What Did You Just Call Me?!

Granny from Looney Toons

I was having a lovely evening with a lovely friend at one of my favorite restaurants last night when disaster struck. A very attractive fellow came to drop off our drinks and then he said….he said….he….I can’t even get it out right now. Let me give you a little backstory so I can work up to saying the thing he said that I can’t say right now because its just too horrible.

My friends and I eat at this place a lot. Like, a weekly basis. All the staff who work there recognize us, including this handsome young fellow who said the thing that I can’t bring myself to tell you. We’re what you would call “regulars”, most the waiters know our orders by heart and the hosts always recognize us when we make reservations. Its our place, you know, like the coffee shop in Friends. So, I’m not new to this fellow. He may not know me well, but he certainly should be familiar with my face and my drink order. I believe I mentioned he’s attractive, but did I mention I think he’s very attractive? Because I do. And I always get a little shy/butterfly bellied when he brings me my drink. And maybe I stare. I’m not sure, but I think I probably stare a little bit. Ok, that’s the backstory. I think I can tell you what he said now…..deep breath….and go.

Him: Mint tea?

Me: That’s me.

Him: Here you go ma’am.Β 

Can you believe that? Ma’am?! Ma’am! He might as well have called me a hideous troll. I mean, I know the argument could be made he was just being polite but that “ma’am” was oppressive and full of disdain. It was like getting slapped in the face. I literally lost my breath when he said it. After he walked away, I leaned in to my friend and said “Did you hear that?” and she was like “Yeah. I hate that. I can’t believe he called you “ma’am”. ” and I was all “Do you think he said that to indicate he does not think I’m cute and would like me to please stop checking him out?” and I think she said she didn’t think that was the case but I’m not sure because I was too busy listening to my own thoughts yelling at me to go buy anti-aging serums and creams and maybe get a facelift and possibly some botox. I couldn’t stop thinking about it- and I’m stil thinking about it because I’m writing a blog post about it and I’m typing really really hard and furiously on my keyboard and if I break it, he owes me a new computer. The nerve! Well, I’ll tell you one thing, I won’t be checking him out any more. Actually, I’ll probably still check him out but I’ll be really mad about it.

60 thoughts on “What Did You Just Call Me?!

  1. Lily says:

    I just found your blog.I was called MaΒ΄am since I was 17!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 I gues i won here πŸ˜€ .I am 22 now,and itΒ΄s just getting worse.I hate it and i feel very very old… (btw.I am from Europe,but from a little country and here we use your MaΒ΄am or Madam only for older women……… 😦 I think i look normal for my age..maybe the people just call us automaticly and dont care who we are or how old we are..I hope 😦 (sorry for any bad grammar :p )

  2. Missisforlittlegirls says:

    Get over being called ma’am. It’s not going away anytime soon and you’re not getting any younger. People can call me ma’am anytime. It’s a polite form of address for a woman. Not some crone with a face that looks like a road map. I am a woman, I look like a woman I’m proud of it and I own it.

    Trust me that you want to be taken seriously instead of as some baby cakes bimbo for the rest of your life, which is often how young women are seen unfortunately. Also do you think Demi Moore, Angela Bassett, Mary Louise Parker, or Jennifer Lopez are not hot? Just because you are older doesn’t mean you can’t be hot. Even if you look your age like Helen Mirren, Jane Fonda or Diane Keaton or Sophia Loren.

    Look, you’re mid 20s. Are you old? No. Old is actually over 65. 20 – 40 is young adulthood and 40 to 65 is middle age. It’s obvious you are not old. Get over it. Go ahead and ma’am people your own age that you don’t know. Like I said, Ma’am is a term of respect for a woman. Don’t people your age deserve respect? Grow up, you’re a woman, not a girl. Own it.

  3. Missisforlittlegirls says:

    Nobody wants to get old, and somehow ma’am has come to be a word we use for women who look “mature” I guess that means middle aged. Once upon a time ma’am was used to mean any female with breasts. I call every woman I don’t know ma’am. It’s the same as sir and should be used as such. Even to people you don’t know who are your own age. It doesn’t, and has never meant “old lady” ever.

    The problem is most people don’t use it correctly. They want to call women they think look young, cute and perky Miss. That is incorrect. Miss/Mrs are like Mr. Do you say, pardon me Mr.? without a name coming after it? NO. It should always be Miss/Ms. or Mrs. so and so. If you don’t know her marital status is should be Ms. so and so.

