Friday, September 16, 2016

Ma'am This

(post copyright 2016, Dawn Weber)

So there I was, just trying to buy some overpriced chicken fingers, when it happened: the horrible. The terrible. The unthinkable.

"Will that be all today, sir?"




I peeked down into my shirt. You know, just to be sure.

"Nope," I said, "not a sir."

The cashier's face had already turned bright red. "I am so sorry."

He was a new employee, judging by his shaky hands and the scowling manager behind him. Still inwardly stung, I waved off apologies  because, hey -- I know how it is. I've worn the greasy shoes of fast food myself.

"No problem," I said. "Not a big deal."

Relief washed over his face. "We'll have that up for you in a minute. Can I have your name, please?"

I turned to the drink machine. "Just call me 'Sir.'"

While waiting for my meal, I thought about the whole exchange. I'd been called many things in my day: jerk, idiot and most recently, asshole, thanks to a stranger on vacation.

Here's a fun fact: In some states, pedestrians do not have the right of way, even at marked pedestrian crosswalks. Remember this the next time you're in Hilton Head.

The more you know.

But even though I've been called those awful things and more, I've never, ever -- not once in my whole life -- been called sir.

Ma'am, now, that's another story. Much to my great dismay, I've been in solid ma'am territory for a couple of decades, at least if you believe a particular security guard I see several times a day.

"Morning, ma'am!"

"Afternoon, ma'am!"

"Have a great night, ma'am!"

Ma'am this, pal. You're on thin ice.

With every ma'am he lobs my way, I grow older, I grow angrier. First ma'am of the day? My blood pressure rises and my right eye begins to twitch. Next ma'am -- wrinkles spread, collagen breaks down. Lunchtime ma'am? Osteoporosis. After that, the effects are cumulative, spiraling out of control.

By 5 p.m., I'm a goner.

Because to me, the word "ma'am" is a derogatory gender-based term meaning "Haggard old woman who owns too many cats."  That's why I never call a female ma'am, even when I see one who has clearly gone over Ma'am Mountain. She can be a wrinkled, stooped, gray-haired granny struggling with an extra large bag of Meow Mix in the pet food aisle, and I will not call her ma'am. I will instead ask, "Can I help you with that, miss?" 

You know, after hoisting my own Meow Mix into the cart.

"Sir? Sir?" the cashier called me, grinning sheepishly and interrupting my cat food reverie.

I walked to the counter as he pushed the tray forward. "Sorry about that again," he said. "Thanks for being a good sport."

I nodded and smiled and turned away. Hey. He was giving me food -- he could call me anything he wants.

And sir beats the hell out of ma'am.


  1. I have never thought of you as a sir. Cutie, Hottie, Temptress? Yes, but never a sir!

    1. Please. Talk to the young man at Chick-fil-A!

  2. Sigh. How true it is. I laugh only because I look much better laughing than sobbing.

  3. No pedestrian right-of-way even at marked crosswalks? Are you serious? Wow.

    Bless your little heart for calling the ma'ams of this world "miss." And for being a good sport about the newbie nerves.

    1. Yup I'm serious Jenny oh. It's ridiculous I nearly got assaulted by several people who couldn't bother to slow down a wee bit for a pedestrian. If they been going speed limit to begin with there would have been no problem but they actually sped up when they saw me. Then they called me asshole! It was a great day.

  4. I would love to be called "Miss"--especially by my husband!!

    1. I guess it's like my grandpa said, fish ducky. "You can call me anything you want just don't call me late for dinner."

  5. Hahahahaha! The first time some kid cashier called me "ma'am" I looked behind me to see who he was talking to. Then it dawned on me that I was officially in the ma'am zone. This was probably 30 years ago now so I'm used to it.

    I also get called "sir" occasionally and it's always the same scenario -- some teenage male clerk or cashier whose eyes alight on females only when they're young, scantily dressed and dripping with makeup. Any old frumps like me with shortish grey hair, no makeup and wearing pants don't warrant a second glance as far as they're concerned and just automatically register as one of the guys. I always make sure to pleasantly address them as "miss" in return. Hey, gender bending is in!

  6. When I went into 7th grade, my mother decided my long hair should be cut off. From that point on, despite having developed quite early, I was often mistaken for a boy. I hated it. My parents thought it was funny and told me to lighten up and not be so sensitive but it was hurtful. Now I absolutely refuse to cut my hair short ever again.

    1. I don't blame you at all, JoJo. Seventh grade is the fourth circle of hell anyway let alone being mistaken for a boy !

  7. Managers looking over your shoulder can cause all manner of errors. What was he supposed to call you, unless you were wearing a name tag? M'lady, Your Majesty, Your Honor, Your Highness, Duchess, Princess, Doctor, She Who Must Be Obeyed? Addressing strangers is awkward on a good day.

  8. Someone called me that to my back once. I could feel the heat hit my face, and my fist curl into a ball. Want to call me "sir", then you might get a "sir" reaction, like a fist to the face. I hate being called Ma'am too. Unless I'm trying to get a senior discount and I'm not quite their "senior discount" age yet.

    1. I'm really surprised to see that this is happened to so many women ! I guess we all have our transgender moments…

  9. I just popped over from Debra's blog. As a transman any time I get called sir makes my day.

    And I totally agree with you about ma'am. Men get called sir through out their lives so why are young women called miss and then suddenly change to ma'am when they get a few wrinkles? So wrong.

  10. You know, in Star Trek everyone is Sir. Maybe you met a Trekkie.