The other night my girlfriend and I had dinner at California Pizza Kitchen.
And while our server was attentive and pleasant and engaging, I cringed when I heard one word: “ma’am.”
As in, “Would you like more chips with the spinach artichoke dip, ma’am?”
I nearly choked on the free bread.
I’m not going to lie about this, I am getting older. I’m no longer that spritely twenty-something who bounced around the newsroom with ambitious plans for happy hours and Halloween costumes. I’m a 37-year-old with back pain and big Friday night plans with a Swiffer and Netflix.
Since when did I get so… old?
When did I suddenly start caring about my blood pressure and cholesterol? When did Tumblr happen and how did I miss that? And when did I start saying, “When I was your age…”?
I’m starting to scare myself.
Turns out, women start to feel old at — get this — age 29.
That’s according to a new study reported in the Daily Mail last year. (Most guys, by comparison, don’t call themselves “old” until 58.)
Twenty-nine. I don’t even remember that age. But I do know it was about the time I turned 33 that I started to feel uncool. I didn’t recognize music on the radio or names of celebrities in magazines. I stopped watching “American Idol” and going to movies and obsessed over National Public Radio and lamented the current state of newspapers. I started dabbling with oatmeal.
Stuff that women called “ma’am” do.
Do you remember when you started feeling old? And if you’re 23, you’re not allowed to answer that.
For those raised with home training, it’s rarely just about age. It is a sign of difference and respect. I’m Hawaiian but was raised in the South, I call ladies that are probably younger than me “ma’am”. Courtesy isn’t dead and age is simply mind over matter; If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.
physically, i began to feel old around 55. that was ten years ago. the fact that my hair has been white since i was 40 has prompted younger people to “sir” me in restaurants and stores for many years. inside i’m still the same person i was when i was 20. recently i got to see some pics of me in Japan at that age that were sent by someone i knew there. i’d never seen them before so, unlike family pictures they were fresh. i looked at them and said, yep, that’s me and only yesterday, too. and to quote Abe Simpson; “and it will happen to you!”
I’m almost 40 but I still feel young. I think a lot of it has to do with being immature and the baby of the family. The other night I met up with a friend at Starbucks and we talked about kids, mortgages, and investments rather than meeting at a bar and talking about girls, motorcycles and sports. We’ve been best friends since the 7th grade but realized that we aren’t young anymore.
But that doesn’t mean I acknowledge “being old”.
I have reached the age (somewhere uncharted in the forties) that I now claim 37 as my forever birthday. My next 37 is coming up in January, so congrats to you for reaching the forever age I’ve chosen!
The irony is, inside we don’t age. I’m still shocked I can’t do the things I feel like I can, the things i remember doing like running hard, capoeira, I still feel like the hottie i was once upon a time.
I think a lot of aging is in your mind, and I choose to keep mine young and supple.
i really didn’t feel old until 65 when i found myself having to be in rehab and having to hire a helper to get jobs done. Oh and being a great grandfather.
When I get out of bed in the morning, I am hunched over like an old lady and it takes a few steps before I get upright. Wait….am I an old lady??? Gaah. I’m only 45, what’s it going to be like when I’m 60 and 70 and older??
I agree with Toby – every day I amaze myself at how much slower I am at doing things than I used to be. I was doing laundry the other day and I marveled at how long it took me to transfer clothes from the washer to the dryer. And marveled not in a good way, mind you, but marveled at how creaky my knees and back felt! Yikers.
And maybe worst of all, I get mad at myself for having to behave like the “adult” at work. I miss the days when I used to have office chair races down the hallway and played practical jokes on my cubemates. Now, I’m “the boss” and I have to set the example. And that suu-uuucks. 😛
If you live in the south, all women are ma’am young and old. It’s considered a form of respect. You shouldn’t take it too personal 🙂
Just curious, but would calling someone “auntie” which is common in Hawaii also make someone feel old? It’s also usually used out of respect.
I don’t know about age 58 for men. As a guy in my early 40s, I can tell you I already feel like I’m getting old what with some gray hair coming in and health issues I never had to worry about when I was younger.
For guys, the equivalent would probably be sir, which isn’t as bad as ma’am, I suppose. But I can relate to your reaction to ma’am because I remember when I was first addressed by a food server as ‘uncle.’ Of course, for local folks, ‘aunty’ and ‘uncle’ are terms used out of respect. Respect for OLD peoples. I wanted to snap back “I’m not your uncle!” Instead I managed to eke out a muttered mahalo.
This is something I’ll never understand. Why do women get sooooooooooooo bent out of shape when someone calls them “ma’am?”
In the military, you call higher ranking females, “ma’am.”
You refer to female members of royalty initially by their title, then afterward as ma’am.
In the South, you refer to nearly all females (with the exception of kids), as ma’am.
