that what they wanted to use to kill me?

“No?” I squeaked. I would not be a party to my own death.


A few years later, when cellphones were a bit more in use but still not something everyone had, my car broke down in the middle of nowhere on a rainy night. It wasn’t a flat tire – I could have fixed that, so I was just – stuck.

A car finally drove by and stopped.

A man got out.

He stood next to his car and called out to me: “Do you need help?”

I cracked my window and said, “I need a tow but I don’t have a phone.”

He said, “I have a phone. I’ll put it on your hood and then come back here while you use it.”

He paused.

“I have sisters.”

He knew.


Turned out it was the water pump of that car.

Actually, it was a bad rubber seal – a part that probably costs a dime or less to make but Toyota cheaped out on, which caused a $400 repair.

When they were replacing the pump, they asked if I also wanted them to replace the timing belt as well.

If anyone ever asks you this, tell them yes! Because the belt itself is not that expensive – it’s the labor to get to it, which is the same labor as replacing a water pump.

Say yes or otherwise, a few months later when your timing belt breaks, you will be spending another $350 in labor, an expense you could have avoided.


One of the Arizona highwaymen sighed and returned to the truck. He pulled out a metal thing that looked like a cross.

He returned and within three minutes, these wordless scruffy men had removed the bad tire and mounted the spare.

They grunted in reply to my effusive thanks. Thanks tainted with guilt that I had assumed the worst about them.

But – we never know.


We never know which is why I now keep a four-way in my trunk.