Austrians are big on titles. Anyone Smith with a doctorate – even if it is in a field like Mortuary Science or Bowling Industry Management – is referred to as “Doctor Smith”. Any Jones who stays with a government job can eventually achieve the status of being “Mr. Privy Councilor Jones”. Study an engineering field for long enough to earn some kind of diploma and you become “Ms. Graduate Engineer You”. Believe it or not such titles are still used. And it gets better: married women are also addressed with the titles of their husbands (though, curiously, not the other way around).
So, some people (mostly ironically) call me “Frau Direktor” – which can be roughly translated as “Wife of a School Principal”. Quite the achievement, don’t you think?! As I wrote about ages ago, once you have become vicariously titled, certain social interactions or moments in social settings are no longer under your control. Today was one of those uncomfortable Frau Direktor days.
But (!), there was a tiny perk.
We went to the music school’s end-of-the-year concert in which both of my daughters performed. We had asked the older one (who had to show up earlier to warm up her voice) to save us some seats. We passed the empty front row with the “Reserved for Honored Guests” signs and headed back to the seats my daughter had saved. I was about to sit down when someone told my husband to come to the front row. He asked if there was a seat for me too and that was an affirmative. We shuffled back up to the front.
My first reaction sitting there was . . . FISH OUT OF WATER!! FISH OUT OF WATER!!
After the first song, the local dignitaries in attendance were greeted, including the “Herr Direktor So’n’So & Spouse”. My husband had to stand up and take a little bow.
When the concert ended, my family gathered and we prepared to leave. But first we had to get through a succession of small talk conversations with each person who came up to congratulate one of us. I say “us” because I too got a share of this praise for . . . what I am not sure. My achievements of the evening consisted of putting my butt in a chair and pressing the record button.
But I WAS happy to see my family members being honored. The girls had spent hours and hours practicing for their performances. And my husband has spent years doing work that benefits the school and community. And me . . . ?
I did their laundry.