It's the one time of year that I sit down to address a hundred Christmas letters to friends, relatives and acquaintances, and every time I do it I agonize over the greeting and the sign-off. I've received enough greeting cards and invitations in my life to be thoroughly disgusted with the form of address to our family that seems to ignore the fact that I am a part of it. "Mrs. Mark Weber" has a way of pissing me off, unmatched by many things. But a lot of women in my generation identify with feelings of anger over their identity being subsumed under their husbands' names, and I'm getting fewer and fewer cards like that anymore. The more subtle and challenging politics of address come, for me, in the ordering of names at, say, the opening of our Christmas letter. "Dear Mike, Susan, and kids" is the traditional route, not "Dear Susan, Mike and kids," but I'm finding myself compelled to embrace a sort of affirmative action when it comes to naming females in the families.
But I pause with each new couple. Is the re-ordering of their family names something they'll notice? And depending on their age, socio-economic status, religious and political persuasions, etc, is this reordering something they'll be offended by? Additionally, I suspect everyone getting our Christmas card will know that I am the main composer and signer-offer on it, that it's the woman in the Weber family making these executive decisions on how to order names. Will they, therefore, perceive these address decisions as the subversion I intend them to be? I prefer it not be so noticeable, and prefer to subtly sneak my female-affirming greeting into their lives, catch one of those mothers or wives off-guard with the site of her name first leaping off the line of greeting in our Christmas letter. How refreshing, I imagine.
At the same time I want affirmative action in these lines of greetings, I am also an egalitarian, and I"m conflicted by the desire to make up for centuries of female-identity-subsumed-under-male-identity (by listing female names first consistently) with a desire for fairness, to affirm the importance of both the sexes in the present.
So it turns out, none of my lines of greeting take the same format. If I address the family as "Susan, Mike and kids" I might find myself signing off with "Mark, Heather, and kids," and if I'm scared of the reaction of a rather patriarchal family in South Dakota (they might write me off b/c I'm a feminist??), then I might just go the traditional route, cringing all the while. This makes for a painstaking Christmas Card mailing, pausing with each recipient, wondering how best to acknowledge them this Christmas.
The possibility that no one will either notice nor care how I acknowledge them has also occurred to me. This is both good and bad news.