A couple weeks ago I addressed the issue of a woman changing her name when she marries. I expressed that although I don't plan to change my name when I get hitched this summer, I respect and appreciate every woman's right to choose what's best for her. I reject the notion some have expressed that when a woman takes her husband's last name she's giving up her identity.
But then I had an interesting conversation with my mother recently that added a whole new layer to this name and identity dichotomy. I've been working on wedding invitations and I’m in the middle of finalizing a guest list and collecting addresses, so I shot my mom an email to make sure I had the most current addresses of our family members, and I also asked how I should formally address certain people on the envelopes. I figured that my mother and grandmother, being total old-school traditionalists, would prefer to be addressed with their husbands as Mr. and Mrs. TheirHusband’sFirstAndLastName, but I wasn't sure about everyone else. How, for example, should I address my aunt who's divorced but retained her married name?
My mother's reply sort of shocked me. As I expected, she expressed her desire to be addressed as Mrs. MyDad'sFullName, but said that etiquette dictated that all married women who share their husband's last name be addressed as such, and that divorced women who retain their married names, like my aunt, should be addressed as Mrs. — not Ms., as I assumed — TheirFullName. Most surprising to me, my mother said that even when a card is sent just to her, like a birthday card or Mother's Day card, she prefers to be addressed as Mrs. My Dad's Full Name and not, as I'd assume, Mrs. Her Full Name! "Your grandmother prefers that as well," she said, "We've talked about it." She says that addressing a woman as Mrs. Her First and Last Name would imply that she's divorced, and a card addressed without a title at all is just plain "impolite." "Google the etiquette rules if you don't believe me," she said.