[-$48,400] My Ma’am Problem


Have you ever entered an Uber / Lyft / Taxi and watched as the driver changes the genre of music playing to something noticeably different from what was playing when you got in?

I’m sure it’s happened before from time to time, but last week I just really took notice of it. After I’d gotten in the car, the driver changed the music. I immediately started thinking about it. Did he change the station based on the way I look and because he thinks this is the genre of music I’d like? Well, he was right, I enjoyed the new music, but it still felt kinda wrong to me. Anyway, I was singing along, in my head of course. I wouldn’t inflict my singing voice on anyone.

After a couple of songs played, an ad for the station comes on and says something to the effect of, “Hey this is X city’s classic hits station!”  I’m like, what?! An oldies station?!  One, since when are these tracks considered old? And two, is he playing this station because he thinks I’m old too?!  I was seriously amused and mildly disturbed about this for a few minutes, okay, a few days, or maybe longer…. I laugh about things like this, but I’m noticing it more and thinking about it more. Thus the loop begins.

A couple of weeks ago, on two separate occasions,  I had to interact with a couple of people who kept referring to me as ma’am. Just yesterday, a young cashier in the grocery store asked if I’d like to move over to her lane by calling out to me, “Ma’am!? Ma’am! I can take you over here!”.  Ugh. The word makes me cringe.

I think the diagnosis is clear.  I have a ma’am problem.

And I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one.

…[W]hereas a man remains “mister” and “sir” from nursery to nursing home, a woman’s honorifics change depending on her marital status and, barring that, her age. A young miss walks a few miles, and, wedding ring or no, wham, she’s a ma’am. For many women, then, the insertion of the word “ma’am” into an otherwise pleasant social exchange can feel like a tiny jab, an unnecessary station-break to comment on one’s appearance: Hello, middle-aged- to elderly-looking woman, how may I help you this evening? (The Politics of Polite | New York Times)


Calm down?! I can’t calm down! I won’t calm down! You calm down! Ma’am?! No ma’am! No ma’am! You’re the ma’am!! (Bonus points if you recognize what those lines were inspired by.)

“People who call me ‘ma’am’ suck. Because I still feel like a ‘miss’! And by saying ‘ma’am’ you’re insisting on aging me.” — (Stop Calling Me Ma’am | Mom.me)

Being called ma’am can make some us feel old and no longer desirable. It can instantly frumpify a woman. Yes, ‘frumpify’ is a word. I just declared it one.

I can’t help feeling more insulted than respected each time this four letter word, “ma’am” is hurled at me like an accusation of some vague crime I’d committed or something I’d been so careless as to lose, like my youth. (At What Point Did “Ma’am” Go From Polite To Insult? | Coffeelicious.com)

I know. I know. Ma’am is intended to be a polite term. But how about showing politeness through other actions / words instead of labels?

Maybe we just need a jazzier term. … Or how about nothing? Does nothing work for you? In my survey I posed a series of hypotheticals. For example: You’re at a restaurant with friends, and the waitress wants to warn you that your plate is hot. Would you prefer she say, “Careful, ma’am, that plate is very hot,” or, “Careful, miss,” or, “Careful, dear.” More than 80 percent of the respondents chose option number four: “Careful, that plate is very hot.” For one moment, a ma’am you’re not. (The Politics of Polite | New York Times)

Warning someone of a hot plate and using the word ‘careful’ is polite enough for me, thank you. Yeah. I’m an option 4 kind of woman. 🙂

Oh, and I humbly apologize to all the women I called ma’am when I was in my teens and twenties. Payback is a bitch.


Punch of the Week

I made a $1,087.89 payment / punch today for a total of $2807.89 in student loan payments this month. $48,400 is looking good, but I wish could be out of the 40’s and into the 30’s —- in more ways than one, it seems. Sigh….


Do you have a problem with being called Ma’am?


“Debtor’s prison is real, and opportunity cost is a bitch.” (DDSW Archives)


  1. Jane Has Debt · May 31

    Haha. I like how you funneled your post with the desire to want to be in your 30s more way than one. When I went to TX at 19, I was always called ma’am (and I always looked way younger for many years – now it’s caught up darn it). Never miss. So all may not be a mishap of one looking old enough to be called ma’am. Nice job bringing the balance down!


    • Yeah. I totally get that the usage varies by region. But I don’t live in the south. It’s always a jolt to hear it where I am.
      And thank you. 🙂


  2. The Bookworm · May 31

    It is something I had to get used to when I started teaching. It is drilled in them when they are very young. I use ma’am and sir with all of my students to establish mutal respect. But keep in mind that I am in East Alabama.


    • nicoleandmaggie · May 31

      THIS. I’m also in the South and I turned into ma’am the moment I got my PhD. I could get away with calling them by their first names and not sir/ma’aming them because of that PhD but since I’m from the Midwest I viscerally can’t deal with that kind of imbalance, so they’re all Mr./Ms./Capt/etc.


    • I can understand if a child (13 and under) says it, especially in a school setting, because they are taught to do so. My issue is mainly with older teenagers and 20-somethings saying it. It just announces to the world ‘This chick isn’t like us. She’s old.’ ha


  3. Isabella · May 31

    I have noticed lately that I have been called “Dear” several times. Yes, I am a grandmother ( still pretty hip!), but it makes me feel like a doddering old fool who won’t make it to my car. Ha. When we lived in Texas, everyone was “Maam,” so I just took it with a grain of salt. Occasionally someone will say “Miss” and I want to say bless you. But #4 is the best option.

