There you are: Happy, vibrant, walking tall. This morning was a revelation. You have finally found a night cream that actually works. That, or your eyesight is fading faster than expected. Either way the mirror didn’t horrify when you risked a peak earlier and that’s a win.
You can only do justice to this day by celebrating with a lunch comprised of two olives, gently skewered, nestled in a bed of gin and dry vermouth.
You reach the restaurant. You take a table in the window, all the better to see and be seen.
Then it happens.
The waiter drops the M-bomb.
‘Would you like to see the menu, ma’am?’
You stiffen. He flinches. It’s possible he suspects early-onset rigor mortis. You can practically feel the scoliosis setting in.
He might as well have said:
‘Would you like to see the soft food menu, ma’am? Oh, and here’s a glass of water for your dentures, ma’am. And how about a cozy plaid blanket for you knees, ma’am.’
Make that four olives, drowning in a martini ma’ammoth enough to warrant snorkeling gear.
In the space of a reflexive ‘ma’am’ your mood has plummeted from miss-behaving to ma’am-ogram-orific. Meanwhile his tip nosedives from 15% and a smile, to a steely-eyed reminder that, as far as ma’am-lovers go, there is a 91-year-old lady of some repute in England who likes to be called Ma’am, and THAT IS IT.
Referring to a woman as ‘ma’am’ is supposedly a sign of respect. As. If. It’s a sign that the woman in question has crossed over to the other side. To the dimly lit side. To the place in the shadows where the shriveled people go. To be ma’amed is to be subliminally told you are past your ‘best use before’ date. Everything left inside the packaging is doubtless dried up and unappetizing.
Spoiler Alert! Younger people can sometimes be naïve and judgmental. But we know that, so why is it so annoying when a waiter calls us ‘ma’am’? Is it because he didn’t call us ‘miss’? We know we’re not ‘misses’, don’t we? Are we actually that sensitive about our age? Are we that bothered that some twerp in a tiny apron thinks we’re unbeddable? Or is it because women who are considered ma’am-worthy are also seen as stuffy and joyless, sexless and peripheral? A woman who is a ma’am is not a badass, or a revolutionary, or a style guru, or a lover. She is a nonentity in a grocery store line, who surely needs help out to her car.
Ma’am does fit who women are today. There’s no point trying to reclaim it. We should kick its tired old butt onto the scrapheap of anachronisms, where it can join its soul mates – spinster and bossy.
We need a ma’am replacement. A new honorific that doesn’t make you feel as though you should be in a rocking chair with an emergency alert pendant around your neck.
Personally I favor ‘N-Dub’. It’s short for ‘Nasty Woman’. And I’ll have a martini. Five olives.