(After you read the post, be sure to read the opinions of my other visitors in the comments section at the end.)
I’m running through a quaint town, training for a 10k with several other people. Another slow-poke and I have fallen behind and decide to run together and talk. Fifteen minutes into the run, I tell her to run ahead if she needs to, and jokingly, I say, “I’m over fifty - I won’t be running much faster.”
We continue our conversation, but now when I ask her a question, she answers, “yes ma’am.” We’ve gone from being peers to mother figure/daughter figure, or teacher/student, or old woman/young woman, or queen bee/worker bee. It takes me a minute or two to get her back to talking about her job, kids, and friends, and to get her tone of voice back to the relaxed tone she started with; and then there are no more “yes ma’ams.” Eventually I find out she’s thirty, which “is” young enough be my daughter.
When I was growing up on the east coast of Virginia, some of my friends were taught to answer adults with “yes ma’am,” “yes sir,” “no ma’am,” or “no sir.” I was not. I was only required to say something behind the “yes” or “no,” like, “Yes Mrs. Jones,” or “No thank you.” Just saying “yes” or “no” was too abrupt, according to my parents. And now that I’m a parent, I have adopted the same thoughts they had. We are not a “ma’am” and “sir” household, but we appreciate those who are.
Kids saying “yes ma’am” tells me that their parents have succeeded in teaching them to respect adults, although, I don’t think less of them if they don’t add the “ma’am.” The respect is what’s important.
I can’t remember exactly when I was first called “Ma’am”, but I’m sure it was a shocker because I was still in my thirties. It was probably from a twenty-two year old, which made me wonder, “Do I look old enough to be your mama!”
Recently, a few couples were at our home, when the thirty-seven year old man guest said “yes ma’am” to the fifty-four year old woman guest. “Oh, don’t call me ma’am,” she said with a little annoyance. He responded quickly, “Oh, I’m sorry. I grew up in Alabama; it’s a habit!”
I’ve seen others react the same way. Is it because it makes them feel old?
I’m used to it now - I notice when I'm answered with "yes ma'am," but it doesn’t bother me. I’ve accepted my “mature” status.
We’ll never all agree on this topic and other matters of semantics and etiquette. My post expressing my thoughts on being called “Mrs. Michael Jones” received varied opinions. Soooo…I guess we’ll continue to form and conduct our own rules of etiquette.
Do you say “yes ma’am” and “yes sir?”