There are few words that trigger such a vehement reaction among midlifers than "ma'am." We're not sure why, except that it makes us feel old -- or, at the very least, older than the person calling us "ma'am." Much has been written about the use of "ma'am" -- kids in the south are raised using the word as a term of respect -- but still the word sometimes makes us wince. Why? Huff/Post 50 asked Facebook fans their thoughts on being called "Ma'am" and here's what they had to say:
Barbara Hoppenfeld said, it makes her feel "ancient." She added, "I don't like to be called Ma'am at all. ... There's gotta be a more respectful way of addressing a more mature female. I even prefer to be called Madam. Ma'am also seems frump-ish!"
Connie Small likens it to another distasteful moment backed by good intentions. "How about when they ask if you get the senior citizen's discount. DAMN!," she said.
Taking note of her own Southern roots, Nancee Jenne said she sees "Ma'am" as "a sign of respect," a term she said she uses "frequently."
Beth Greenshields Courrau said she finds the term "polite" and adds, "considering the lack of manners these days, I'm not going to worry about it. There are far bigger fish to fry."
Martha Huebert added, "When you get to my age, you are so happy to be offered a seat you don't care if they call you 'hey you'."
In a similar vein, Donna Heiner noted that the dive masters in Cozumel called her "Mamma." She was fine with it and told them that "Their job is getting grandma back on the boat after a dive!"
Pam Williams had what might be the best solution of all: "Want to be liked?" she asks. "Address ALL women as 'Miss' and let them correct you -- most won't."
As for what is arguably the most-famous "Ma'am-ing" in pop culture, it turns out that the "Just the facts, Ma'am" widely attributed to Joe Friday in the popular series "Dragnet" may not have actually been those precise words. Those who keep track of such things say Friday's catch-phrase was actually, "All we want are the facts, Ma'am." Perhaps a distinction without a difference.
Let us know your views on being called "Ma'am" in the comments below.