So. All my life I’ve been a fairly complete human being. Perhaps I am in the lifelong process of becoming “fully formed,” in a ethereal-wooy-bullcrap sort of way. But I am a “whole,” unspoiled, fully functional, mostly coherent human being. I’ve been responsible for myself since I left my parents’ house many, many years ago. Also, I am a woman.
I’ve put myself through school, I’ve held a number of jobs, I’ve made a number of large purchases, I’ve filled out a lot of paperwork, I’ve made a lot of phone calls, I’ve talked to a lot of people, I’ve moved all the hell over the place. I’ve done all of this, by myself, multiple times, for many, many years.
I’m in my mid thirties. Last year, I got married. Though later than most people, this is my first marriage. I didn’t take my husband’s name. It was no big deal.
So now I’m doing all the stuff I’ve always done. I fill out forms, I make phone calls, I buy stuff, I move around, I work, I interact with the world in exactly the same way I did before. The only minor difference is that all the stuff I do now includes a husband. Since I am a bit more inclined to deal with the businessy aspects of of the world, and have more patience for dealing with people and paperwork, I assume most of those types of tasks in our marriage. I was doing it all anyway. Now I just have another name to add. Dave prints and signs his name and is thankful not to have to talk to strangers.
So imagine my surprise, now that I am married, to no longer see my name on mail addressed to “us.” It’s addressed to my husband. I’m not the “Applicant,” I’m the “Spouse.” Even when I fill out forms. *I* was the applicant. *He* was the spouse. All he did was sign his name. I sent in the forms. I dealt with their bullcrap. But someone went out of their way to choose him over me.
If it happened once, fine. I’m not burning my bra. I can’t say I’ve been withheld from doing anything I want in life because I have a vagina instead of a penis.
But this is now happening all the time. It’s disturbing. We started a business together. I’m the president. I’m 51% owner. When the mail comes, it’s in his name. Cute, huh? Letters from our property management company are to him and “et al.” They’ve never even talked to Dave. I know this to be true, because he doesn’t want to deal with their bullcrap. But I’m addressed as “ET AL.” Because it’s so many more characters to include my name.
I know there are some folks who may read this and this it’s not such a big deal. It’s too cumbersome to build systems that can address two adults. It’s easier to just follow convention. We’re all just used to men being the heads of households. It’s not sexist, it’s just a way to make things easier. For everyone.
But let me ask you this…do you feel like it’s no big deal because it hasn’t happened to you? Or it will never happen to you?
Here I am, halfway through my life. A fully formed, completely independent human being. I’ve spoken for myself all this time. Until I got married. Now someone else speaks for me. I lost a bit of my identity when I became a “wife.” I’m the “spouse.” I’m “et al.” Doesn’t that just seem fucking surreal? It’s 2011.
Perhaps some newlyweds find it romantic. Maybe it’s a round-about symbol of unification, or something. I think it’s bullshit. Whether I want to or not, I’ll remember the people, businesses and companies that pass me over in favor of addressing my husband. You know what, douchebags? He doesn’t want to talk to you. And I guaran-fucking-tee, I will not want to talk to you either.