Sunday, September 02, 2007

Name That Spouse!

I've mentioned many times throughout blogging that I have these little neuroses/hang-ups/idiocyncracies/"jewkim barosh". Here's another one to note on that list.

I was probably twenty-one or twenty-two when a friend got married; she was my first peer to do so. Before she married, she'd talk about her fiance as "Alan this, Alan that." After she married, it was no longer, "Alan this, Alan that." It was "My husband this, my husband that."

That's when my hackles first rose.

"What??!! I know his name. Why do you have to refer to him as "my husband" all the time?" I never said this aloud to her; I just figured she was in that honeymoon stage and liked the sound of "my husband."

But she wasn't the only one who'd be so formal.

I discovered my aunt would talk about "my daughter-in-law." Now, Sara is the ONLY daughter-in-law my aunt has; why didn't she address her by name? Why did she appear to distance herself with such a generic tag?

My cousin, Sara's husband, mostly talked about Sara, but sometimes did refer to her as "my wife."

When my brother-in-law got married, he constantly talked about "my wife". Granted, he was older when he married, she was on her second marriage, so each was happy to have found the other. Did he have her on such a pedestal?

I did not like the sound of "my wife" all the time; it sounded as if he were talking about a possession, something materialistic. If I wouldn't have known her, that's something else. But I know her and I know her use it!

After witnessing him and my cousin refer to "my wife," I began to wonder if it's a Yeshivish etiquette thing that nobody had told me about. Is it a means to give kavod/honor to one's spouse...or is it just a possessive kind of thing?

Moreso, why did/does this bother me so much? I wonder.

If I ever use "my husband" in conversation, it's: 1. to someone who doesn't know him at all or 2. if I use the expression, I'll follow it with my husband's name, as an identifier or 3. i'll be cheeky to a friend in conversation and say it with great cynicism and emphasis if he's done something to irritate me.

But my husband has a name, and I make sure to use it.

I know other frum couples where the husbands refer to "my wife" and the wives refer to their husbands by name.

(it's funny, but I don't have the same problem when someone refers to "my son" or "my daughter.")

If there are any Yeshivish-type readers out there (Chaim? Ezzie? Elie?), please do tell me if there is some kind of unwritten rule among the more frum that you give one's spouse -- specifically the wife, the "eshet chayil" more honor by referring to them by their "title" rather than by "name".

My husband knows how I feel about this topic and wouldn't dare refer to me as "my wife" unless he added "Pearl" to the mix. That's why I love this guy; he respects me and my wishes.

See, people? "My husband"...Mr. TorontoPearl" ... earns respect and shows it too -- doing so on a first-name basis!


marallyn ben moshe said...

shavuah tov pearl...i never thought of that...but you are right...see i don't have a name...i'm either, the daughter of/the sister of/the wife of/the bubbie get it...but the truth is i love all those husband ahem is reuven unless i need to get formal like with the gas man who comes once a year and tries to sell me something...then it is 'my husband doesn't want it'...shavuah tov my dear friend

Ezzie said...

me = yeshivish!? Ouch... :P

I don't think it's just a yeshivish thing, and I find myself doing it on and off too (and sometimes, as I say it, I think 'why did I do that that way'). Part of it is people are used to telling certain stories to people who don't really know their spouse; part of it is simply context, depending on the story you're telling. If the story makes sense *because* Serach is my wife, or if it's a "wife story" (oh, my wife makes me _____), then I might say my wife. Otherwise I think I'd say Serach.

It happens to be that some people specifically ARE more formal. In Chofetz Chaim, they try to refer to one another's wives as "Mrs. ____". I don't see this as a bad thing, even as I think it unnecessary; my wife (heh - see?! i wasn't even thinking about it there, but it makes sense in context!) thinks it's impersonal and doesn't like it [and my friends in CC generally refer to her as Serach].

anonymous mom said...

It's a Yeshivish shtick. It is used because it is considered too familiar for a spouse to refer to their spouse by name to another person that may be of the opposite sex of that spouse. So it goes like this: Chaim is speaking to Yankel about his wife, Shprintza. It would be inappropriate to refer to her as Shprintza because there has to be a distance between Yankel and his friend's wife. It goes without saying that Yankel may not directly address Shprintza by name or speak about her using her name. Got it? It goes the same for wives when they refer to husbands. It is also a status thing, but not a Kovod thing in my opinion. Young Yeshivish marrieds feel good about themselves because they have "crossed over to the other side" so to speak and are now connected to someone that you the listener are not. I find it pretentious and silly. I, personally, only refer to my guy as "my husband" when someone doesn't know him and then, of course, I say, "my husband, insert name" so they don't have to be in the dark anymore. I do love to use it with gas men and plumbers and other people trying to get me to spend money in ways I may not want to. P.S. I feel that "my husband/my wife" should go in the shtick trash heap along with "Kol Tuv", "Chasdei Hashem" and "Have a MEANINGFUL fast." Whew, I feel better now.

anonymous mom said...