    Here’s the scenario: you are introduced to 25-year-old Miss Smith. You chat, you forget her name. You see she has dropped her scarf. You call after her. What do you say? Miss, you dropped your scarf. NO. You say Excuse me ma’am, you dropped your scarf.

    Now having said all that, some misinformed people call young women Miss and older women Ma’am. This is wrong. Ma’am is for women with breasts.
    The only time you should ever use Miss without a name is only for little girls. Not teenage girls and not women in their 20s. Don’t get it twisted.

    Lastly, there is NOTHING the matter with being an older or mature woman. You don’t automatically turn into an ugly hobbit at 40. You can certainly become a hobbit if you abuse your body and health along the way.


  4. You got Ma’amed! LOL The first one is always the hardest. Though I am learning to begrudgingly accept them from males as politeness and home training. Very rare to get that from young men nowadays.

    Females, however, are suspect after hearing this nugget from a female comedian:

    “This salesgirl had the nerve to say to me, ‘We don’t have that one in your size….ma’am. Perhaps you need to look in another department…ma’am.’ You know what ma’am means? Bitch.”

  5. Miss says:

    I feel your pain. I’m 20 years old, and I’m a cashier at a grocery store. I get called ma’am at work literally all day long by the customers. I definitely look my age, and I’m pretty immature so I never really understand why people insist on calling me ma’am. It’s mortifying.

  6. Hee hee hee.
    I know the feeling, when I’m called ma’am it’s like a a glass of cold water over my head.
    I’m not offended or upset but it does remind me of my age.

  7. I know how you feel. I don’t feel like 46, but I look in the mirror and there it is. I am dearly missing those flirtatious days when I felt attractive enough to flirt with. How is it that the men who vaguely flirt with me now all look old? Oh….age appropriate. Ughhhh!

  8. Oh no he didn’t!!
    (but most likely he only did it because he get butterfly bellied when you’re around and thus has no idea of what he’s saying cause he’s so fixated at not staring too directly at you…)

  9. I’m firmly in the camp of those seeing it as a courtesy thing, and not an age thing. I was raised to refer to men and women as sir and ma’am as a matter of respect. I refer to women as ma’am that are clearly way younger than I am. Pretty much any adult gets the sir/ma’am title.

    To me its like holding a door open for a woman or standing to let a lady sit down on a crowded bus or train. That’s simply what a gentleman does. Its not intended to be a slight toward the woman or have anything to do with age. Doesn’t mean the woman isn’t capable of opening her own door or standing on the train just as well as a man can. Its just being polite.

    Chivalry isn’t seen much today. I think in large part its been beaten out of gentlemen. Want to know what makes a guy feel like a total tool? When he opens a door for a lady and she obviously chooses to open the door right next to it herself and walks through that one instead. Or when he stands and offers his seat on the crowded bus/train and she just looks at him standing there and refuses to accept it. Or when you refer to a woman as ma’am out of respect and she takes it wrong….


    I still do it, though.

    Women should come with instruction sheets πŸ™‚

    1. I was raised the same way and I always use ma’am or sir when talking to my elders or bosses, but I rarely use it for people my own age. Please understand, this was a completely internal freak-out, I didn’t lash out at him and I left a sizable tip so he was none the worse for wear. And don’t worry, I have no problem letting men open the door for me, and when one does, I always give them a big smile to encourage them to do it again. This is just a little glimpse of my crazy…..:)

    2. I completely agree that ma’am is a courtesy thing more than an indicator of age. I’m lucky to have a husband who pulls chairs out for me in restaurants, stands when I leave or return to the table, and always, always opens car doors. Pity the youngsters!

  10. Very funny stuff. I do remember when I was a little insulted to be called ma’am. Why don’t they just say, “Here’s your tea, old lady.”

    But really, it’s getting kind of hard nowadays to be polite and courteous to people. You hold the door open for someone and they’re offended – which, yes, there are women who are offended by this polite and gentlemanly gesture. And I’m way too impatient to sit in a car and wait for a guy to come around and let me out. I imagine It’s hard to know what to say sometimes.

    However, I don’t think women ever get to old to mind hearing, “Here’s your tea, young lady.” But I’m in the 40+ crowd, which has been deemed appropriate for ma’am, so maybe that’s just me.

    1. Missisforlittlegirls says:

      DO NOT EVER call a mature woman “young lady” it is condescending and its not a compliment. You are just calling attention to the fact that you think she looks pretty old. And don’t call your elders “honey” either. Save that for children.

