Posted by: unlikelygrad | October 4, 2010

don’t call me that!

When I started my first job (in fast food) at age 16, I did what my parents taught me to do–called my customers sir and ma’am. After all, if you don’t know their names, how else can you speak to them respectfully?

I was shocked at the ferocity by which some of the women responded. “Don’t call me ma’am!!” they ordered. “It makes me feel like my mother!” I guess a lot of people felt like this because now, 20 years later, no one calls any female ma’am any more.

Of course, people can’t just stop referring to women altogether. Instead of “ma’am”, they now have another name: “miss.” This really gets my goat, especially since everyone who refers to me in this fashion is younger than me.

See, as far as I’m concerned, there are two definitions of the word ‘miss’ (at least as a noun): first, a young girl; and second, a title for an unmarried woman. The second definition of the word was abandoned years ago for “Ms”–and even if it weren’t, I am married. So only the first definition is applicable.

If the person who was referring to me this way was someone in their 70s or 80s, or beyond, I would not mind; they probably would see me as insanely young anyway, so referring to me as ‘miss’ makes sense. But a scrawny, spotty teenaged bagboy at the supermarket who’s probably younger than my eldest son really has no reason to call me “miss”.

Given a choice between being called “ma’am” (and feeling like my mother) and being called “miss” (and feeling like my daughter–if I had one, anyway), I’d take ma’am every time.



  1. I’m yet another ma’am-hater. Miss doesn’t work either, though…

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