When did I become a Ma’am?
Aging sucks, there is no getting around it but the alternative is worse. I try to age gracefully by being on the never ending diet, exercising until I need surgeries (another story), or hiding my grey. This process takes work and is by no means easy. Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I can still see that self conscious teenager with frizzy curly hair, with no clue on how to tame it, yet, the tiny creases around my eyes and forehead tell me otherwise.
A lot has changed since I was that teen staring at the mirror but many things haven’t. I am married, with an 11 year old and a miniature dog/person who now lives south of the Mason Dixon line, something I never dreamed of when I was an adolescent. On a recent trip to New York, I was hand selecting items from my parents home to be sent down to Raleigh as they are closing up shop in Huntington (yet another story), downsizing, and moving further out to the east end of Long Island. When the package arrived on my doorstep with all my goodies, my mother surprised me and packed a picture of me, taken roughly when I was 16, around the time where self confidence is thrown out the window in any child’s life. My son looked at the picture said, “you look exactly the same”. That was truly a compliment that he certainly didn’t intend, as I have to pry one out of him. Yet, when I look at that picture I still see that 16 year old. What I didn’t like at 16 I now embrace at my current age. It was heartwarming to hear that I look the same from an 11 year old perspective. Giving him a kiss on the cheek for those beautiful and thoughtful words only elicited a “gross” and grumble as he walked away.
I think the worst part about aging is trying to prevent it and we are inundated with products that promise the sun, the moon and of course, younger looking skin. Now that I am in living in the South, and the sun can wreak havoc even on the well conditioned skin, I am fairly certain that my life will be consistent with wide brim hats, sunscreen with SPF 100, anti-aging skin products that reduce the brown sun spots and people calling me Ma’am. When did I become a Ma’am? I never embraced the idea of calling someone Ma’am yet, here in Raleigh, North Carolina, it is widely accepted and embraced. In fact, my son was taught in his school that you call someone Ma’am when you don’t know their name and it is a sign of respect. He used to just say “excuse me” or maybe even “hey you”, something wildly popular in New York. Now, I am perfectly fine with accepting my son calling someone else Ma’am, as it has its own charm, and his manners are clearly more refined that before, but, and this is a big one, I am NOT comfortable with someone calling me Ma’am. It’s almost as bad as my son calling me Mama, which I forbade him to ever call me from an early age.
The first time I was called Ma’am was at some store and was preceded by “do you need help out to your car Ma’am?” While I appreciate the offer and nice gesture, it makes me feel older than I really am. Or is it? In my head, I don’t look older, as I have proof with that picture, but to others I might and they are just being nice and polite. There is a certain intonation that also accompanies the word and it has a memorable and comforting sing-song quality that rises up in the middle, “Yes Ma’am”. I bet you are saying it in your head right now.
I really don’t mind and can accept the Ma’am part if it is just being polite, but it is the implied, the respect your elders notion is where the problem lies – just when did I become the older generation and often wonder what on Earth is next?