What She Wants

How to Know When to Address Someone as 'Tita', According to the Truly Rich Lady

The do's and don'ts of using the T word.

Riddle me this: What do you call a Truly Rich Lady whom you have just met and maybe, because of your blurry vision, appears older than you? Do you call her the T word? A tita?

Please don’t.

I don’t know how it started when everyone started calling a woman of a certain age a “teee-tauw” if they attended one of the three TRL-approved Catholic girl’s school, or a “ti-ta” if they went somewhere else, or an “auntie” if they are from Singapore, or an “ownt” if they fancy themselves posh, or “ant” if they need elocution lessons.

For women, Truly Rich or not, the T word is like a bee sting, a flick in the eye, a bullet to the heart. I mean, who’s to say a woman is old enough to be the sister of her mother or father?

Maybe she just hadn't had a good night’s sleep. Or maybe her favorite makeup artist eloped with the kitchen boy, and that new girl from the salon didn't know how to turn the monster face she hides at home into the female illusion she presents to the world. (This is not a true story!)

There are many possible reasons for their maybe older look, but one must never presume another woman’s age or forcibly emphasize her age even if she is of that age by calling her the T word.

Now, you ask: “But, tita! I mean, Si-si, what should I call a woman of a certain age?”


First, how dare you call me, the young Si-si Coo, Tita Si-si or Ti-Si for short! I am not your mother or father’s sister. We haven’t even met!

Second, there is some sort of mathematical rule that determines when it is okay or not okay to call someone tita. A Truly Rich BFF, herself plagued by pretty things calling her a tita, has it figured out: “So, Si-si,” she tells me over her strange breakfast of mushed-up cucumbers. “If she is the sister of my mother and she is talking to my mother-in-law, she should not call my mother-in-law a tita, because even if my mother-in-law is older, all the women—my mother, my mother’s sister, and my mother-in-law—are in the same boat sailing into the sunset. Oh, I can’t wait to get the big house! Do you get it, Si-si?”

I say in confusion, “Truly Rich BFF, you know I only got an Exceeds Expectations in math class, right? I don’t understand what you said. Should I call you a teee-tauwnow?”

Side note: I can call her a titain jest because we are close friends and also, I know that, if she ever gets very angry, her weak arms will not be able to harm me (because she is not young anymore).

Anyway, this is what she means: You must also consider the hierarchy. In the previous equation, all three women are in the same level as beautiful older women that my Truly Rich BFF looks up to. Even if her mother’s sister is the youngest among the three, she shouldn’t call the mom-in-law titabecause no one wants to be the oldest one.

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It is my Truly Rich BFF, who finds herself a rung lower on the ladder, who can call her real tita, tita, and her mother-in-law, also tita

But forget all of that because it is just too much work for my tastes. Let us return to the true, which is manners. The proper way to address an adult woman is Miss Last Name (technically, it should be Ms. with the period but you are not writing to her when you are face to face), or Mrs. Last Name but only if you are very sure that she is indeed a missus (she might be the mistress!), or just First Name but only if you are very sure that she is a totally Modern Millie and therefore cool with the idea of being called by her first name, Khate.

Now you ask: “But Ms. Si-si, what about madam? Can I call you ma-dam?”

Ay-ya-yay! I am not a ma-dam (emphasis on the “dam,” “damn,” or “dumb” as in “Hello, ma-dum”)! This is sycophantic and sounds, frankly, gross. Stop.

Listen, if all else fails, ask the friend who introduced you to the well-preserved woman what she likes to be called. Would it be Ms. Rowling, Mrs. Rowling, or Joanne?

And maybe your friend will say, “Oh, her name is really Tita, so you can call her Tita Tita.” Case closed.

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C.C. Coo
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