When I was a young girl growing up in the South, most parents tried their hardest to teach their children good manners. At the top of the well-behaved list was “respecting your elders.” One way to show that respect was by answering questions with “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am” or “Yes, sir” and “No, sir.”
Times have changed and good manners seem to have taken a back seat to slang and hip in many places, but evidently there are still those who (like me) believe that “Yes, ma’am” sounds a heck of a lot better than “Yeah, if you say so.”
But something happened recently that I wasn’t ready for. The tables turned and instead of respecting my elders, I became one. That’s right, I turned into a “ma’am.”
Last week at the grocery store the check-out boy carried my groceries to the car, loaded them, and said, “Thank you, ma’am, come back.” I whipped my head around and stared at him. “What did you say?”
The poor boy looked at me and decided I was deaf. Speaking loudly enough to be heard at a Led Zeppelin concert he repeated the cruel words: “I said, thank you, ma’am, come back!”
I got in my car and drove off. When I stopped at a red light I wrenched the rear view mirror closer and peered into it for signs of new wrinkles or more gray hair. Nope. Nothing there I hadn’t seen before. A car horn blared and a guy behind me called me a five-letter word that wasn’t even close to ma’am.
I remember where I was when JFK was shot. I grew up with Elvis and cried like a baby in my college dorm room the day he died. I watched the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. I learned about Vietnam on a black and white TV every night while we ate supper. I remember when only Twiggy wore mini skirts and it was a sin to show more than two inches of skin in a two-piece bathing suit. I am definitely old enough to be a ma’am.
There’s no way to get around it. No way to ignore it. We can prolong the aging process by keeping fit, liposuction, Botox, hair color, and wrinkle cream, but sooner or later the truth hits us smack in the face like a banana cream pie. One day all girls turn into ma’ams and little boys grow up to be sirs. So we might as well appreciate those polite enough to respect us while we still have our dignity, our teeth, and a fairly decent memory.
I am a ma’am, yes I am. Hear me roar.