Dear Miss Manners: Our vice president is being addressed as "Madam Vice President." I realize she is the first female vice president in the United States, and so this usage is precedent-setting. However, to my ear, this usage doesn't seem to be the female equivalent of the way American presidents are addressed ("Mr. President").
Wouldn't true equivalency be "Ms. Vice President"? In the Francophone diplomatic world, "madam" is used for both female ambassadors and wives of ambassadors, which further muddies the water.
There is another muddle in that water: You are confusing “madam” with the French honorific “madame.”
“Madam” is a perfectly good English word — the equivalent of “mister,” with a dash more respect added. Thus it is the correct way to address someone of high rank, married or not (as it is used for female royalty in England). In direct address, it is abbreviated as “ma’am,” equivalent to “sir” for males.
As Miss Manners recalls, the precedent was set by the previous highest-ranking female in U.S. government. When Madeleine Albright became secretary of state, she became “Madam Secretary,” as she titled her memoir.
You need not feel bad about your mistake; the entire last all-male United States Supreme Court was unable to figure out (and failed to research) the equivalent for “Mr. Justice” for their first female peer. So, like many people who are bewildered by the emotional controversy about titles, they dropped the courtesy entirely, becoming simply “Justice.”
It saddens Miss Manners when those little touches of respect disappear.
Dear Miss Manners: I am an openly lesbian female, though I have only had a couple of brief relationships. I'm not butch, but I do have a masculine side to me. I don't wear makeup or dress "girly" — always jeans and a T-shirt.
My daughter is getting married next year, and she wants me, as the mother of the bride, to wear a dress. I feel that I don't look good at all in dresses, and also, I have a lot of tattoos that were done at home and are really bad.
I asked her if I could wear a suit, but she doesn't really want me to. I have a year to figure this out. Should I wear a dress that she thinks I look good in? Or should I wear a suit and be comfortable?
Your daughter will be able to amass huge support from countless sources that will declare that it is “the bride’s day” and she gets to have what she wants.
They are all wrong: They all encourage a bride to be selfish at the expense of others. And Miss Manners fails to understand why your daughter would want you to feel uncomfortable during her wedding.
She can ask you to dress up for the occasion, but that does not mean it has to be a dress. She can make suggestions. She can offer to go shopping with you. But you are an adult, and the final decision is yours.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.
2021, by Judith Martin