>Madamoiselle, Madame, Miss, Ma’am

25 Jan

>
I worry in my sleep. I have little or no recollection of such worry each morning, but I’m sure of it for a few irrefutable reasons:

1. I grew up with a worrier as a mother.
2. I see the worry line between my eyes is markedly deeper each morning upon waking than it was the night before when I washed my face before bed.
Alas, perhaps my skin, in the middle of my 30’s, has changed a bit. Perhaps I appear older than I did in my roaring 20’s. Perhaps. The thing with getting older is that you – if you’re lucky – do indeed get wiser, yet at the same time, you don’t want anyone actually acknowledging the fact that you are older, only that you are wiser….than them, that is..wiser than they are.

In my 20’s, if someone, say, in a retail shop, ‘ma’am’ed me, I was irritated. Why? Because I worked in retail throughout high school and knew full well that when you ‘ma’am’ed someone, the translation was: “You’re an annoying customer and you’re older than me and you always will be no matter how many fancy-below-Neiman’s-price handbags you buy, lady”.
And yet somehow, I survived the first instances of ‘ma’am’. In my 30’s, I’d like to think that I’m a bit less crazy, a bit more relaxed. And yet, when I see The Pirate coiling up into a protective stop-drop-and-roll pose in my times of worry, I think: maybe not.

The other day I was ‘ma’am’ed. In French. So it’s ‘madame’. Sure, it sounds fancy and all, but to me it was clearly a signal of the man recognizing my age, especially since nanoseconds before he had adressed my friend, standing right next to me, as ‘mademoiselle’. Seriously?
Now, like any normal worrier, I openly showed my contempt to anyone who within earshot. Classy, right? I was met with a lot of laughter at my level of disdain for ‘madame’. I was told by French friends that is a showing of respect, or simply an assumption of ones marital status. I was told my American friends (male) that it’s like ‘ma’am’, and that ‘ma’am’ holds the same meaning, and has more to do with status than age. I was told by friends both American and French – and female – that they agreed with me entirely and don’t like when that happens.

What’s the lesson here? Well, I checked dictionary.com for some objective explanation. Admitedly, I only found one definition referring to age:
1.a French title of respect equivalent to “Mrs.”, used alone or prefixed to a woman’s married name or title: Madame Curie.
2.(in English) a title of respect used in speaking to or of an older woman, esp. one of distinction, who is not of American or British origin. Abbreviation: Mme.

Okay. So perhaps I stand corrected on this one, a little. What remains true is that most women, in my experience, really dislike being called m’am or madame, because for us as women, it symbolizes age. So there. We don’t like it. Then again, what do I want to be called? Miss? Dudette? As I finish writing this I realize that actually, I don’t care. Ma’am me if you wish, I’m over it.

want that shirt? go here.

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