By Brenda Brissette Mata
I have always been a “Yes ma’am” and “No sir” kind of gal. Respecting your elders was drilled into me growing up and I did my best to make my children understand the importance of respect, too.
But things got a little weird recently when I realized the TV remote bit the dust. New batteries didn’t make it better and in order to change the volume you had to walk right up to the TV and cable box.
I don’t know about you, but I long ago lost the desire to get up off my duff to change a channel or adjust the volume. I’m not quite like the lumbering oafs making their way through life on a floating chair a la “Pixar’s WALL E,” but I still don’t want to get up to change the channel. That’s what my children were for.
The problem is I never thought about the remote until I needed to use it. Then I would squawk and guffaw and swear when it didn’t work. Eventually it stopped working entirely. So I made the call.
The first test of remaining respectful came as I waited 22 minutes to reach a human being. But soon I was speaking a lovely young woman named Lily. Or something like cute like that.
After listening to me, she offered to transfer me to the appropriate department. “Thank you, ma’am,” I said. And she giggled. “You’re welcome, ma’am” she said – with what seemed like a wholly unnecessary emphasis on the “ma’am” part.
In no time at all, a young man answered – a very nice, young man who offered to mail me a new remote. Still thinking about the aforementioned “Thank you, ma’am,” I stopped myself from saying, “Thank you, sir” and – over-thinking the whole thing – responded with: “Why thank you, young man.”
Holy smokes, I sounded like Aunt Bee on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
The whippersnapper on the other end of the call seemed to choke back a laugh as I quickly disconnected.
It doesn’t seem that it was all that long ago I would bristle when someone called me “ma’am.” It made me feel old. I’m not sure when I forgot that feeling, but I did.
There’s no question few of us like the honey, sweetheart, doll monikers – usually uttered by folks who don’t take you very seriously or kindly waitresses in southern truck stops.
And calling someone “young lady” sounds either condescending or something your mother would say while yelling for you to clean your room.
So I wonder at what age is ma’am appropriate? At what age do women go from being offended at being called ma’am to feeling respected?
I still believe in speaking to your elders with respect, the problem is now I’m one of them – an elder, that is. If nothing else proved that to me, it was the remote when it arrived: super large, with gigantic light up buttons and directions about its design being perfect for “mature” customers.
Yes, ma’am. Ugh.
Brenda’s column will appear each Monday on AndrewHeller.com, or until she gets mad at Andy and says “To heck with this.”