If you don’t like ma’am, what do you prefer? I’ve been called hon, honey, and sweetie before. Would you prefer one of those?
I remember a friend of mine complaining about being called “ma’am” by someone. I told her, if you dislike being ma’am, would you prefer something worse, like bitch? Remember, people who do this in a customer service job, are probably doing this because they are REQUIRED to do it. Others who call you ma’am, do so out of respect. Think of all of the horribly rotten things you could be called, and you realize that ma’am, really isn’t something to get all worked up about.
Happy Thanksgiving, ma’am. 😛
I wonder why people always flip to extreme when a woman says she doesn’t like ma`am. Because obviously it must mean she wants to be called a bitch. Really? Just talk and be polite. Still works well for me. No one has told me that they think im rude just because i didn’t call them a name that references their sex and apparent age. Js
Old? I guess “Father Time” catches up to all of us. If I ever want to “feel” young again I can always call some of the old buddies and we can reminisce about the old days. But I look forward to what’s ahead. Life is an adventure and when we lose that excitement for the unknown it is at that time we start to age. I love this line from John Lennon:
“Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles not tears”.
You are as old or young as you feel, it’s in your heart. My young adult kids and all their friends all call me uncle. I just turn 59 and I don’t feel old, I standup paddle with guys way younger than me and we go on 8-10 mile paddles almost weekly.
Good Morning Cat,
Welcome to the world of “oldness”! Examples of which are, for example, Kids referring to you as uncle or “ante” (or worse yet when you are called with respect Kupuna!), daily reading of the obits, claiming songs from your high school days were infitinitely better than the garbage out there now, you have to subtract the current year from your birth year to figgah how old you are & calling anyone under thirty as young punks. Obviously the list is too long, but I think you get the point.
But seriously Cat, isn’t it more important that you’ve gotten to this point in your journey with all those you love, like to even the one’s you’re about to ‘unfriend” (lol)? So take it from an old guy, the country road may be bumpy but just enjoy the scenery because isn’t what we need to be thankful?
My realization that I’m getting “old”:
Hearing a mom tell her daughter, “watch out for the lady,” (referring to me!) as opposed to, “watch out for the girl”.
You are now an old married lady, ma’am! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
Isn’t funny when you are small kid you want to be older but when you get old you want to be young again.
whoa aunty take it easy nothing wrong with ma’am.
i turned 40 in March. i was at Ross dress for less yesterday and when I went to pay with my 9 month old baby strapped to my body in his ergo carrier the Ross clerk asked if i was in the “Tuesday Club”. I asked him if I looked that old (55) and he kinda hesitated before he said “no… I just ask everyone.” but come on! i used to always get carded for alcohol but now i’m getting carded for the Ross Tuesday Club!!!! Is there no in between? Jeez, if he wasn’t sure I should’ve said yes and taken the 10% discount.
I’m 49 and feel like a 19 year old. But I’m married and there isn’t a 19 year old around here at the moment! Har Har
I knew I was old when I realized that the latest music I bought was WWII era, Hawaiian oldies, and classical! Oh, and they were CDs, not MP3!
Cat, you got a long way to go. I’ve recently started to get the “uncle” thing. No problem. At least it’s a respectful salutation. What was wrong was when my co-worker said no way I was middle aged at 50. Went on to ask if I thought I would be around at 100… punk!
What you have to look forward to… at age 40 + one day you will suddenly lose your sight. Your optometrist will say you aren’t too old, your arms are too short. They think that’s funny, so laugh.
You will also be tempted to cut your hair like a male. Avoid this. Years later you be tempted to get a round haircut like grandma. Avoid that too. Then I say let the gray come in. Battling it will cost buck-a-roonies and for 5 weeks in between repainting your dome, you will wonder if anyone can see your roots. And for those 5 weeks your co-workers will have to pretend they don’t. Easier on everyone, plus cheaper.
You still surf, so you don’t have to worry about middle aged mass. I would have said avoid the frumpy stage. But you’ll be ok. When you go to Rainbows, just skip the full plate loco-moco once in a while and get the bowl.
Good luck with the kid stage, no one can predict that. All the best planning can go haywire when that happens.
Haven’t started to feel old yet. Beats me as to why.
Hey Cat: … Happy Belated Thanksgiving!!! …
… c’mon, we all get older … some are just further along than others, hehe …
… you know you’re old when … you start to say stuff like “I feel young” and “age is just a number” and “I’m getting older” … and when you start “remembering things you used to do” … and you don’t dread getting old … because you’re already there!!! …
… don’t worry so much about it Cat … I know I’m getting older too, but I feel young … *grin*
When my teenagers informed me that I was “old.” But, they tell me they’re jealous that I have “perfect” skin and at 47, I still get called “miss” more than I do “ma’am” to which I want to reply, “I don’t think you know what ‘miss’ means,” but instead I tell myself just enjoy (I don’t need to be right all the time.)