  11. We Texas boys are reared to say sir and ma’am, hold the door open for the ladies, and all that jazz. I say ma’am as a sign of respect, especially when asked to do something. Maybe that is why my relationships hardly work, I say ma’am.

    Secondly, I call my brother ma’am. And sometimes my dad. And have gotten so used to saying it ironically that when I do go out I tend to call everyone ma’am before I realize it is coming out of my mouth. You think women don’t like it, try saying it to a large man.

    1. Please don’t misunderstand me, I LOVE that Texas boys say sir and ma’am, I just think you could be a little more judicious when using it on women under the age of 50. And yes, I can definitely imagine a large man not taking too kindly to being called ma’am, especially if he is a large Texas man. πŸ™‚

      1. I learned to use ma’am to denote my superiors: Teachers, bosses, cops, and all that jazz. He could have just thought of you as the superior since you were the customer, I did that when I worked in food service. So it isn’t necessarily anything to do with age or appearance of age. Maybe we should come up with something else for women under fifty. Darlin’ and hun don’t work too well either, they seem to offend just as much if not more.

        One thing that I have always found weird is my parents, one of which was a female in her 20s-30s, teaching me to respect people by using sir and ma’am. And I assume most guys are taught by at least one female to say it. Then it is the same women who come home and say, so-and-so just called me ma’am. They are the ones who taught us to use this word of mass destruction, sending us out into the world bruising other women’s esteem.

        You should take the word back. Walk into a room with all your lady homies and bust out: Wadup my ma’ams.

        I don’t think I am being very cohesive in this reply, so I will stop before I become too confusing.

      2. Well , I am superior…… πŸ˜‰ I was raised the same, I always say sir and ma’am, I just don’t usually use it with people my own age unless I’m joking. But you’re right, I wouldn’t love being called “hon” although I actually would kind of like a “darlin”.

        I love the idea of taking the word back though: Shout out to all my ma’ams!

  12. I am not a fan of being ma’am’d either. I remember when it first happened 9as will you I am sure), and am not at all impressed that dispite the total outrage expressed by so many women of being called ma’am, that it still happens in the world today. I mean really, what world do we live in?! Totally unacceptable.

  13. Ship Happens says:

    I take public transit alot, and recently, I was offered a seat on a crowded train by a teenager. I was mortified. I may be over 50, but thought I looked younger. Don’t worry about Ma’am. He’s just being polite. You are reading too much into it because of his ‘hotness’. Don’t you think ‘Gorgeous’ would have been too much of a pendulum swing the other way?

  14. Ha ha ha … that incident sucked but you wrote it very amuseingly.
    Now… (clears tears from eyes) where does this guy work so we can stone him or if you prefer badly tip him?

  15. In India, all female teachers are called Ma’am… and I am “Juhi Ma’am” to many students.. In a country of over a billion people, being called ma’am is respectable and good! So, basically, the term is not offensive to me, and I kinda don’t get the point of your anger – but that’s coz of cultural differance n all… I’d say, think of it as an honourific, and it won’t sound so bad any more!

    Btw, I LOVE your blog… πŸ™‚

    1. Missisforlittlegirls says:

      I imagine that in India elders are respected. It’s not the same in the USA, it’s all bigger, faster, newer and that extends to people. Youth is over celebrated here and overrated.

      There is more to life than being or looking young and hot, but you wouldn’t know it here. Women get the worst of this thinking. We are so much more judged for how we look and beauty (and sexuality) are thought to belong only to the young. As soon as a woman looks past 18 here she is thought to be “old” useless and unattractive.

      Because many people have grown up calling their elders ma’am, when they hear ma’am used on them they think it means the end of their youth and attractiveness. A lot of people who use ma’am often don’t mean it to distinguish women by age, but a lot of people do use it that way. They say they feel funny calling people their age or women in their 20s ma’am. Then they say in the same breath it’s a respect thing. Which is it? The answer I have found is to call every woman who has breast ma’am as it was used originally.

  16. Craig says:

    I remember my first “sir.” It was a weekend afternoon and I was walking down a street that, just so happens, had a college party going on with about 20 people on the front lawn drinking beer out of plastic cups. A group of them saw me walking by and one said, “Afternoon, sir.” My jaw dropped as I thought, “What? No ‘hey dude! Want a beer?'” I was only 27 at the time. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the day mumbling a stream of curses….Jerks πŸ˜‰

  17. cooper says:

    possible alternatives:
    Here’s your drink, bitch.
    Which one of you ho’s ordered the mint tea?
    Here you go, Babycakes
    Would the babe who ordered this shit raise their hand?

    somehow, ma’am starts to feel a bit better now doesn’t it?

