(December 24, 1997)

It’s the end of Christmas card season, and my annual frustration about the way many of the envelopes are addressed to our household. (For the record, my name is Deborah A. Duncan. Debbie Duncan, for short. I am married to William E., or Bill Stone.) Cards come to:

Mr. and Mrs. William E. Stone
The Stone family
The Stones
or, the one that really gets to me: The William Stones. Sorry, but only one William Stone resides here. (Bill’s uncle and namesake is six feet under in Peoria.)

I am not a Stone any more than Bill is a Duncan. I like the name Debbie Duncan, and chose to keep it — legally, professionally, socially, totally when Bill and I married sixteen years ago. “But what about the kids?” (We have three.) They have their father’s last name with mine in the middle. They go by all three names, except that the school district’s computer is unable to handle a complete middle name. I complain that if Martin Luther King were registered in Palo Alto, he would show up as Martin L. King, and his teachers would call him Martin King. Our oldest has decided to hyphenate.

More than two decades after Ms. came into the lexicon, confusion reigns, even though lots of moms have different last names than their children — nine out of twenty in my second-grader’s class, for example. Yet some people still fail to recognize us. Or they get the last name right, but use “Mrs.” My mother is Mrs. Duncan! I hold out hope that by the time my daughters are adults, it will finally be fully acceptable to be Ms. Yourself instead of Mrs. Somebody Else.

Before next holiday season, please consider the Debbie Duncan guide for addressing families with different surnames:

Ms. Deborah A. Duncan
Mr. William E. Stone (formal)
Debbie Duncan and Bill Stone (informal)
The Duncan & Stone family (not much harder to write than The Stones)

Don’t write off those women who have chosen not to change their names. Continue to write to us, but please address us properly.

With a Perspective, I’m Debbie Duncan.