Sunday, August 29, 2010

Yes, Ma'am

An article in today's New York Times condemns the word "ma'am." It quotes many broads who find usage of the word condescending.

In some prehistoric time when I was 35, and there were numerous magazines, some of which assigned me articles, for which they would then pay me, I wrote a similar piece for Index magazine. I think it was titled "Just Don't Call Me Ma'am" and it is now in a box somewhere in my attic, buried underneath piles of Christmas decorations, Thomas the Tank Engine, and assorted other crap.

The article was inspired by a trip to a record store (they had those back then, and they were usually staffed by cute, dismissive 22-year-olds with esoteric music taste). The clerk had the audacity to call me "ma'am" and I snapped bitchily at him: "Don't Call me Ma'am!" The poor child looked wounded, and my boyfriend gently suggested that I may have overreacted because the clerk was just trying to be polite.

To no avail. I had been made to feel old. This was a sin, an affront to all of womankind. I would have my revenge in the pages of Index magazine.

Now, of course, in my new life as upstanding suburban wife, stay-at-home mother and furtive blog writer, I am constantly referred to as ma'am. I have long since resigned myself to this fate, as 50 looms in the very near future. I now take it as it is offered, politely, if I notice it at all.


  1. Yes Ma'am...accepting the truth gracefully is a beautiful thing....aside...the last time I used the word "Ma'am" was recently when a mother of two little ones was headed out the door of day camp and without looking back let said door close on my 2 little which I replied sarcastically "thanks Ma'am." I believe if she held the door open I would have said sweetly "thank you Miss." Nevertheless, she ignored me or was oblivious to everything. She was probably having a bad day but to keep my day interesting and my mind active I would like to believe she is the incarnation of evil. And I will admit that I much rather be called by my first name than "Sir"...Who the f*ck am Dad?

  2. I've tried to teach the finer points of 'ma'aming' to my 16 year old son - e.g. - it's a requirement to "ma'am" his teachers, but not so much his best friend's struggling-with-aging mom. He just looks at me like I'm crazy. :-)

  3. Don't move to the South! It's yes ma'am, no ma'am down here. Reflexive, peer-to-peer. No irony. Or I haven't cracked the code.

  4. Hmm. I'm a Southern lady who will be 29 this year. I LOVE being called ma'am. I'm all about it. Whenever I hear it, I'm like: "That's right! respect me underlings!!!" It has always been used as a term of respect. The only time I don't like it is when I am demanding better service and someone uses it obsequeiously (sp?). Then I kinda go nuts.