Miss Beth

4 08 2011

It happened again, this time at the dentist’s office. “Miss Beth?” the receptionist said as she called me in. Last week it was at the doctor’s office. Nurse after nurse had called people in before me. “Catherine?” “Juanita?” “Brenda?” When it was my turn, the nurse called out, of course, “Miss Beth?” Even the grocery store cashier hands me back my credit card with a “Thank you, Miss Beth.”

Lest you think this is an age-related event, or possibly an indication of an ultra-feminine nature on my part, read on. The first time I remember being called “Miss Beth” was when I was 19. I was helping my father demolish an old building beside our church. I was sitting atop a chimney, one leg in each flue, taking it down brick by brick. Walking down the sidewalk was a guy, a classmate of mine, who greeted me with (you guessed it), “Well, hello there, Miss Beth.”

I think it’s a Southern thing, although I can’t be sure because I’ve never lived anywhere else. In The Book of Southern, it reads very clearly: Children shall call their neighbor moms “Miss + first name.” Preschool teachers and day care workers get their fair share of this as well. Elderly women (and when I say elderly I mean MUCH older than myself) often get tagged with “Miss.” It has a nice feel to it, kind of casual, friendly, and respectful all rolled up into one.

It’s not that I have anything against being called “Miss Beth.” When I taught preschool Sunday School or Vacation Bible School, all the little ones, or at least those who could talk, called me “Miss Beth.” All the kids in my neighborhood call me “Miss Beth,” and I absolutely adore that. It took two years of going to the school where I teach for my neighbor to remember to greet me in the hall with “Mrs. Eberhard” instead of “Miss Beth.” I didn’t tell her to change over, she just did. Although I’ve never seen it, somewhere it is written that teachers must be called by their last names. And yet, walking down the halls of this same school, a co-worker called out, “Hey, Miss Beth.”

Tell the truth: Do I look like a "Miss Beth"?

What I don’t get is, why me? I don’t hear other women being tagged “Miss” by their peers. Does “Beth,” being a one-syllable word, just need another syllable attached so it flows better? Or, is there something in my appearance or manner that shouts out “Miss”? Do I remind people of the main character of “Driving Miss Daisy?” Maybe it is time to color my hair. On the other hand, I kind of like the name. After all, I could be called much worse.

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4 responses

5 08 2011
Kathryn Fenner

I was never called, nor did I hear others called, Miss First Name when I lived in England, Chicago or Portland ME. I tend not to get called Miss Kathryn, I think because it is hard to say–I also tend to be perceived as less nice and approachable than you are, so I get lots of Mrs. Fenner–which I hate, because I prefer Ms, but hey.

Do not color your hair–it’s lovely!

6 08 2011
eberteach

Kathy (sorry, you’ll never be Kathryn to me), I do think it must be a Southern thing, or maybe a country thing, but I think you are quite a friendly, approachable person. You just need to hang around ankle-biters more often, then you’d earn the Miss!
And don’t worry about me coloring my hair. I’m far too lazy to keep up with it, as well as too cheap!

27 08 2011
Brian

You don’t look like a miss beth to me!!!!

27 08 2011
eberteach

Thanks, Brian!

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