public service announcement: don’t call me Ma’am

I’m interrupting my regularly-scheduled editing session to write this blog post.

I’m attracted to men with good manners. I find it sexy. I always notice when a man, even a stranger, lets everyone on or off an elevator before exiting himself. I think it’s sweet when a date walks to the passenger side of the car to open the door for me. I like when a man opens a door for me in restaurants or simply directs me to walk through an entrance way before him. While I firmly believe in equal rights for women, I’m not a feminist to the point where I don’t believe in chivalry, and I make no apologies for appreciating being treated like the gentler sex sometimes. I also welcome good manners in general—people who say “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” or any variation of these expressions; individuals who wait their turn, who are mindful of other people around them. Good manners is near the top of my “must-have” list for potential boyfriends.

Yes, I like good manners. What I don’t like is being called “ma’am.”

I’ve had countless discussions with other women, both face-to-face and via social media and this is what I’ve discovered: We hate the term “ma’am” —HATE IT! It makes us feel old and unattractive. As if the media and Hollywood don’t already give us a complex about aging, women in their thirties, forties, and fifties don’t need it from regular people serving us coffee, handing us deliveries, and running up our items at the grocery store. I’ve always been told I look much younger than my actual age, but over the last few months, I’ve been called “ma’am” so many times I’m afraid I went to sleep one night and woke up old and matronly. I’ve been tempted to shout, “Ma’am?? How old do you think I am??” (Confession: I have done this once or twice and immediately felt stupid, but it’s because “ma’am” is a horrible word and one most women abhor.) I’m no longer an ingénue, but I’m a far cry from an “older” woman, yet after I’m called “ma’am,” I confess to questioning whether the person I see in the mirror is the same woman others see when they look at me. I’ve second guessed my own female vitality, and I know I’m not alone, all because some misguided person thought calling me “ma’am” was the polite thing to do. It’s not.

I appreciate that many people are raised to refer to women as “ma’am” as a term of respect or to be polite, but unless the person doing the greeting is a child who thinks any adult over the age of twenty is old, or you are speaking to a woman who is clearly over the age of seventy, it’s MUCH kinder to use another word, for example, “miss.”

Thank you for listening. Now back to my regularly-scheduled evening of edits.


  1. Bridget Sampson on December 13, 2016 at 10:28 am

    I totally agree, Meredith!!! I feel so old when someone calls me “ma’am.” I love your points about manners and kindness too. Great post! 😀

    • meredithgschorr on December 13, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      Thanks, Bridget. I know I’m overly-sensitive about aging in general, but glad I’m not alone in hating the term!!

  2. martinbeks on December 13, 2016 at 11:29 am

    I agree with you. I’m all for chivalry, but getting called ma’am is grating. Of course, I think being called Miss is annoying, too, so I don’t know what a happy medium is if a person doesn’t know my name?

    • meredithgschorr on December 13, 2016 at 7:58 pm

      I don’t know why they need to say anything. A simple, “have a great day” would be sufficient. Why do they need to add anything to it? I, personally, don’t mind “Miss” though. It makes me feel the opposite of “Ma’am” – young 🙂

  3. Martha Reynolds on December 15, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    I’m 58. I’ve been called ‘ma’am’ and ‘miss,’ sometimes on the same day. Neither offends me – ‘miss’ makes me laugh.
    Meri, what are you, 42? Okay, you’re not ancient, but you’re not 25 anymore, either! I’m sure no one means to imply that you’re as old as someone like me. And….I’m very sure that you handle it with charm and grace, because that’s you. 💕💕💕

    • meredithgschorr on December 15, 2016 at 3:19 pm

      I know you’re right, Martha. What I’ve noticed is that most of the people who share my distain for the word are somewhere in our mid-30s through 40s. I suppose it’s a time in our lives when we’re still coming to terms with getting older. I’m hoping it will stop bothering me at a certain point. And to answer your question, I usually just shrug it off, but I admit to being less than graceful and charming on one or two occasions. Unfortunately, over-sensitivity and overreaction are also part of who I am…BUT I’m also very self-aware and know it’s more about me than about them 🙂

  4. Rosey on February 18, 2017 at 11:27 am

    My second oldest says, ‘Yes, ma’am’ in a short response to me, but it’s okay because he says it to his girlfriend who is 22-years-old too. 😉 Otherwise, he’d be grounded for life. Or not, since he’s also in his 20’s now too. 🙂

    • meredithgschorr on February 20, 2017 at 1:50 pm

      Ha! I’ve trained myself to stop being so sensitive about it, but I still prefer “Miss” 🙂

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