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Ma’am . . . Miss . . . Young Lady . . .

While checking out at Target, the checker called me young lady. The person in question, calling me young lady, was at least ten years my junior.  It took me so by surprise that it was a moment before I had comprehended what he had said.  I started to doubt what I had heard until he said it again.  This young man in his early twenties, at the oldest, had just called ME young lady.  What the hell? Now I’ve been called young lady many a time in my life and never once batted an eyelash at the term because it was said by my father, or people in his general age range.  In comparison I am a young lady to them, so the moniker makes sense.  But what in the heck is this kid doing calling me that.  I didn’t know if I should be offended or laugh at him.  I almost gave him a piece of mind, to let him know that it’s not appropriate to call a woman who is obviously older than you, a young lady, but I stopped myself.  At the time I didn’t know why I was stopping myself, but a big red flag was waving in the back of my mind warning me to keep my mouth shut, so I said thank you, took my bag and left.

It wasn’t until I had reached my car, and had gone over what I would have said to him, that I realized the cause of the red flag.  While I didn’t want him to call me young lady, what did I want him to call me?  Ma’am, hell no!  I’m not married, I have no kids and at the end of the month I’ll be celebrating my 32nd birthday by going to see the new Muppet Movie.  I am not a ma’am!  But how does he know any of that? Okay he could guess age, but the rest he’s clueless.  So how about Miss?  That works for me . . . but I’ve seen women get upset, flash a big rock and proclaim that they are a Mrs., not a Miss. Ms?  That’s just awkward and weird.  Honey or sweetie?  Nope.  Unless of course you’re a sweet little old grandmother in which case go for it! Chick or Babe? Not. Even. Going. There. That’s a whole other blog post.


So what is a safe bet?  Here’s the thing, I can’t come up with one.  I can’t come up with a single name that you can use for a woman that is universal.  I don’t think it exists!  Help me out if it does, because I can’t think of a single thing.  Guys are easy.  You can call every single guy that walks up, Sir and be good to go.  This kid at the express lane probably thought that it was flattering to call me young lady, pointing out my youth, etc.  The fact that I found it pandering and patronizing probably puts me at odds with the score of Los Angeleno women that he has dealt with heretofore.  Who knows?  Or maybe all of the women before me had the exact same thought that I did, but none of them said anything because of the exact same reason that I hadn’t.  None of us had a better alternative for him, and what’s the point of correcting one “wrong” when all you can give is another “wrong?”

I guess the better question is why does this problem even exist in the first place?  Why are women so sensitive about what we are called? Especially ma’am!  Ma’am is almost like a bad word or an insult to most women, but if you look at its definition it’s actually a far cry from being an insult.  Ma’am is a shortened version of madam and is used as a title of respect, especially when addressing female royalty. Royalty people!


Thousands of women are going around getting insulted because people are showing them respect and addressing them as royalty.  What?  That makes no sense what so ever!  Other than our modern day connotation, the actual moniker of ma’am has nothing to do with age, it’s to do with respect, rank and authority.  And really what’s so bad about getting older?  If I could go back to my twenties, but retain the knowledge that I have now, I would do it in a heartbeat.  But if going back to my twenties meant that I would also have to go back to only what I knew in my twenties . . . no thanks.  I’ll stay exactly where I am thank you very much!  I’ve learned a lot of lessons since then and earned each and every one of my years. So when somebody calls me ma’am, I should take that as a sign of respect, not an insult.  Need to work on that.

  • Terri

    Just wait until you are 20 or so years older and they do the fake flirting thing with you. UGH! It is condescending. It’s like pity flirting.

    • Kat Michels

      Ugh! I’m not a fan of that now, I can’t imagine in 20 years.