At a recent family gathering, one of my aunts asked me a funny question that stuck with me for some time. That question was “have you gotten used to being called Madame?”
Despite having been married for some time now, the answer to that question is that I really haven’t. To this day, if someone refers to me as Madame, I turn around to see if they are talking to or about someone else.
When I picture someone who embodies the word Madame, I tend to think of an older woman, accomplished in her career, married for several years, has children, and is probably active in social circles. But not a person who is still trying to figure out what being an adult entails. I can’t even unscrew the cap on my cough syrup without falling victim to the child lock.
And apparently I am not the only one who imagines this as a few months ago, a saleslady at a store came up to me to ask if I needed any help. She used Madame at the end of her sentence, but when she looked at my face (probably realizing how young I look), she corrected herself, “Ah, sorry Demoiselle.” It was quite funny explaining to her that she was right the first time and that I am, in fact, married, but how it shouldn’t really matter.
I’ve always felt that using formalities to refer to me is a little out of place. Most of the people I work with are a lot older than me so it feels that I should be the one using those identifiers to respect them, rather than the other way around.
On another note, I don’t think I will get used to being called Madame because I do not want to be defined by my relationship status.
After I returned to work from the honeymoon, I added my married name to my email signature, as this was what all the married women around me did. But unlike everyone else, I have not used it when introducing myself nor have I added it to my social media profiles. I felt that this way I could retain my own identity with my weird last name.
Fortunately, my husband understands that this is a sensitive issue which I’ve been fixated on for quite some time. In a stark contrast to most of his coworkers, Ahmad actually uses my name when mentioning me, instead of my wife. I feel that by doing that, not only does he respect my individuality, but he indicates that we are equals in this relationship. I wish I could say that it has the same impact when I use his name, but it really doesn’t.
Maybe at some point in the future, I’ll get used to the title- when the image in my head reconciles with where I am in my life. But for now, I would rather if people just called me Tala. I think it suits me best.