Did That Person Really Just Call Me Ma’am????

I still remember the first day someone called me ma’am. Not in that sweet, polite, Texas way that everyone calls anyone over twenty ma’am, but in the way that I knew this person said it because she thought I was old. There are only two saving graces here: 1) She was very young—like 16; 2) Actually, there was no number two. Several thoughts simultaneously went through my mind. Is she talking to me? I’m not old. Wait, am I old? What just happened here? I need to text my sister immediately! Ultimately, I decided that this was a part of her job. After all, I was in a store buying something. She had probably been instructed to call everyone ma’am except children in diapers. I am the master of creating a reality in my head that suits the picture that I want to be living (more on that one later).

Since that initial cut-me-at-the-knees moment, the ma’am response has become more and more frequent. So much so that I am having trouble fitting it into the nicely constructed box of rationalizations that often make up my reality. Sure, I’m not twenty but I’m not that much older. I don’t feel much older than than these people spouting pseudo-polite “ma’ams” my way. I can’t actually look like their parents—can I? I’m alive, vital, cool (um, do people still use that word?). I’ve taken to blatantly declaring in response “I’m not a ma’am yet. You don’t need to call me that.” I say this with a big smile on my face and the kind of nice voice that I am sure makes them see that I am right. I am one of them. I usually receive a sheepish, “Oh, I call everyone ma’am” in response. Of course my blatant rejection of this polite reference probably only serves to confuse them and make me look older. I mean what are they supposed to call me, “Hey, dude.”

I might be overreacting, but I am not ready to fall into this category yet. They don’t call Amanda ma’am when we are together (yes she is younger than me). It’s just that every time this happens it makes me feel like I am my mother. I am not my mother. Although she is wonderful woman, I am younger, bursting with energy, and do not have nearly as many wrinkles on my face (sorry mom).

In an effort to stop this ego deflating encounter before it occurs, I have tried many tricks all aimed at addressing how I present myself to the world:

  • I tried going out with my hair casually tossed in a knot on the top of my head. We all know that pulling the hair away from the face gives the illusion of youth and pulls the skin back ever so slightly, thus minimizing any fine lines that might be present that day. Sadly, my hair is short and fine link to one of the fine hair posts and does not co-operate in staying up in said top-knot. By the time I returned to the car pieces were falling out in some strange limp mass, not in that wispy perfect “oh I just can’t be bothered but I still look fabulous’ way that I had hoped for.
  • I all but quit wearing make-up—I am originally from Texas so this was a difficult one. I did not leave the house for high school without a fully prepared “face.” No one did—it would be sacrilege. However, for the sake of this project I did it! We all know that as you get older rather than covering random flaws make-up strangely fills them in, accentuates them, settles into them like dry dirt. Without it I was sure I would glow. Not so—years of spending time in the sun have left what I will only refer to as accentuated freckles on my face. There is no glow—just a blotch of uncovered skin.
  • So, I tried covering it with face oil. If nothing else it would give the illusion of a glow, possibly even making me look like I am plagued with the oily skin of a teenager! This illusion worked great for me until the beautiful Italian woman shopping at the MAC kiosk next to me told me, ever so kindly, bold hand demonstration and all, that this was not a good look for me. “Have you ever thought of letting them make you over?” (Seriously, this happened!)
  • I tried wearing only t-shirts and shorts—did not work because I forgot about the knee problem. I tried saying things like “sweet” in reference to a positive moment. I don’t think it came out right, since the girl just gave me this blank look—which said to me “What is wrong with this woman? What is she saying?” I walked around with a permanent smile attached to my face—we all know smiling pulls up the neck and chin area—but people just looked at me like I was some kind of lunatic. I made a point to be incessantly texting on my phone in the middle of any exchange, but I remembered that the downward tilt of my head may not be helping matters in the neck region.
  • As a last resort, I just took to calling everyone ma’am or sir before they could spit it out at me. That was the solution, shock them to the point of being unable to respond—there was no way a ma’am could pass their lips, or anything else for that matter. We could just make the exchange in near silence.

Finally, I just decided to accept this new piece of my life. After all, I’m not twenty. I’ve held highly responsible jobs, I’ve been a boss, I’ve suffered deep sadness, and I’ve lived through incredible joys. I have experience behind this not-that-old face, and this is something that I cannot hide no matter how glowing my skin is. I’m going to try to accept this entry into the ma’am phase as a part of having lived my life to fullest to this point. I will not rush into premature plastic surgery or continue to try to change how I present myself. I will be happy with me and be grateful for everything that has made me who I am. I will however immediately begin to drink more water and get extra sleep at night—because you never know…

 

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Perfection Not Required,

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