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February 21, 2019

Week 117: Are you ma'am or miss?

Samantha Chronicles.
Samantha Chronicles.

The waiter has gone to get me another bottle of champagne. Incase you missed it; he just referred to me as ma’am. I can’t get over it. Let me state here today for the record that no one likes to be called ma’am. It’s one of those terms that are meant to be respectful and your heart might be in the right place for using it but most women hate it. Reason being, our mothers and grandmothers were ma’am.

We were/are Miss. You have called us this for years and we took it for granted. We knew life would always be this way. We take no notice of the term of address because this is who we are – Miss. Young, youthful, pretty, a breath of fresh air. Then one day, you’re sitting at a bar like this one, minding your own business and wham! The word is hurled your way like a canon ball.

“Another bottle ma’am?”

Immediately you are in a time travel machine. You are five or six and someone is talking to your mother. They refer to her as ma’am. You have four other siblings and all of you are dragged around the supermarket as she shops.

“Excuse me ma’am,” “Thank you ma’am” is how everyone solemnly addresses her. Ma’am to you means a much older woman with loads of kids and a shopping cart.

When you get home you open your Famous Five book series and read about the adventures of kids more or less your age. When they encounter a “ma’am” she always looks the same. Her dress is black, long and shapeless and she has a box handbag with a musty smell. Her shoes are very sensible with stockings. She is uptight, with constantly pursed lips.This image of ma’am is ingrained in your mind for years to come.

You though, are referred to in a different way. Everyone calls you Miss. Even when you were a little girl following mum and her shopping cart around, occasionally someone smiled at you and exclaimed “Hello miss!”

You felt all grown up! Miss to you meant a young person who everyone smiled and exclaimed at. As the years roll by they still call you Miss. Until today.

“Another bottle ma’am?”

It’s hard to explain what those three words will do to someone. But the time travel machine is the closest I can get to. I’m my mother. I’m that old hag in the Famous Five books destined to die alone with five cats.

The second bottle of champagne is popped open. I was so lost in my thoughts that I did not notice the waiter return.

“There you go Samantha!” he says.

Relief washes over me. He called me Samantha. It’s the closet I’ll get to ‘Miss’ today but I’ll take it! I gulp down some champagne. I hope I won't be drunk by the time I leave here! I need to be careful, I’m carrying a lot of money on me.

My phone rings. I can’t believe it. It’s my mother! Have I conjured her up with my thoughts?

“Hi ma’am,” I say with a smile.

“Hi dear!” she responds sounding perfectly happy with the term.

“I want to firm up our plans for Christmas!” she says.

Every year, the family gathers at my parent’s house for the festive season. It’s always a disaster. Sure, it starts off fine with everyone getting along. By Christmas day everyone is all smiles and the alcohol flowing freely. At midnight, the madness starts. Someone will sing a country song (a relic from our childhood when my dad owned every Don Williams, Kenny Rogers and Charlie Pride record ever made!). We will all join in and then after a few tunes, a fight breaks out.

It happens every single year.





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