As I closed on my first home I had many interactions with a variety of constituents who responded differently to my prefix of Dr. one in particular stand out.
During the “closing” process of buying a house, the time between the down payment and the signing of the contracts, there are many people who contact the potential buyer (title company, underwriters, lender, etc) as they gathered the requested financial statements and legal documents that certify that the lender is who they say they are and that they have the steady income to pay back the massive mortgage loan you are inevitable requesting. During one of these email exchanges one of them referred to me as Miss Sobers and that did not feel right so I responded to the email with the following,
“Please note that my title is Dr. not Miss. Thank you”
To which he responded,
“My apologies Dr. Sobers. Have a nice evening. Best Regards”
Okay, done right? I stated my expectations, he acknowledged my request, apologized, and began referring to me as Dr. So, why did that not feel resolved? Why did I now feel guilty for even addressing this and demanding respect? Why was my self-talk now rationalizing his behaviors – he was only trying to do his job; he meant nothing by it. Why was I now feeling like I was the jerk – He’s trying to move this process along and you are hung up on titles how petty is that; you might now be perceived as snooty, uppity, bigger than your britches. After all of this musing I then sent this email,
“No hard feelings. I appreciate all that you are doing to keep the closing on Mon. Have a good night”.
I got no response to this one. No acknowledgement for my efforts to affirm that as far I knew he was doing a good job and that my comment or request for the use of my title Dr. was not tied to or disputing that fact. Yet, this STILL was not resolved for me. I wanted to dig deeper into why this was a trigger for me. I eventually landed on the Miss vs. Ms. debate. Would I have reacted the same way if he has referred to me as Ms. Sobers or even Shauna rather than Miss Sobers? When I was a child I remember receiving mail from relatives with the prefix Miss on it. That was their way of showing me the appropriate amount of respect for a child. So, to me if someone uses the title Miss it is for a child and Ms. is for an unmarried woman. The fact that he used Miss then suggested to me that he saw me as a child, youth, or inferior though he was probably just trying to do what my family had done years before and show me a modicum of respect.
My final email to him on the subject went like this,
I want to further explain my motivation behind telling you my title as I recognize that statement could have the potential to come off as snippy. If ever there is a section of a form within this paperwork process that calls for a title / pre-fix to my name I wanted to provide you with the information that my title is Dr.
I was motivated to do this after I observed your used of the title Miss in your email, though technically correct as you are aware I am an unmarried woman (Ms. is used for when you don’t know a woman’s marital status), it is typically associated with being a child or a student of which I am no longer either.
Hopefully that makes sense. Let me know if you have any questions.
Struggling with claiming ones title is not new for women. On November 2, 2016 the Chronicle of Higher Ed just featured an article entitled “Do You Make Them Call You Professor: Why I began to rethink my views on classroom decorum“? By Carrie J. Preston
I will continue to think about and process the rationale for people’s actions and how I want to engage. Read more about my coming to terms with the title doctor at: http://shaunatsobers.com/titledr/
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