Jessica’s Cranky Corner (No. 2) Don’t Call Me Ma’am!

Is this the face of a “ma’am”? I think not.

It happened again today. I was tremendously insulted by a perky little Starbucks barista. No, she didn’t roll her eyes in impatience, make a rude comment behind my back, or poke fun at my obnoxiously pink outfit. She did something far worse. She called me “ma’am.”  

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a very tolerant person. When they screw up my drink order or take a long time ringing up the high-maintenance customer ahead of me, I just roll with it. Heck – sometimes I even give them a sympathetic smile. Working in retail sucks, and I know from experience that these people – no matter how robotic or surly they may seem – need a big hug at the end of the day. But one thing they should never EVER do is call someone without a full head of gray hair “ma’am.”

Why do they do it? Out of respect for their elders? Well guess what people, I’m not a granny! A lady never reveals her true age, so let’s just say that I’m squeezed between the Kate Hudson-Reese Witherspoon age brackets. Do they look like ma’ams to you? I don’t think so.

I’m still a youngin’ dammit!  I can still squeeze my tush into a pair of jeans from the juniors section! I boogie to Lady Gaga! I say things like “LOL,” “TTYL,” and “ROTFL!” Wait…those techy acronyms are still hip, right? Do young people still even say “hip” anymore? Great – now I’m starting to doubt my cool factor!

But I digress…my point is that the word “ma’am” should be boycotted from the robotic customer service scripts that retail grunts must adhere to. This is an important rule that should be enforced in new employee handbooks. I tried to educate a checkout boy at my local grocery store, but to no avail. After he asked, “Did you find everything OK today ma’am?” I told him very politely that he shouldn’t ever call a woman under the age of 60 “ma’am.” I thought I got through to him until he muttered, “Do you need any help carrying these bags out to your car ma’am? UGH! That’s when I realized there’s no hope. Clearly, the word is so deeply embedded in their brains, so I might as well get used to it.

We’re about the same age. Does she look like a “ma’am”? No!

So as I’m sinking into the “acceptance stage” of my grief, I take pleasure in knowing that what goes around comes around. One day, they too will be called “ma’am.” I hope they walk away with their heads down low. I hope the dreaded word causes them to wince in agony. I hope they spend gobs of money on “age-defying” makeup at the MAC counter (cue evil laughter).

Wow – I’m really getting heated about this. Maybe I’m just feeling ultra-sensitive because I turned another year older today. I’m not totally freaking out about my declining youth. Old people have fun too. I have lots to look forward to – like Bingo nights, RV adventures and senior specials! I’m not in denial…really. Since today’s my b-day, I’m going to treat myself to this fun little book by Linda Franklin, “Don’t Ever Call Me Ma’am.” Misery loves company, right?

What do y’all think? Is “ma’am” an inexcusable insult? Post a comment and partake in my cranky rant!

16 thoughts on “Jessica’s Cranky Corner (No. 2) Don’t Call Me Ma’am!

  1. Ashley Green

    I am so glad you posted this, I agree entirely! Whenever I get called Ma’am, I’m shocked and appalled!

    Another pet peeve, my bank had me set up as ‘Ms. Green’ in their system. I requested that they kindly switch it to ‘Miss’, which was when they explained that the term ‘Ms’ is reserved for women of a certain age who aren’t married. I’m not 90! I’m not even 30 yet! Geesh!!!

    1. It really is a horribly insulting word! If I were you, I’d file a complaint to the bank’s corporate office. That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard! Let’s keep up the good fight. 🙂

  2. Laura

    I love this post! I cannot stand the word “ma’am”, and I don’t know a single woman who does. However, what nearly put me over the edge, my status when registering to get married in England was “spinster”. I was mortified that they don’t use the word bachelorette. After all, my Husband was a “bachelor”. Sigh.

    1. You’ve got to be kidding me! English beaurocrats really use the word “spinster”?!? That’s atrocious! “Bachelorette” is much, much better. I always laugh when Jarred gets called “sir” but it just rolls off his back.

  3. Kerri. N.

    They are wrong about Ms. as well. Ms. is reserved for women whose marital status is in question i.e. you just don’t know. If they KNOW you are single, call you Miss. I like Ms. as a married woman because I kept my own last name. I’m not single but I’m certainly no one’s Mrs.

  4. Well, doll, some of us must admit we are THERE–so can’t complain. But I felt like a decrepit old woman this week when I went to a nail spa and the young lady kept rubbing my back like she was thinking, “poor old lady, bless her heart.” I wanted to slap her hand away and tell her not to patronize me–and I would have too, if the back rub hadn’t felt so good.

  5. Ma’am is pretty common in Alabama. My seven year old addresses me (and everyone else of the female persuasion) as “Ma’am.” I call store clerks and teachers “ma’am” as it is expected and shows respect. It’s a matter of proper upbringing and manners here.

    In your situation, I would think that it depends on the situation and tone of voice. There’s always another coffee shop, right???? You are beautiful inside and out … and age is a state of mind 🙂 HUGS! xx, Lauren

    1. Aww thank you Lauren! I needed to hear that. 🙂

      I totally get what you’re saying. When a Southern gentleman or a little kid addresses me as “ma’am,” I feel like it’s a matter of respect, not so much an insult. The tone makes all the difference. Usually in customer service situations, they bark the word at me, causing me to wince in pain! I think I’m just getting hyper-sensitive in my older, not-so-wiser years! LOL!

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