Beyond Babedom

We're (way) over 40. Deal with it.

No Ma’am!

Don’t tell me this doesn’t bother you. You’re checking out at the grocery store and the pimply faced cashier hands you your change (never counting it out, of course) and he says, “Have a nice day, ma’am.”

It makes my skin crawl.

If I’m in the mood, I’ll smile at him and say, “Never call a woman ma’am! Unless she has blue hair.” And that usually gets a laugh. But I’m serious. It’s not just that ma’am seems to signify oldness – did anyone ever call you that in your 30s? – but it also . . . na, that’s the main reason. It makes us feel old. And, I don’t know about you, but I’m not – old, that is.

Old to me is not trying new things (did I tell you about how I’ve taken up golf?) or getting stuck in a rut (I’ve also been de-cluttering, getting rid of stuff I really don’t need). It’s also clinging to the past (Okay. So I’m still pissed off that I wasn’t co-captain of cheering in the 8th grade, even though everyone knew I was the best cheerleader. . .), though that’s not really about being old; it’s more about being obsessive (Ah, yes! I’m obsessive!).

Why is it that culture in general wants to point out how old women are? You don’t hear men being called any age-distinguishing titles (the term “sir” is used even when they’re kids). We get all the language-based ageism and it has got to stop!

I call on every BB to correct every young, polite person who calls you ma’am. Let them know you’re not old. Do a cartwheel in the store if you have to!

But, please, don’t do it if you’re wearing Spanx.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 at 10:54 AM and is filed under Social Issues. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  1. Michelle G says:

    That’s funny. I just tipped a young guy 40% because he called me “Miss.”

  2. Patrice says:

    Lol. Funny that doesnt make me feel old. Maybe you need to just hear it as respectful. Plenty of southern say ma’am and such. I think it’s agreeing. Guess that’s because I’m still YOUNG!!!

  3. Patrice says:

    Agreeing???? I typed flattering. Damn iPhone

  4. Camille says:

    I wish I had the luxury of time to obsess over such things!

  5. David Alexander says:

    You should be happy to get any sense of courtesy from a salesperson! Let’s face it — we’re old. For a lot of men, “Sir” now has the same connotation. We’re older than these kid’s parents, so that makes us walking dinosaurs. I’m more concerned that they get the change right and acknowledge my existence before moving on to the next customer.

  6. Ellen G says:

    well good thing you don’t live in the South….thats how the youngins’ are taught their good mannerisim….please don’t take so seriously….its just a way of being polite no harm intended

  7. I have to agree with Ellen G. ‘Ma’am’ is a term of respect, and I’m never offended when it’s directed at me.

  8. Richard S says:

    Being raised in a country store and gas station, I never said “ma’am”, it was either just “thank you” or “thank you, you old geezer”

  9. Kim says:

    When my son brought home other cadets from WP all I heard was Yes, ma’am and No, Ma’am. At first it annoyed the crap out of me but I couldn’t get them to stop. I got used to it and realized I should be grateful they have manners because so there are so many rude assholes out there. I am facing the big 5-0 and I would be kidding myself if I thought I still looked like a “Miss”.

    • patrice says:

      I still stand by my original post that I do not feel old, nor am I old…I do not feel offended when someone calls me “ma’am”…it’s a term of respect…..
      Gee, Lucille, maybe it’s because you are OLD..unlike me and Kim! LOL

      I work in customer service and I say sir and ma’am, out of respect, on my calls.

      The dictionary defines ma’am : used as a title of respect, esp for female royalty

      well, hell—-I am of royalty…coming from a family of royals….care to argue with me on that one Lucille? LOL

    • Susan says:

      and can I ask if anyone have a miss and ma’am equivalent for sir? nope nope and nope..this is problematic I believe

  10. Susan says:

    O.K.!! I absolutely remember, in one stellar, crystalline moment the 1st time I was ever called “ma’am”. I was 24 years old & needed help at the gas station to get air into my tires. It roiled my blood, ruined my day & was in no way a measure of respect taken although I know the young teen meant and thought that it was. Ma’am, like bitch, is a word for females that has NO male equivalent. HA! Yes it does. For me, anytime someone calls me “ma’am”, I reply, “Why thank you BUB”.

  11. I definately agree with Michielle, I wish I had the luxury of worrying about such small things. I live in the south myself and have for the past 7 years, I am 25 minutes away from New Orleans, Louisiana, and I have seen it all trust me.

  12. Barry Jay says:

    “ma’am” you are always correct…

  13. terri says:

    I remember the first time I was called ma’am as well. It was like a slap in the face. It is also synonymous with “old lady” to me. Mind you I was probably around 40 give or take, so I am sure I seemed old to the kid at the register, but I didn’t, nor do I now, feel like an “old lady”. Although I will admit to some days where I might feel a little old! And now I am just used to it so don’t really notice it anymore! LOL I think we should tell all these young kids that it is also OK to start calling men “Pops”! That seems like a fair equivalent to “Ma’am” to me. 😉

  14. Allegra says:

    I finally got a young southern gentleman (20 years my junior) who works with me to stop calling me ma’am — even though I know it was a term of respect, it still had the same effect on me as Lucille mentioned — and now he calls me “sister.” (As in “sister in Christ” since he’s an evangelical Christian) I’m not sure which is worse!

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