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January 26, 2013

The war between men and women notaries

When the 1940’s New Yorker artist and writer James Thurber came up with the idea of “The War Between Men and Women,” he wasn’t thinking of notaries. He was simply thinking of the way things are…sometimes. Well, let’s face it: the ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ idea isn’t new. Men and women are complementary…not always complimentary. So it should come as no surprise that notaries–male and female–appear to have slightly different ways of doing the job. The war between men and women continues…right in our own backyard.

http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/12/0812/0803art/welcome1.jpg Here is an original Thurber drawing that shows you Thurber’s idea of the war between men and women. When the man comes home, his wife’s role or tendency to dominate is grossly exaggerated: the whole house has become the woman. She has taken over, and is seen as a bully. As one joke goes (obviously created by a man who felt unfairly treated by women), “If a man is alone in the forest and he says something–and there is no woman to hear it–is he still wrong?” People (borrowers?) often see spouses as adversaries, and sometimes seem to have a dread of the opposite sex. Male borrowers or clients may feel more comfortable hiring a man…and the wife–if she is the one in charge–may want to hire a woman. Are men and women notaries competing for work? Do clients have a preference?

Eighty percent of the male notaries we talk to generally seem to be all about business. They don’t tend to go to signings on dirt roads at night…perhaps because they are not feeling as pressured to take on any and all assignments at the beginning to get paid. They find ways to get the borrowers to read the documents and understand them, but they don’t go overboard. They know how to make people feel comfortable, but they are not inclined to chat or stay longer than they have to. Yet they are great at figuring out and explaining the logistics and numbers so that title companies and borrowers and clients are served. Male notaries have less patience for signings that go on and on, and they run a tight ship. Still, they know a good deal or a bad deal when they see one, and are able to persuade clients when to call a loan officer or attorney. The male notaries don’t always see the value of reviews at first…but when they start getting reviews, they are unstoppable and no woman can compete with them. They get lots of work, lots of praise, and they close. That remaining 20%, though, already seem to have all the good qualities noted above, plus the compassion and patience and good humor of the women who are notaries. It’s a bird, it’s a plane–it’s Super Notary! Ladies, beware!

Of the hundreds of female notaries we’ve talked with, on the other hand, almost all have this amazing sense about people. They listen. They repair situations that are falling apart. Women who are notaries make friends easily. The paradox is they may not always make good choices at first about where to go for work or where to meet clients, and they don’t always stand firm and get people to sign; in a difficult situation, female notaries often leave. But women who are notaries get people to relax, feel good, and spend extra time (“time wasted,” grumbles one ferociously successful male notary) helping borrowers or clients, driving them places, or listening to their problems. For the most part, they are the opposite of the domineering image of a woman Thurber portrays in the cartoon above! People like their style and their compassion, and although female notaries seem to spend more time doing their jobs, the satisfaction, praise, and reviews they get in return keep them going…and going…and going. They, too, are good at numbers and details, and at explaining documents. As one male notary told me today, “Female notaries sometimes have trouble because there are some men [borrowers] who like to intimidate women. Period.” Yet although they know when to leave, the women often prefer to stay and make friends. “If you want a sympathetic notary, hire a woman,” one young male notary told us. “I am a contract closer, not a hair stylist who will embody compassion and discuss your most intimate secrets,” he quips. “Well,” says one successful woman who is a notary with agencies in several states, “they say, If you want it done, ask a man; if you want it done right, ask a woman.”

Which notary should I hire? Compassion is important to me; if both sexes displayed this trait, there would be no war between men and woman…and no war in general. But compassion is not what counts most in the notary business. The female notary who is organized and has mastered the journal and the no-nonsense “time is money” approach does well as a notary, and never fears going into any situation because, besides her can of pepper spray and years of experience and praise, she brings the confidence that she is the equal of any man, and any client. It also helps that this Super Notary (Woman) or Notary Woman is impeccably dressed, always on time, always patient yet never loses control of the situation and the time–and is trained in every kind of document and exception to every rule. She is not masculine in any way, and is, in fact, often so gorgeous or personable that she frequently gets asked out by the single males she does notary work for…and even sometimes by the married ones. However, Super Notary (Man) is also a force to be reckoned with, a mix of upbeat kind remarks, punctuality, courtesy, humor, and an ability to explain and present documents concisely in just the right way, firmly, and in record time. He knows when someone is being cheated, and knows how to steer that borrower to discover it for him-or-herself. Super Notary is strong yet laid back, personable but never unprofessional or suggestive…and everyone feels he really cares and would defend their interests to the death…because he’s “a good guy at heart,” the Christopher Reeve of the notary world. Aw gee.

It seems the best notaries I’ve met on 123notary are those who exhibit the traits traditionally associated with both men and women. So how to decide? I have two in mind (you know who you are!) Which notary should I hire?

Which one would be most likely to assist me if anything went wrong? The notary with the best manner…or the best journal? I need to hire a notary. I’ve narrowed it down to two. Given a choice between two notaries I have in mind, one male and one female–I am totally baffled about which to choose. They both answer their phones, are sensible and savvy, have certifications and wonderful reviews, and solid lives that show that they themselves are financially sound and exemplify good decision-making. Which notary should I hire?

The one with the most experience who can also give the clearest and kindest explanation…no matter how long it takes…without pushing me or rushing me or getting angry.

No woman could be quite as fearsome as the woman pictured in the Thurber drawing above (I hope), or any man as dull or spineless as that tiny husband. But any pleasant, upbeat, reasonably competent male or female notary would easily win out over these–well–cartoon characters…because real people are compassionate as well as accurate and on-time, funny as well as serious, strong in some ways and weak in others…and all flawed in their own inimitable ways. Which notary should I hire? If it’s an important loan I really am not sure about, I want nothing less that the best in the business, and that has to be decided on the basis of references and quality and concrete evidence. After all, that’s how notaries get paid.

So tonight, I’m going to flip a coin.


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  1. What a beautifully written article! Eloquent, informative, thoughtful and concise. Obviously written by one who has a love (and respect) of the English language… So who won the coin toss?!?

    Comment by smcohn — January 30, 2013 @ 5:13 pm

  2. I think this article is sexist. I am a woman. I am not “gorgeous or impeccably dressed”, though I do dress businesslike. I am 58 years old, married, and all business. I look like Mrs. Gultch. I show them the numbers, we call title right away if there is a question, and we start signing. I have a paralegal background and I can explain every document succinctly. Since I get paid by the job, there is no reason to stretch it out any longer than necessary. I do all the things in this article that a man does and I don’t do the things that the woman does. And how does anyone know before they hire the notary, what sort of “signing personality” the notary has? Many people say when I am done, “Wow, that was the fastest signing we ever had. And you explained everything. The last notary didn’t explain anything and she took twice as long.” This article assumes that men are efficient and women are weak. But men could still be getting paid more, even if they are not doing as good a job. Ask the signing services: do they pay differently based on the genders of their notaries?

    Comment by Carolyn Jorgensen Potter — March 10, 2018 @ 9:47 pm

  3. The only difference that I have ever perceived is that some folks feel more relaxed with a strange female in their homes as opposed to a strange male.

    Comment by Karen Nichols — February 2, 2019 @ 2:39 pm

  4. I read about three lines and the sexism is overpowering. A notary is a person who stamps legal documents, not a psychiatrist

    Comment by D — March 4, 2021 @ 1:45 am

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