Forgive me for the following aside:

Recently, a senator was caught making an advance to an undercover cop. How was it determined to be an unwanted advance? It seems that gay people have a way of signalling each other to express interest. I don't think I am alone when I say that I had no idea about this secret language. I was wondering if we could compile a bloggers' list of secret passwords that Yeshivish people use to make clear that they are superfrum. "Kol Tuv" is one example, saying "Eretz Yisrael" not "Israel" is another. But I know there are others. An outsider would not notice this, but the frummies get it right away. Also, what is the list of do nots for people trying to come across as superfrum. Just asking.

Robert J Avrech said...

I dunno, I refer to Karen my wife as:

1. The love of my life.

2. My one and only.

3. My obsession.

4. The girl I've been in love with since 4th grade.

5. The woman who, Baruch Ha-Shem, married me.

It's a personal thing, and I'm not even yeshivish, just Hollywoodish.

SephardiLady said...

Reason Number 1 to refer to spouse as "my husband/wife" or "Daddy/Mommy:" So you children don't start using your first names. At a certain point, you practically forget you have first names. :)

Miriam L said...

Well, I'm not even remotely Yeshivaish, though some of my cousins are, but I personally like for my husband (ah ha!) to refer to me as his wife. I just want the world to know I'm his wife. Maybe more so because everyone in our community knows his first wife, and it took a while for the news to get around that he had remarried. For a year or so after we married, I would go to a class or Jewish event, say my name, and have someone say: "Oh, so you're related to Norman L? I know his wife Tina!" And I would have to explain, "No, I am Norman's wife. Tina is his ex-wife." (Names changed in this story.) I even had people argue with me, insisting that they knew Norman L.'s wife, and I was not her!

RaggedyMom said...

I think I tend to use RaggedyDad's name almost always, but come to think of it, he often refers to me as his wife.

Since I still sometimes feel like I'm 16 years old (but sometimes like I'm 75!), it doesn't fail to make me blush a little when I hear him and think, 'Hey - I'm somebody's wife!'.

He's one of the only people in his group at work who's married - maybe that's why he (subconsciously) refers to me that way. I'm sure that for him it's not a frum thing at all.

sara said...

interesting post! i personally hate when people refer to their spouses as my husband/wife- for some reason it irks me. but i think part of the reason why it drives me crazy is the lovesick tone of voice that its said in. for me that is worse than p.d.a!

sg said...

the my wife/husband thing drives me crazy. especially when its "my chusson" - we hear abt them often enought to know who shmuli/chaim/yossi/yitzchok is!!!

its like they are trying to show off that that have a significant other or something!!!

torontopearl said...

Thank you, all, for your comments. Thank you, Ezzie, for the link on your blog.
It appears as if I'm not the only one who is irked by "my husband/my wife" thing. If I really don't know the person well, it's understandable to refer to a spouse that way, but, c' cousin, my sister-in-law, my good friend's husband? I know these people NAME!
I received a couple of offline comments too, that proved insightful. Thank you for those.
The topic is still open for discussion. Talk amongst yourselves...! :)

Miriam L said...

I do agree that when you're speaking with family, it's silly to say "my wife" or "my husband." When I talk to his family, I always use my husband's nickname (known only to family and spouses).

(Many of the people in my family have a nickname used only within the family circle... but that's a whole other topic. (Maybe I'll take that one up.))

Chana said...

I have often heard the "your wife/husband" thing used (and among rabbis I have heard "Mrs. Lastname" used) with the purpose of maintaining distance. When I first got married though, we were not frum, but I was so thrilled to finally be married at 28 after dating for 4.5 years (wasn't MY idea, LOL) that saying "my husband" did kind of feel like bragging on my part, I admit...!

Chana said...

P.S. I am also referred to as "Mommy" by my husband more often than anything else, LOL.

eem said...

Just a side thing-
Anon Mom, some people actually say "kol tuv" because they want the person to have good. I know someone who ends most conversations with "be blessed". What's the difference? Same for the other expressions-many people say them because they mean them, no shtick.

anonymous mom said...

I think it would be safe to assume that all people who say Kol Tuv wish you well, but I wonder why we all have to use the same terms. There is a pack mentality, a follower thing going on in certain circles that I find disturbing because it carries through to other areas of frum life. "Meaningful fast" has replaced "easy fast" because wishing people an easy fast meant that we were undermining the purpose of it. That offends me because I think it's okay to hope my friend has an easy fast. I don't think that takes away from how meaningful it will be. And as for the whole "Eretz Yisrael" as opposed to "Israel" well don't get me started on that. I guess I would like everyone to just be Ovdei Hashem as individuals. I think it would be nice if we could use whatever blessings and terms we each want to use. And refer to a spouse by name without the world caving in.

PsychoToddler said...

Take my Channe, please.

Naah, just doesn't have the same ring.

muse said...

very interesting post

thought provoking for sure

In "proper Hebrew," children are supposed to call/refer to parents as:
Avee my father
Eemee my mother
a teacher is HaMorah/eh

Sweettooth120 said...

I think it depends with whom you are speaking to. I never thought about it, but I probably refer to my husband, as my husband, but to people who know him, as Dave (which I wasn't even aware that I use that form of his name until recently when he pointed it out to me.)