The Age of Ma’am

Article first published as The Age of Ma’am on Blogcritics.

Women enter “The Age of Ma’am” at different times because The Age is not tied to a specific birthday. Instead, The Ma’am Age is similar to The Ice Age, in that it describes both an era and an environment.

Well-meaning people send us to The Age of Ma’am when we look decidedly too old for “Miss” status. And we are sent there repeatedly before we look that old. Or so we thought. Eventually, we are transported to The Age so often we no longer try to leave. We reluctantly accept that we will never again look anything close to as young as we feel.

Women who live in The Age of Ma’am are mostly seen in an unflattering light.  Too often, we are not seen at all.  We are invisible in the board rooms where product design and marketing decisions are made.  We notice that males and younger people tend to get customer service priority.  Our invisibility astonishes and frustrates us. 


Last month as I walked to the grocery store entrance, the automatic doors began closing. I kept my brisk pace, knowing they would re-open. But they didn’t. How odd, I thought. I backed up and walked forward again. No response. Perhaps the electronic sensor is finicky. I tried approaching from different angles. Nothing. Hmmm, was I attempting to go in the “out” door? No, that wasn’t it either. Just then, a man sauntered up behind me and the doors flung open wide, as if welcoming home a long-lost son. I kid you not.

Being ignored by electronic equipment suggests a whole new layer of disrespect for older women. What’s next? Cell phones disconnect our “girlfriends” chats because they sense nobody is talking? GPS navigation systems cannot find our current location because nobody is there?

But occasionally, someone shows us that we are still visible and appreciated. Like yesterday, when I handed my receipt to a handsome young man in the parking ramp booth. He smiled warmly and looked into my eyes as he gave me change, “Thanks – you have a good day, Miss.” Miss???  It had been so long since anyone called me “Miss” that I was startled speechless. My face turned as red as a baboon’s bottom.

I’d have ridiculously over-tipped that sweet, sweet, inappropriate fellow, but ma’ams must preserve their dignity. I suppose it wouldn’t have been proper to spank him either.

Photo credit: jo-h in Flickr under Creative Commons license


  1. Well Miss, as an old man I find that there are more females I refer to as Miss. This post has forced me to think about the issue., Is it that there are more young ladies out and about or is it that the word “old” is relative? I choose to believe that God has blessed me with coming into contact with more young ladies I refer to as Miss. This is especially true when I know they are attorneys and have the ability to sue my butt.

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