  18. Ma’am, that was great. All I could see was a scene from “Sex In The City.” Is he from the South, or maybe even Texas? That would explain it. He probably thinks you’re hot too, just like everybody else.

    I can remember the first time someone thought I was old enough for a senior meal. They didn’t even ask, just gave me the senior meal. I wasn’t and I shaved the goatee off that night. Had too much gray in it. LOL

    1. Well, we are in Texas so……my guess would be yes, he’s from Texas. I’m sure he was just trying to be polite and gentlemanly but it honestly felt like he slapped me in the face. But, if I’m being fair, I would also not have responded well to “Here you go good-looking” or something like that. Really I should feel bad for the guy, he was in a lose-lose situation.

  19. I totally understand. I used to get so offended when men would call me ma’am. I always wanted to ask if I looked like their grandmother. However, as time has gone on, I find it less offensive. Maybe partly because I’m 29 and nearly a ma’am (let us hope not), but I think mostly because I figured out that they don’t know what else to call women if they don’t use a name… With men, it’s easy; it’s “sir” no matter their age. With women… calling someone “miss” makes them sound incredibly young, whereas “ma’am” sounds old, but there’s no good in-between. Unless it’s “miss” with your first or last name, then it’s cute.

    But I wouldn’t take it personally. He’s probably actually just trying to be a gentleman and doesn’t realize how young women might take that term. πŸ™‚

    1. I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it- but it still stung. You’re so right, there really isn’t a good alternative, it’s either miss or ma’am and I wouldn’t have been pleased with either. Poor guy, now I feel bad for him, but only a little bit, mostly I’m still made he called me ma’am.

  20. Maybe “ma’am” is the latest slang. You know, like Phat, or Stoopid. Maybe it stands for something… Most Awesomely Attractive Miss. MAjor AMazonian. Something like that. Those slangsters… they love them the acronyms.

  21. My younger cousin moved away. When he came back to visit, he was all ma’aming me and stuff. I was like, “Um, what are you doing? Don’t call me MA’AM! I’m 23!” Or however old I was at the time. UNACCEPTABLE. It should be considered poor manners to call someone “ma’am.” Especially someone under 40. Or within 10 years of your own age. That should be the standard.

  22. hahaha Oh, I feel your pain! I once went to a college a cappella concert (okay, maybe I deserved what was coming to me) when I was only 19 mind you, and one of the kids there asked, very politely, “Can you please sit down, ma’am?”

    Obviously it scarred me for life. Maybe the next time that waiter brings your drink you should ask him what he wants to be when he grows up, and then laugh condescendingly at whatever the reply is, adding, “That’s cute. Good luck with that.”

  23. Kathy says:

    Ooh i hate ma’am! Next time, thank him “mister”? Would he get it? Is it an insult? or just tell him it’s Miss? stuff like this drives me nuts!

  24. Ashley says:

    I have two older sisters (at most there’s a 16 year difference) and they always felt the same way when they were called “m’am.” Then, one time when we all went out I was called “m’am” and I’m in my early-20s. After that I’ve begun to notice I get called “m’am” by people my own age at restaurants and such. So, the point? We’re not old, we’re obviously just demanding respect….right?

  25. Ok, take a breath! I don’t think he meant it as an insult. Think about it like this…he probably had a boss listening and he had to be extremely polite and couldn’t flirt or he would get in trouble! That is why he couldn’t say, “Here you go, Sweetheart!” Otherwise, he would have DEFINITELY done it! Another thing to ask, is he from the South? Southern boys have generally been raised right by their mamas and have been told they better show complete respect to women or else. (If you listen to Hank Williams, Jr. he even sings about it: “We say grace; we say ma’am…”) So it is not a reflection on you. He just has good manners and was quite concerned about his job. πŸ™‚ Now do you feel better? Is the keyboard safe?

    1. I’m sure he wasn’t trying to be insulting….or am I??? Yes, we’re in the South, so I guess I can give him a pass, but it still made me cringe. Keyboard is safe, no worries! πŸ™‚

      1. I personally think when a southern man says ma’am it’s charming and swoonworthy! He could very well have said “here you go, broad” and that would have been WAY worse!

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