Is “Ma’am” Insulting To Women These Days?
Yesterday a lady and I got on the elevator together here at the Crowne Plaza. We had a bit of time to small talk one another on our 19-floor journey.
She asked me if I had any plans for Labor Day. I replied, "No Ma'am, not yet." The expression on her face went from friendly with direct eye contact, to offended and staring at the doors as if she couldn't wait for them to open. Obviously, she didn't appreciate being addressed as "Ma'am."
Being raised with my particular style of manners, I don't reserve that term for blue-haired seniors. I don't even reserve it exclusively for women who appear to be older than me. I just use it with adult females when I'm trying to be polite. Had this woman been 25, I'd guess her to be in her 50's, I would have likely said the same thing.
I asked one my my female co-workers what she thought of the term and she said, "Eww. No. I'm not even 40."
I suppose I need to undo years of training and drop this word from my vocabulary since it seems to be an insult as opposed to a sign of respect. I'm probably the only person under 40 who still watches "The Waltons" every now and then, so it's going to be tough.