Today I Am A Ma’am

Mary Tyler Moore realizing she’s now a “ma’am”

“Today I am a Ma’am”

That’s the title of an episode from my all-time favorite t.v. show: The Mary Tyler Moore Show. On this particular episode, Mary is called “ma’am” for the first time. She’s recently turned 30, her boss just pointed out that she’s no longer in the demographic advertisers care about (darn those 18-29 year olds with all their advertising power!), and to top it off, some punk kid from the mail room attempts to squeeze past Mary and calls her “ma’am.” Mary doesn’t even look up or flinch, until he calls her ma’am a second time. In shock, Mary realizes, “Oh, you mean me?!” and runs home to commiserate with her best friend Rhoda about this unfortunate milestone we all must face sooner or later: the phase in life where you are called ma’am on a regular basis. I know. It hit me like a ton of bricks recently!

Where It All Started

A couple months ago, a new neighbor (in medical school — so we’re talking early-to-mid 20s here) moved into a house on our street. I baked cookies to welcome him to the neighborhood and was met with, “Yes, ma’am” and “Thank you, Mrs. ___” Uh, come again? How old did he think I was?? I ran home to my husband complaining about this exchange and wondering, How old do I look? And of course, to declare, “See if he ever wants me to get his mail next time he’s out of town?!” I kid . . . sort of! I was so offended — no one had ever called me “Ma’am” or “Mrs.” and suddenly I felt incredibly old. My husband tried to calm me down saying he was just being polite and was using his good Southern manners, but come on!! If you’re old enough to own your own house, you’re old enough to call me by my first name. Just sayin’.

It Gets Worse

Just when I was getting over this unfortunate and truly humbling interaction, two SEPARATE 20-somethings at church called me “Ma’am.” The third time I got “ma’am-ed” over the course of a month or two, I had literally dyed my roots the night before! (I can thank my mom for the premature grays. Thanks, Mom. I pulled out my first gray hair in college, and it’s been downhill ever since). I digress… Again, I gave my poor husband an earful about the latest exchange. He tried to console me saying that to “kids” in their 20s, 30-somethings seem old, and they’re just being respectful. ((Eyeroll)) I wanted to say, “Don’t say anything until this starts happening to you on the regular, too.” Am I right?!

The tipping point came for me recently at the beach. I headed into the condo building by myself to grab a snack for everyone. Read: I had no kids in tow to make me look “mom-old”. And to top it off, I was wearing my super cool Aviate BHM hat and sunglasses. In other words, this kid who couldn’t have seen my roots OR my crow’s feet held open the door for me. As I told him, “Thank you,” he responded with, “Yes, ma’am.” Eeeeeek!!! I wanted to crawl in the sand and just die!! How did he KNOW I wasn’t, you know, a twenty year old?! For the love!

It’s official. Today, I am a ma’am. I may as well embrace my new matronly position and be grateful for all the mamas out there who have taught their children good manners. But if you happen to meet me for the first time, please don’t call me “ma’am” — I’m still not ready!

Ok, fellow Birmingham Moms: when did you first get called “ma’am” or “Mrs.”?! Let’s commiserate together!!


  1. Haha! I’m sure these are the best, well-mannered, respectful, cream of the crop, Southern bred, young folks around! I’m delighted to hear their responses—and, by the way, you do NOT look old at all!

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