I don’t remember how old I was the first time someone in a store called me ma’am. I do know that I was young enough to be horrified as I didn’t feel anywhere near old enough to be deserving of that moniker. Funny, isn’t it, how we can’t wait to get older and then at some point it happens and we long for our youth?
A few years I noticed that young store clerks began calling me by my first name as in: “Thank you very much, Linda” and “Have a good day, Linda”. I didn’t know these people; we weren’t friends or even acquaintances. They’d just look at my store reward card that had my name (my full name) on it and call me by my first name.
I bristled at the familiarity. My parents had taught me that the way to address people older than me was Mr. or Mrs. My last name was printed on the card so they could have chosen a different, more respectful, salutation. I left the grocery store with a bit of a chip on my curmudgeonly shoulder every time.
A year or so ago I picked up my coffee at a Starbucks drive-through and the barista chirped: “Here you go, hon.”
When the young woman said the same thing the next time I got coffee I thought perhaps she had a form of Tourette syndrome so I gave her the benefit of the doubt. (I had a hairdresser many years ago who addressed everyone, myself included, as dear. She told me that she had been told by a doctor that it was a manifestation of a form of Tourette syndrome.) I could excuse that.
But recently it’s gotten worse. Much worse.
Store clerks have started calling me sweetie and dear.
Kids. (Is it just me, or does anyone else find that store clerks have gotten much younger in recent years?) Calling me sweetie. With a straight face.
I find myself checking my reflection in mirrors when I walk past. Am I wearing a worn black overcoat? Am I bent over? Is my hair blue? Am I wearing black, sensible shoes?
Okay, some of these thing might be true on any given day but still, I’m only fifty-five. I don’t feel old (most of the time) so why are these young whippersnappers talking to me like I’m an old lady?
I don’t get it.
I don’t like it.
Why can’t they just call me ma’am?