Recently my wife and I ran into an acquaintance of hers at a local event. I had never met this acquaintance nor had she met me. This woman, wanting to know who I was, asked my wife if this person was “Mr. (insert wife’s first name here).” Everyone got a big laugh out of it and I was standing there, emasculated. The story of this incident spread rapidly and I found my self going places and people referring to me as “Mr. (insert wife’s first name here).” Months later, you can imagine the trouble this has caused in all phases of my life, after all, I am the man of the house ... or used to be! I’ve tried every way to just let this go and spoken with many people about this. I’m wondering if maybe my only recourse is to confront the woman who said this to me and let her know my feelings were hurt really bad because men have feelings too. Or will I just be opening myself up for more laughter at my expense? I’m hoping your suggestion will help because I don’t want to spend money to seek help professionally.
“Mr. (insert wife’s first name here)”
Dear Mr. Wife’s-First-Name,
I’m female. I’m part of that gender of humanity who have, for centuries, lost their identities the day they got married. They (we) are known from then on as “Mrs. Husband’s Last Name,” no matter what our own name happens to be. As a couple, we must be addressed, as Mr. and Mrs. John Smith, or Dr. and Mrs. John Smith or Sergeant and Mrs. John Smith, even if the female half of the couple happens to also be a doctor or a sergeant or whatever.
As a woman, I don’t like this. As a generation of women, we’ve been taking our identities back by keeping our maiden names, or hyphenating our married names, or best of all, staying freaking single to begin with. We’ve never seen this kind of objectification and implied ownership as right or fair. So we’re forced to admit (under torture, perhaps) that it’s not fair in reverse either.
But you’ve got to understand that it’s because of all those years of unfairness that it seems kind of funny to us when it’s reversed. It’s the nature of comedy. When the dog is walking the owner, that’s funny. When the deer is taking aim at the hunter, it’s funny. So when the husband is addressed as Mr. Suzy Smith, instead of the other way around, it’s funny to those of us who’ve been experiencing the reverse of that for generations.
The difference to keep in mind for you is this. For those 200 years, women were being addressed by their husband’s names in all seriousness. It wasn’t a joke. To this day Miss Manners and Dear Abby will tell their readers that the correct way to address a formal greeting card or invitation to a couple is to use the old “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith” format.
No one in your life is serious when they call you Mr. Suzy (or whatever.) They’re joking. You’re still way better off than your wife is, in regard to this particular issue.
Now there are two ways to deal with jokes. You can choose to be offended by them. Or you can choose not to be. You can choose to react defensively (as the jokester wants you to do) or you can choose to ignore it entirely. No one else is in control of how you feel. You are. And if being called by your wife’s name “emasculates” you, then there are some deeper issues to address here. (And a huge opportunity for personal growth, not to mention cojone-growth, too!)
This is a tiny irritation, not a life crisis. If it seems huge to you, it’s because you’re making it huge. It’s just someone’s slightly off-target sense of humor and nothing more.
The solution is this simple: If you prefer to be called by your own name, then ignore people who call you anything else. If they want to get your attention, they’ll address you the way you want. If they only wanted to get a rise out of you, they’ll see that it hasn’t worked.
A joke is only funny a few times, at most. After that it loses its comedic value. Ignore this and it’ll go away.
Beyond the solution, though, is this. The underlying mind-set your reaction to this has revealed in you can tell you something about the way you perceive yourself, (as an average human or as “the boss?”) your wife, (as your partner or your property?) and your marriage (as a team, or as “man of the house” and “his little woman?”)
This is worthy of deep exploration and brutally honest evaluation. It’ll do your relationship worlds of good to talk about this with your wife and dig into the reasons why it bothered you so much in the first place. That’s the real message here. Your reaction is telling you something important. Listen to it. You’ll be glad you did.
Good luck. Personal growth is never easy.