    You will be in the 30’s before you know it!


    • Oooh. I haven’t gotten the “Dear” yet. I’ll have to be on the lookout for that one. ha. 🙂
      Yeah, I get that it’s used in some parts of the country more than others. I’m very glad to be alive, but this getting older thing… I’m not liking it very much. 🙂

      This is a man who works the cash register at a market near where I live. He always calls me ‘miss’ or ‘señorita’. I’ll take the illusion of feeling young any way I can get it.
      Miss is better than Ma’am, I agree. But no label is best of all for me. (I totally did not intend for that to rhyme.)


  4. Erika Rose · May 31

    Congrats on the punch! I have been called ma’am since my early 20s, in combination with miss as well. I guess usage depends on the person and the area they grew up in. I always felt weird about the word “ma’am” though, and thought it was funny when some called me that; especially since people always assume I am much younger than I am. For example, when I graduated college and mentioned that I had “just graduated” in conversations with people I had met or who asked, they always assumed I meant I had just graduated from High School, which I found incredibly annoying at the time lol Now heading towards my 30s, I find the word “ma’am” a bit more annoying and I’m actually starting to mind it! lol When I get a “miss” thrown in there, I celebrate inside 😀


    • Yeah, I don’t know why the service industries insist on using ma’am. I’d prefer no label at all, but if one has to be used, just use ‘miss’ for all women under 70 and let them correct you to use ‘ma’am’ or something else. Someone who uses ‘miss’ may get a little extra tip. Flattery will get you everywhere with me. ha 🙂


  5. Cathy E. · May 31

    So proud of your punches. Keep it up. Yes, ma’am is part of the motivation of my exercise program. (sigh)


  6. Jan · May 31

    I don’t get ma’am but I hate it when I get called ‘dear’ or ‘darl’ -or ‘sweetie’ ts patronising and lazy. But as I work in education I find the overseas students call me ‘miss’ which I don’t mind -they do it as it is a sign of respect in their culture.


    • Yeah, I’m not crazy about any over familiar terms, either. I’m with you on that.

      Congrats on paying off all that debt and for going sugar-free. My sugar addiction is a beast. I’m not crazy overboard with consuming it or anything, but I do need to cut down quite a bit. Ideally, I need to cut it out completely, but it’s really hard. 😦

      I like your time to retirement countdown meter. Maybe when I’m out of debt and can start looking forward I’ll get one of those. 🙂


    • kimncolumbia · July 23

      Jan, I found your blog by comments you left here at Double Debt. I can relate a lot to you, but now when I try to go to your blog it says you have to be invited. Could I please get an invitation? Thank you for considering. Kim in Columbia, MO (USA).


  7. layingdownlawdebt · May 31

    I’m still in my early 30’s but I LOVED when I finally warranted a “ma’am” as well as when clerks stopped checking my ID for alcohol purchases. I felt like I’d finally “made it” as an adult. Or at least could play the part convincingly. 🙂


  8. zeejaythorne · May 31

    I was raised on military bases. Everyone is a ma’am or sir if I don’t know their name. Unless I’m at my gay bar, and then they are Honey.

    But I was known to ma’am my ex, who was 3 years younger than me. She was Southern and definitely in charge.


    • Lol.:-)

      Yeah! I also got ma’am-ed on a military base years ago. (I was visiting a family member.) I was in a food court. There was a young guy in uniform sitting at a table and trying to woo some young girl. I think she may have been in uniform. I don’t remember. I walk past the table as they are getting up. He backs up and say’s “Go ahead ma’am”, or something to that effect. Ughh! It was like a slap in the face. I commented about it to my family member who told me that they are trained to say ‘ma’am’ to everyone and not to take it personally. That helped. 🙂

      When someone says, “Go ahead, ma’am”, maybe they are likely saying, “Go ahead, please lady”. Maybe. But what I hear is, “Go ahead, middle-aged woman”. Especially if I hear someone else being called, miss.

      Liked by 1 person

      • zeejaythorne · June 2

        I would literally get smacked by any adult on base if I did not properly address my elders as sir or ma’am. I can’t undo that conditioning.


        • But I don’t want to be an adult! I want to be young! 😄 At least call me “miss” and let me live in my illusion. 🙂

          Yes, I need help…


          • zeejaythorne · June 2

            The problem is the culture that glorifies youth. Aging is marvelous, but US culture is BS.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Excellent point 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

            • Maria · June 6

              Hear hear!

              And it’s bullshit the way our culture (most cultures?) allows men to not be defined by their age or marital status (at least much less than women), since they’re mr and sir all the way no matter what, but not women.

              I mean, it’s not that men don’t deserve it, I just want the same privilige and freedom for myself thank you very much.

              Ms Maria

              Liked by 2 people

              • zeejaythorne · June 8

                Yep! If we are Dr. that at least allows our marital status to not define us.


  9. Tainted Tiara · June 7

    A few years ago, my daughter moved from Michigan to the South. Now, she constantly uses the word “ma’am” in conversation with me. ME?!?! I’m her MOM, her Ride Or Die, WTH??? I thought I raised her better than to call me “ma’am,” little brat. 😀


  10. Dolores Gonzalez · June 12

    I bought alcohol the other day and went to show my ID. The cashier said “That’s okay, you look old enough.” Excuse me?! Rude!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s