Don’t Call Me Ma’am

May 10, 2011 at 7:36 am | Posted in Life and Living | 10 Comments
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Last week, I was on a business trip attending an event with a lot of high school students.  Upon my arrival, I was informed that they would be publicly acknowledging my presence on stage.  I was happy to have the heads up for this, because I know that otherwise I would have really been a deer in headlights.  But being a young adult, I have some brain cells that still think and act like a high school student, and on top of that, I still look like a high school student.  I was imagining what all those teens were thinking when they made this special announcement.  Who is that girl? She looks like she’s our age.

And I really did.  It was an event where the students were dressed in business attire, so you literally couldn’t tell the difference, which is not a good thing.  I don’t want to be confused for a high school student, but at the same time, I don’t want to be looked at as ancient either.  So what’s the happy medium?  What does a young adult look like? How come one minute I can be confused for a 17 year old and the next I am being called ma’am.

I hate that.  Being called ma’am.  It really stings.  Do I look old enough to be a ma’am?  Do I look young enough to still be carded?  That’s cool. Keep carding me, but please call me miss. Pretty please?  Because at this point, I’d rather be thought of as younger than older for the most part, although in the professional world, I like to try to appear older so I seem to have more experience, so that people are confident in my work and trust me.

So, I’m young, but I have experience so I’m a pro, okay?  I’m a seasoned professional who is under thirty. Is that okay? Does that work for you?  Give me the respect of someone with 20 years of experience but don’t talk to me like I’m using the senior special.  There has to be an appropriate language to use when referring to a 20 something professional.  I guess it doesn’t help that I work in education.  Luckily, I’m not in the classroom.  If I were in the classroom being called Ms. or Mrs. or whatever, I don’t know what I’d do.

But that will happen.  At some point, I will likely lose the use of my first name almost completely.  But I have a ways to go before that happens.  So for now, if you don’t know my name and don’t care to ask, please call me miss.  Thanks!


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  1. it certainly sucks being called ‘ma’am’. And sometimes people think it’s rude if you address them as ‘miss’ assuming you’re not old enough/married/experienced enough. I kind of don’t mind either, but it does twinge just a little when a teenage calls you ‘ma’am’. Question, i cant tell by your phrasing, but are you being asked to be treated with the same respect as someone with 20yrs of experience?

    • I am, with the exception of CEOs of course, they are often treated like royalty but I know lots of people with 20 years experience who turn to me for advice because they see me as a valuable team player. But I know lots who say “you’re too young to know anything” and I surely resent that. I am a quick learner. 🙂

      • I guess its a matter of opinion. I believe all employees should be treated with respect, regardless of age or experience, but less than 10yrs experience is a lot different than 20yrs experience. You’re just taking away and devaluing how hard someone with 20yrs experience has worked, they deserve a little more than to be treated the same way as a college grad (not you. I know you have more experience than that, just general). Thats not to say co-workers of less experience are not valuable.

        All I’m saying, in my last job, I had 4 years of management, if I said anything insubordinate (or undermining) to someone with 20yrs experience (yes, even at the same level of management) I would look like a douche. 🙂

        Your post is very thought provoking!!

      • Oh, I definitely treat my elders with respect, I just want respect in reverse. I’m not an executive assistant for a reason. 🙂

  2. My first name ceased to exist at my job about 2 years ago. I am a teacher so there you go. Oh and I am also in my twenties. One of my high school students remarked on my birthday two years ago that I was only 8 years older than her. She was saying this suggestively so as to make me uncomfortable in front of everyone. It worked. Wait, why am I telling this story again?

    • hahaha! Because Mr. Philosopher you know what it’s like. It could be worse, the students could say you are 80.

  3. It’s bizarre when people tell their kids to “move out of the way for the lady” and realising it’s you they mean.

  4. I’m in a very male-dominant industry, have been for 8 years now. When I make new contacts I can tell most of them are wondering how in the world did I end up here. Culture has a part to play as well, both in the perception of “young” people and what they call you (miss, ma’am). In the South, ma’am is what I hear the most. There are a few who call me “miss”, especially on the days where my hair is a mess, no make-up, and I’m wearing shorts and a T-shirt. I’m thirty and I still get carded no matter how I’m dressed 🙂

    My parents told me in high school that my youthful appearance will be a good thing later on in life, turns out they were probably right!

    Let people judge you for your actions, not your appearance 🙂

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