"yes, ma’am"

I think I must be getting old. Maybe it’s being pregnant, or reading books in public — alone, or maybe it’s the fact that I now wear a wedding band. These things confirm to strangers that I have moved to a new stage in life. To be honest, I don’t think I look a day older than I did when I graduated from high school. Well, maybe a day, but that’s it.

I certainly didn’t look a day older than those two girls I saw in Taco Cabana (which, by the way, is the most wonderful of all fast food taco joints. There, you can get two tacos, access to a full salsa bar, plenty of chips and queso, and a drink for only four dollars. But I digress…). The girls were really polite. I was standing in front of the door, rummaging in my purse for the keys to my sexy, totaled Honda (maybe that was it — the digging for my keys), and when I realized I was blocking the exit, I moved aside, apologizing. They apologized, too, like they were getting in my way, which I thought was really nice. In the meantime, I found my keys, just as they were walking out the door. They both checked me over, and the girl with tattoos across her back held the door for me.

“Thank you,” I said, wondering if it was the pregnant belly that prompted such kindness.
“Yes, ma’am,” she said.

Yes, ma’am? I’ve been called ma’am by grocery store clerks and by people who are trying to get my attention and don’t know my name, but never in that tone, not with so much respect. It was a warm Southern salute, and I basked in its afterglow.

I have a middle-aged friend who used to say it made her feel like an old lady to be called ma’am — like it was a bad thing. I always thought that was dumb, since she really was noticably older than the people who addressed her. But me? I thought it was wonderful, even though as I’ve said, I was hardly those girls’ elder.

I hope I never grow tired of being “yes, ma’am”ed. I think Solomon says somewhere that to be older is to be wiser, and it’s a beautiful thing — that there’s honor in it. And I choose to believe that. There’s nothing sad about wrinkled eyes and veiny legs, the sagging breasts of mothers who’ve nursed their children, or calloused, peeling feet (please don’t ask me in ten years if I still believe this). They are as beautiful as… being called ma’am.

    • Luke
    • July 21st, 2006

    When I first started my job here, I would often acknowledge my boss with a “yes sir”. Many times I wouldn’t even think about it. It took multiple times of him good-naturedly asking me to stop before I could break the “habit”. 🙂

    I appreciate how you threw in the detail of her being tatoo’d, you can’t always judge a book by it’s cover eh? (but sometimes you can) 🙂

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