When I was in elementary school, one of my father’s cousins got married in Michigan. Since our extended family (including most of the bride’s) lived in central Illinois, there was going to be a mass exodus of German Lutherans heading north. Everyone wanted to be sure their branch of the clan was well represented. Since my grandparents were going, and my parents were unable to attend, my grandparents invited me to travel along with them.
There are certain memories that remain vivid more than 20 years later. I remember being struck by the beauty of the bride, followed by a feeling of embarrassment, wondering if it was okay to think in such a way of a close relative. I also remember people passing around a bottle of peppermint schnapps (a family tradition) in the hotel lobby following the rehearsal, and my grandmother taking a rather generous swig just before the facility’s staff asked us to put the booze away and head back to our rooms.
What I remember most from the reception, though, is my name. We walked into the hall after the ceremony to find that everyone in attendance had a nameplate and an assigned seat. As a young boy attending with my grandparents, I expected to be overlooked. I wasn’t.
It was not just that nameplate, however, which became fixed in my memory. It was the title added at the beginning. It read, “Master Joshua Theilen.”
Even now, the title brings a smile to my face. (Believe me, that is no small task. Just ask my wife.) At the time, the only place I could remember hearing the word “master” applied outside of history class was on television: “Masters of the Universe.” This boy was thrilled. Finally, I was now on the same plane as He-Man.
A few weeks ago, Katie Schuermann wrote a short article about her preference for being called “Mrs.” There are a number of reasons why Mrs. Schuermann likes to be called just that. And I can’t blame her. Not every married woman is so adamant (i.e., Ms. Rachel Rossetti), but it is rather nice that we actually have several acceptable distinctions in titles for women in American English. As a married man, I am a bit jealous.
Why Do Men Get the Title Shaft?
I have always been a “mister.” “Master” is only used in reference to young boys. Once puberty sets in, we are all lumped together in the generic “Mister” category. Married or not, children or not, men are, apparently, all the same. I think that is just boring.
I had to go through seminary and become an ordained minister to gain a new title (reverend or pastor), but even then the students in my morning catechism classes took to calling me “Mister Pastor.” Now not only am I stuck with a generic title, but I don’t even have a name. Why do men get the title shaft?
Honestly, it would be nice if men could acknowledge their marriage with something more than a wedding band, especially since there are some professions where that metal ring can be health, or at least appendage, hazard.
Is it not a silly idea to think that marriage adds nothing to the bridegroom? My wife is certainly not the only one who benefited from our union. In fact, it is fairly common knowledge among our friends that she got the raw end of the deal on our wedding day. For all my marriage has given me, for all that it has allowed me to be and to experience, there is no title to recognize that. There are no letters added before or after my name to let the world know that I am taken, and that I am enjoying it. It seems a shame to me. (My wife would tell me to forget about the name and smile more.)
I suppose I can resign myself to being a mister. My wedding ring will have to suffice, and I wear it proudly. I do miss the days of being a master every once in a great while, but I would not have kept that title for all the peppermint schnapps in the world.