I got an email at my work address from the Alumni Association at McGill university. They want my home address to send me promotional materials. The weird part is that they insistently address me as “Miss” (a total of four times.)

The only way to get my work email is from my college website or academia.edu, both of which make it clear that I’m a professor. But forget that. I had no idea anybody still addressed anybody, let alone women of my age as Miss. They know I’m class of 2001. How old do they think I am to be a Miss?

I’m ok with both Ms and Mrs, except when addressed by students or colleagues. But Miss? I’m forty-fucking-two and, unlike the weird NYTimes reporter I read recently, I don’t think being called Mrs and not Miss at my age means being “downgraded.” Quite the opposite.

When I was 22, I loved being called “mademoiselle” (I lived in Quebec then.) But 20 years later, it’s ridiculous.

6 thoughts on “Miss”

  1. “Miss” is for marital status, not age. I guess McGill doesn’t do gender neutral titles? But if they know you’re a professor, they should call you Dr. Clarissa Lastname. Someone screwed up on the mail merge.


    1. The entire time I was their student, I was legally married, by the way. And they always addressed me as Mrs in correspondence back then. Which drove me crazy because I was separated and didn’t consider myself married. But they said without a divorce decree they won’t be changing it.


      1. Yup, they can’t keep track of titles but somehow they’re going to keep track of pronouns and indefinite articles.

        It’s a very useful filter for deciding who to donate to. People who misspell my name or misgender me after they’ve met me never get my money.


  2. Our development office did the same thing when sending out a solicitation specifically targeted at professors. All of the female professors (in my dept, all are single or divorced) were “Miss.” (For men, some were Dr. and some were Mr.) I sent a polite email to a friend in development saying Dr. or Prof. would be fine, and I’d be okay with Ms., but “Miss”? I’ve been working since the 1980s and don’t recall any other time when I was “Miss”ed. My friend was mortified and fixed it, but apparently that’s the way the database was set up. I think alumni associations and development offices are geared towards dealing with older donors for whom Miss was an ordinary title; now that the Ms. generation is joining the prime-donor ranks, I imagine this will change.


  3. The American word-of-address “Miss” has gone through the same evolution over the past 40 or so years as the German word-of-address “Fräulein.”

    “Miss” and “Fräulein” were once used to address all unmarried women. Now they’re applied only to adolescents, who today become “Ms.” and “Frau” at a certain age regardless of marital status.


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