A week and some change ago I was in Nashville for my friend Leslie’s Bachelorette party. Somewhere in the haze of events one thing was and still remains quite clear, I was called Ma’am by a curly headed, brunette girl that I’m certain I am only older than by a handful of short years. The kind that do not even have leap year.
I asked her a question along the lines of, “are you waiting in line?” Or some other question that required a one word answer.
And she then said the dreaded words.
I caught myself quickly looking around me, thinking someone’s grandmother had stumbled in to powder their nose, straighten their shawl, no doubt ragged from years of use, or apply cold cream. Perhaps while doing those chores they asked her something which would require such a polite reply to an elder. But as I quickly scanned the room and felt her heinous eyeballs continuing to zero in on me, I realized that I was in fact the Ma’am she was referring to. Mind you all of this happened within a second or two, but time seems to slow down when you are caught off guard with an unexpected torpedo to the youth that exists inside your mind.
Soon after, I had what I am sure is only the beginning of a lifetime full of moments in which I asked myself: When did I become a ma’am??? I realize that in the area in which I live and those below the word ma’am is a cornerstone of southern manners. It’s something people often take pride when their young children grasp the concept of using the term. And I don’t doubt that somewhere that curly headed
demon girl has a proud mama. But still. It was somewhat catastrophic to my soul in the way that a bug zapper is to a fly.
I asked myself several questions regarding why I was called ma’am. Was it the way the humidity had poofed my hair out enough to resemble a hot air balloon ascending into the evening sky? Was it that I was wearing a cardigan, a clothing staple that I once deemed old and stale but now regularly wear? Was it because my hair was too highlighted and I need to go back to being brunette, which my mother claims makes me look youthful? Could she see the minor line medial to my right eyebrow that I have developed from scowling while studying? Was it my Origami Owl necklace? (It probably was.) Or: Was she just a real see you next tuesday?
Manners or not, ma’am just sounds old to me, and I am not ready to accept that I may be a person worthy of such a name. And that’s that.
Should you ever wonder what triggered my late 20’s crisis, please refer back to this very moment in time. There exists a strong possibility that I drastically change my hair color or pull some other late 20’s stunt that is guided strongly by principles but seems super wild in my mind. Like not returning a library book or drinking out of the milk jug.
(I’m also still trying to solve the mystery of who signed me up for the mass email regarding Thirty-One products. I’m not sure who you are, but that ranks right up there with calling Ma’am. Embroidered cloth bags are for carrying diapers.)