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!