For some reason, the closer I get to 30, the more I hate being called “ma’am.”
Unlike many others my age (29), I’m not really afraid of the marking of a new decade. I find it strange, yes, because time really does shoot by. I’m not really dreading it, though.
But, man, do I hate it when someone calls me “ma’am.”
It seems silly, even to me, but I really think it’s one of my biggest pet peeves. I could be going through my day feeling perfectly content when someone sends me a sneak attack of this unfortunate word choice. The instant change in my mood is almost as severe as when someone cuts me off in traffic.
I know that most people use this word to be polite. When I hear it, though, I can’t help but think that they see me as a little old lady wearing half-rim glasses with a tight, grey bun on the top of my head. Kind of like the cartoon on a deck of Old Maid cards. Or Mrs. Claus.
It’s not that I feel like I look 16 or even that it is bad to look 29, but the older I get, the older this word makes me feel. It’s almost as if this single use of language has the power to age me prematurely.
It is a word that I notice now. I’m sure people used to call me by the “m” word when I was 16 and 20 and 25, but it never made an impact back then. There was no way that I was old, so it couldn’t be what someone meant when they said it.
Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe now when someone says it I think they might actually be calling me old. Because I don’t necessarily feel old, but I realize that others could think it at this point.
There is so much attached to turning 30. People expect things from you. They think you should be married…or at least on the marriage track. They think you should have a fulfilling career and the beginnings of a padded 401K. And when they use the word ma’am, all of these preconceived notions come flooding to the surface—at least for me.
When I spent a year studying in Scotland, I don’ really remember hearing the word at all. When I slipped into the backseat of a taxi, the driver asked, “Where you headed, love?” I actually did hear the words “lass” and “hen” on occasion. And you know what? None of these words ever made me feel anything less than special.
Even though I’m not afraid of turning 30, I do realize that my aversion to the word ma’am is probably based on some of my own deep-seeded insecurities. But seriously, people, be careful when you throw out an “M” bomb not to hit any innocent unmarried-bystanders under 30 who might be lingering nearby.