As a Mom I am accustomed to younger folks calling me “ma’am”, but when people my age and older began referring to me as such I could not resist looking around to see who they were talking to. Surely there was a much older woman standing right behind me. “Miss” and “young lady” seem to be salutations of my youth that I may never hear again. I purposely choose the oldest cashier available in hopes of hearing those sweet words, but it is starting to feel like putting on a mini-skirt and going to the club – embarrassingly desperate. I think of myself as a grown woman who has reached a level of sophistication and philanthropy unthought-of by my reckless younger self, yet I digest this form of mature address as an insult. I do not feel refined or respected. What I hear is, “Have a nice day, Old Lady”. Although I am almost certain that the offender has no idea that I feel like he just called me a hag, a small part of me thinks I detected a smirk when he said it. I figure that old women are not known for their friendly demeanor and do not reply unless someone is asking to help me put my groceries in the car. Then I reply incredulously, “No thank you, I can do it”. I frequently accepted offers of help when I was younger because I viewed them as validation of my attractiveness. Now I would be validating that I cannot lift ten
pounds without hurting myself.
I am convinced that there is a higher power that finds me entertaining and provides me with absurd circumstances to hone my comedic outlook. Proof of this can be found in a
recent interaction with the manager at the local oil change place. The manager, who was either in his late 30’s or prematurely balding and paunchy, asked me what kind of oil I would like. This is a stupid question because he has a record of the oil that they put in last time, but I quickly realize he is trying to up-sell me on synthetic oil that is $15 more. I fall back on, “I’ll have to talk to my husband about that”, my standard reply when I do not want to buy something. He then says, “Not to offend you, but many older people do not like synthetic oil simply because it was not around when they first started driving”. He must have thought I was odd, or perhaps demented, when I laughed at
him for a full minute. Whatever he thought, he took it as a reply and walked away from my window. Such an idiotic comment was not only good for a few chuckles, but also reminded me that I do not have to look for or imagine discourtesy. After being truly
insulted, it is absolutely acceptable to address me as “Ma’am”.