Thursday, November 15, 2012

Is ma'am offensive?

Ok, I'm going to cut right to the chase with this - is calling someone ma'am offensive?!

I must share the following conversation with a woman (she was about 55 or so) giving me my flu shot/cholesterol screening the other day (she wasn't a doctor, so no formal title like Dr. ____):

lady: have you drank plenty of liquids today
me: yes ma'am (said very politely)
lady: (taking off her glasses to stare me down) my name isn't ma'am (said rudely)
me: oh...
lady: my name is Janet, what's your name?  (still rude)
me: Carol
lady: are you from around here?
me: yes, Seattle
lady: why did you call me ma'am? (accusing tone)
me: um, my mom taught me to use ma'am and sir if I don't know someone
lady: would you have called me ma'am if I was your age? (more accusing tone)
me: um I don't know

So the conversation kept going and she basically shamed me for calling her ma'am! Nick thinks she has some sort of age issue because she later said to me "well your number look great, but then again you are 28 so they should be good - I'm sure in 20 years you'll find a way to screw it up."  Wow - rude!!

But seriously guys, what is up with that?! My mom (who yes, is from the south) taught me that you address people "yes ma'am" and "no sir" and that is what I have been doing for the past 20+ years, and I've never had anyone be so rude to me in response!  I am thinking it was totally an ageism thing, but in my defense - she was about 30 years older than me!  Has this ever happened to anyone before?

This was part of a free "living well" clinic at our place of work and Nick thinks I should complain about her in a survey we got, but honestly I don't want to get anyone in trouble.  I won't stoop to her mean level!

But in nice people news - I got on a full bus yesterday and a really nice man offered me his seat!  And guess what I said back " oh that's so kind of you, I'm fine standing but thank you sir."  Apparently no everyone is offended by ma'am and sir!  :)

19 comments:

GirlieBlogger@Beauty Fashion Blog Seattle said...

lol. I was taught to use Ma'am too. It's supposed to be a sign of respect. But hey, Seattle people are very...particular.

Caroline said...

Ewww...what a nasty lady! I think ma'am is appropriate in any area of the country. It's polite.

besswess said...

As a woman living in Indiana, from Washington state and 30, I always get upset when someone calls me ma'am. Maybe I shouldn't, but I do. Perhaps when you begin being called ma'am it will rub you, but I seriously think it is a southern thing. If you are raised northern, then ma'am is rarely used. This might be the issue.

Jax said...

Ohmygosh! That is so RUDE of her! Admittedly, I flinch when some cute little college kid working in a store at the mall calls me "ma'am" BUT I also think it's flattering and appropriate. What else would she say "Hey you." hah.. No. I think ma'am is definitely a sign of respect and good manners. I think it's bizarre that she reacted the way she did. I mean surely she's been called ma'am before...right? Wow. I HATE those situations b/c I never know how to react. In retrospect, I think of awesome retorts but in the moment, I always have nothing. *sigh*

Sarah and Stewart said...

Some people are just angry and bitter and looking for an argument. It's sad, really. Obviously you were just trying to be polite, she didn't need to be so rude. If she really dislikes "ma'am" so much she could have politely replied, "You can actually call me Janet." No reason at all to be so snarky!

Here is an interesting article on this subject: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/weekinreview/29angier.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Ma%27am&st=cse

Interestingly it seems that people do, in general, dislike being called ma'am, but like I said, it's not meant as a disrespectful term and I think that lady was totally out of line!

Meg {henninglove} said...

why didn't she take it as a sign of respect? it has nothing to do with age, to me it is a sign of respect.

Meg said...

i agree, it is completely a sign of respect! and her going off at you when your intentions were obviously good means it's probably more about her than about you - maybe she is self-conscious about aging, or she was having a bad day, or she had to deal with other younger people before who she felt weren't nice or respectful, so she automatically lumped you in with them. my advice is to just let it go. all you can do in this world is treat people with love and kindness and if they are too shrouded in their own misery and pettiness to appreciate it... well, that's their problem :) you are a sweet and wonderful girl carol! keep spreading the love, and don't let this lady's crankiness bring you down!

Stevie said...

Not only was she being rude, but completely unprofessional! What awful, horrible bedside manner.

Don't ever hesitate to use sir and ma'am. It's a sign of respect and politeness. She just sounds like a cranky old broad :-)

Mrs EyeCanSee said...

I've never been a big ma'am/sir user....but I've certainly not offended when someone calls me ma'am. Sounds like she needs to take that stick out of her butt!

Kristin said...

OMG sounds like she was just a b*tch! I think you were being really polite!! Ugh for rude people!

aimymichelle said...

wow thats insane!

mom said...

Your mother and father ae proud!!

Kelsey @ Seattle Smith's said...

I use it day in and day out, being raised in the south and still to this day wouldn't talk to my grandfather without saying yes sir. He's a Colonel and taught us out of respect!

Carrie {Living It Up in U.P.} said...

Wow, that's crazy! I can't believe how rude to you she was! I think it's fine to call people ma'am and sir. I don't love being called ma'am, but it doesn't bother me either.

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heather{land} said...

Rude! I think you should complain. She should know working in a public service sector! In health care we get score cards based on our customer service just like any other sector and people definitely shouldn't hesitate to complain when rudeness is encountered! terrible.

Anonymous said...

maybe she could have let you know much more considerately but I get really upset when people call me Ma'am. it just makes me feel that I look older and dowdy. I think maybe she reacted angrily but really it just made her sad and it just hurts to be called ma'am. If someone thinks I look older, tired, dowdy or 30+ I am going about my life and dont especially want to hear it.

Nicole-Lynn said...

Oh my goodness! What a RUDE lady! A few years ago I might be a little taken back being called ma'am, because I have always thought of a ma'am to be an older lady. But now I've matured and I totally think it's appropriate. I actually respect people who ma'am me! haha Love it. Always keep your manners girl and don't let anyone convince you or tell you differently! :)

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