don't call me ma'am

Ma’am: Respectful or Insulting?

I remember exactly where I was when the Challenger exploded.

I remember exactly where I was when the OJ Simpson verdict was read.

AND, I remember exactly where I was when I was called ma’am for the 1st time.

I was in Toys R’ Us, after a very rough night with little sleep, and I asked a 20-something clerk for help finding a baby item. He said, “Right this way ma’am”.

I was like, what the??? It felt like I had just crossed over an invisible line in life and there was no going back. I had, quite abruptly, transitioned from a Miss to a Ma’am and I hated it. Or perhaps I just wasn’t ready for it? I was already trying to find my way in transitioning from being an independent, successful, working woman to a stay-at-home mom whose time was no longer her own. And jumping from a Miss to a Ma’am was simply more than I was ready for.

I turned 40 this year and the frequency of being called ma’am has increased, as has my dislike for the title.

So, I reached out to several of my girlfriends from around the country to ask their opinion on being called ma’am.

Julia Smolyanky, 46, is a Business Manager living in New York, NY. Julia does not care for the term. She said, “it’s too official sounding”. She said that it’s also “very harsh”, she would only use the word ma’am when she is “about to put someone in their place”. When asked what she would rather be called, she said, “lady or miss” would be more appropriate.

Angie Duval, 40, co-owner of Trendsetters Salon in North Canton, OH also does not care for the word. She said that it makes her feel “matronly”. She would prefer that something less official sounding be used. She likes something more casual that could apply to any age or station in life, like a simple, “hello, excuse me” or even “sweetie”.

Sarah Jacobs, 35, is a real estate agent from Cedar Park, TX. She said the term ma’am doesn’t bother her at all. She said “it’s a way of life around here”. She feels that the term is “100% respectful”, especially if you are speaking to someone who is older than you. She said that it can even be viewed as disrespectful to NOT call a woman ma’am.

After speaking with my girlfriends, I gave the whole matter a lot more thought. I completely appreciate that the word ma’am is used as a term of respect. And perhaps that’s what I take issue with, I may be 40 but my spirit is still young. I don’t know that I have lived long enough to be deserving of the respect that is inferred with the use of ma’am. My book is only half-written; I’m still learning and growing every day. I’m still trying to figure it all out. I have so many more chapters to fill and so much more life to live. I guess, when I am in my 70’s, and have lived a long, full life and gathered up loads of wisdom, it is then that I will embrace being called ma’am.

Written By Amanda Fowler
You can follow Amanda on Instagram at LifeInProgress40
Photograph courtesy of JM Photography
Ma’am shirt custom made at Etsy shop LuckyShirtClothing