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She Mrs. the point

Although I'm a staunch feminist, I took my husband's last name. We regularly get mail to "Mr. and Mrs. John Doe." Because of my long-standing hatred of this method of address (eliminating the woman's first name), we deliberately return-addressed our wedding invitations and subsequent holiday cards with "Mr. John and Mrs. Jane Doe," hoping people would understand our preference.

Yet, even friends and family who knew me prior to marriage are writing "Mr. and Mrs. John Doe." Surely my own loved ones would consider me someone who still has a first name! My husband understands my plight, but postulates that if I'm so bothered, I ought to inform the offenders. I do feel strongly about this (and all matters pertaining to a woman's right to her own identity), but I'm an extreme introvert who'd rather die than hurt people's feelings. Should I care less about what others think and tell them they're hurting me by perpetuating something I find reprehensible? Blinding Rage

Dear Mrs. John Doe: Enough about your blinding rage, let's talk about mine. Last weekend, my boyfriend and I were staying at a hotel. I called down to the front desk with a request. The front desk guy said, "Certainly, Mrs. Sutter!" Well, I'm not "Mrs. Sutter," and I have no intention of ever getting married. So ... what was the proper response, lecturing him in the myriad ways people have committed relationships these days or simply thanking him for giving us late checkout?

Of course, I understood that the guy was taking his best guess in an attempt to be polite not suggesting that a woman sharing a hotel room with a man is either his wife or a hooker. Likewise, it's doubtful your friends and relatives are trying to communicate that you've lost all personhood in their eyes. Tradition says, and etiquette experts advise, that the correct way to address correspondence to a married woman who took her husband's name is the way that peeves you most. Just a little something to consider before you come on like the Kim Jong Il of Christmas card feminism.

Yes, you did mail out your personal Magna Carta on how you were to be addressed communicated as a hint, probably in tiny script, on the upper left corner of envelopes. Sorry, but what kind of person has the time to pore over every piece of mail they get just in case there's a hidden message in the return address? Probably one whose choice of daily activities is largely limited to chiseling through reinforced concrete with a sharpened toothbrush or sitting on his cot waiting for parole.

The real problem starts with you, the "staunch feminist" who took her husband's last name. A wee bit of a disconnect, huh? Luckily, there's no need to admit you didn't quite think this name-taking business through when you can blame friends and family for your "plight." Couldn't you just be happy you got Christmas cards? You could also follow the lead of an increasing number of women who feel powerful enough that they can be traditional, or even girly, without feeling like some subjugated patriarchal tool. Then again, if you can't help but see this as the Western version of female circumcision, quit gnashing and send out a polite announcement that you'll be using your maiden name.

Yes, a woman has a right to her own identity, but when she willingly takes a man's name then wigs out when people actually use it well, it's kind of like going to a Klan rally and getting all poopy when nobody will join hands and sing "We Shall Overcome."

Where do we goo from here?

I've been having a fling with a married musician. I made the mistake of showing up at one of his gigs, drinking too much and getting mushy telling him I wished our relationship could be more since we seem to "click." His reaction told me I should've kept my mouth shut. Mortified, I sent him a very apologetic e-mail but still haven't heard from him. Did I blow it? I don't want this to end. Woman Overboard

All you want is a stable, loving, adulterous relationship. Is that too much to ask? If you can find an unhappily married insurance agent, you might have a shot. But, this guy is not only married, he's a musician. Even if he's just playing the bowling alley, when he says a song goes out to "a very special someone," chances are you aren't the only girl with a sly smile.

The answer isn't convincing Justin Timberlanes you want less it's finding somebody who wants more. Next time around, try for a guy who won't leave you standing in the parking lot because it's not only too cramped in his love life, but because it's either you or the drum kit in the van.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, No. 280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com).

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