The young policeman stared at me.
'Are you married or not?' he demanded. The irritation in his tone was catching and my own voice was a tad prickly as I told him that was none of his business.
I'm all for being honest and upfront, and if stopped by the police for any reason - in this case a missing brake light, I give all information required with willingness and alacrity. Name, date of birth, address, purpose of journey - whatever is required in order to further the pursuit of justice. I just don't see what my being married - or not - has to do with anything. Which is why, on that chilly evening, I stood by the side of the road, clad only in leggings and tee shirt (I was on my way back from an aerobics class) resolutely refusing to give the blue uniformed one an answer to the Mrs or Miss question on his form. As it turned out, I had more time than he did and he finally scribbled out the relevant documents and left, cross, but none the wiser as to my marital status.
I'm not a great fan of the word Ms. Saying it makes me feel like Mammy, in the film Gone with the Wind. Being addressed as Deborah Dooley works for me, but if a title really is required (and I can't get away with calling myself Lady Dooley, which does, I feel, have a certain ring to it) Ms does the job perfectly well.
I was once told by a GP receptionist who was clearly struggling to understand my refusal to share my husband's surname, that 'we have to call you by your proper LEGAL name.' Had a more enlightened member of staff not come to my rescue, I could have pointed her to the UK Deed Poll website, which, having explained carefully that the law does not require you to take your husband's name (one hopes this doesn't come as a surprise to more than a few of us), then makes the crashing assumption that 'most women, however, are happy to do so.' They also note that 'whatever you choose to do about your name following marriage, you will probably want to change your title to Mrs.' Astoundingly, this website was last updated in 2009, not 1969.
My husband is rarely asked if he's married or not. To clarify, the world at large appears relatively uninterested in that fact. Neither has he ever been asked why he didn't change his name to mine. But I suspect that if he were, he would reply that like me, he is partial to the name he was given at birth and like me, he's never wanted to change it. However, our different surname status doesn't in any way lessen our marital commitment to each other, and it doesn't mean that our children have double barrelled names. I have never been the slightest bit averse to them having my husband's surname - it bothers me not a bit. It's a very nice name - a noble one even. I like his name, but I don't want to be called by it. Because I already have my own name, of which I am even more fond. Forgive the repetition - often necessitated by the level of incomprehension this subject frequently receives, it's become something of a habit.
But a few people aren't content to merely call me by my husband's surname - they call me by his first name, too.
Mrs Bob Cooper.
It doesn't suit me and like I said, I'm not called Cooper. And my name's not Bob.