Earlier today I had to write a letter to my old insurance company asking them something grown up about No Claims proof. Due to an aspect of my personality which isn’t as grown up as the subject I was referring to, I had lost the proof of No Claims. Although I am hoping my new insurance company read this and believe that I am telling the truth. That would be a lovely way to solve the problem, wouldn’t it?
Anyway, the lady I had to address was called Caroline Thomson. I know this because the non-personal letter which I’d been sent was from someone called “Caroline Thomson”. No signature, admittedly, but she was confident enough to have her name printed on the non-personal letter. It’s almost as if she was playing mind games with me. Sure, she’d tell me her name but would she go that little extra and add a personal touch by adding her actual signature? No. She would not. I’m not sure entirely where I stand with Caroline and, if I’m honest, I quite like that about her.In fact, this is where my compulsion to share comes in.
Although I had her name, her lack of personal signature led me to believe I couldn’t address her as, “Dear Caroline”. Not now. Not yet. So, instead, I would have to address her the formal way, as if I didn’t know her name or as if she didn’t know mine. I should point out at this stage that she DID know my name. In fact, she knew my full name and she wasn’t afraid to use it. “Dear Alistair..” began Caroline. She may as well have continued, “… I am in control in this relationship and don’t you forget it”. As if I ever could.
My dilemma was this: How should I start the missive? With a man I would write, “Dear Sir” and I would be right to do so. With a woman – a firm woman – how should I begin? “Dear Mrs” would be presumptuous. What if she wasn’t married? What if Caroline hadn’t met Mr Right yet? I must admit, I was rather selfishly hoping that this may be the case. Even so, “Dear Miss” would come across as if I were trivialising her relationship. Maybe Caroline has been in love with the same man – or woman – since college and the two of them are now inseparable.
Truthfully speaking, I can’t help but feel a tinge of personal sadness at this thought but, as Jimmy Nail said, “If you love somebody, set them free.” Maybe that is what Jimmy Nail meant all those years ago. Maybe he too had need to write to an insurance company chasing up important documentation and, in doing so, maybe that’s how he ended up with a number 1 hit single. Maybe he was hoping his old insurance company would hear his song, “Ain’t No Doubt” and believe that he too, had 9 years no claims. Only he knows that.
So what were my options? How should I address Sweet Caroline? “Mrs” would push her away. It would give the impression that I thought she was married and, thus, nip any chance of romance in the bud. Her heart may feel sad that I’d dismissed her when, all along, I wanted to do anything than. “Miss” would look callous and jealous, as if I were disrespecting her true love. There was only one option, something I vaguely recalled from a school lesson. It didn’t seem right but it seemed less wrong than the other options. So, to Caroline, sweet, darling Caroline, I wrote this:
That was it. The die was cast. Was I right to do it? “Ms”!!!! Was I right in addressing her in a manner which, to all intents and purposes suggest Caroline Thomson to be a spinster? It is clear she works hard from the position she holds. That doesn’t mean she is a spinster though, does it? When I was young I always wanted to fall for someone with drive, with ambition. I still do. I wouldn’t ever assume someone like that to be a spinster so why Caroline? No, she’s not a spinster.
Thinking back over that letter, mulling it over and over – the way she asked for the return of my insurance certificate, the request for payment of the outstanding amount – I struggle to find any affection in her tone. Although I struggle to find anything that doesn’t suggest warmth and a comforting need to do what’s best for both of us. Caroline tells me her name, she addresses me by mine; surely that’s a sign of affection? Then again, she doesn’t sign it and the pre-paid envelope suggests no signs of S.W.A.L.K.
So here’s what I have learnt today. 1) If you don’t know the correct way of addressing a woman in a letter you should use, “Dear Sir” (it’s true – daft as it sounds). 2) As much as I hate mind games, they are effective. Certainly in this case.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know what the situation is with Caroline. Maybe she is happily married or, as I can only hope, maybe she is still waiting for Mr Right. Or Mr Writer… (by that I mean me, because I have written this. It’s a bit of a play on words. You got that, didn’t you..? Yes, sorry).
As Jimmy Nail once said, “A woman like you’s no good for me”.