If you’re a woman of a certain age, you probably remember the first time someone called you “ma’am”. Maybe you can’t recall the exact date, time, location or culprit, but you do remember the feeling. Suddenly you were aware that you’d officially crossed over from the youthful world of “miss” to the more sedate land of “ma’am”.
It can be shocking when we are faced with someone else’s perception of us.
For me, it was a teenaged boy who uttered the word. Probably he was a bagger at a grocery store or a busboy. I can’t recall the details, but I remember thinking, once the initial shock wore off: Ma’am? Who do you think you’re talking to, buster?
The poor lad had no idea his attempt to be polite was so offensive to me.
I’m not sure if there’s an equivalent moment for men. It might be the first time they’re addressed as “sir” or “mister” instead of “dude” or “man”.
Since that defining moment, I’ve been referred to as “ma’am” many times. I no longer get offended. I realize it’s the natural progression of life.
Lately, though, an interesting phenomenon has been occurring: People are starting to call me “miss” again. Granted, they are mainly elderly gentlemen attempting to be complimentary.
I also had the surreal experience of being carded while buying a bottle of wine at a liquor store recently. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. I said point blank to the young clerk, “Seriously? Is this some kind of marketing ploy to get middle-aged women to keep coming back?” He gave me a confused smile, but said nothing.
It just goes to show you that life has a way of coming full circle.