sorry, but I think you have me confused with a grown-up

by Janelle Hanchett

It was just another day – just another trip to the grocery store, just another check-out line…until, after answering the monumental bagging choice question (which really isn’t monumental at all, unless you’re within a certain radius of San Francisco, where plastic bags have been outlawed or some such nonsense), I was slammed suddenly by a large boulder, which flew in from the left, unannounced, smacking me squarely in the head and leaving me confused, lost, and shaken.

Well actually there was no boulder. But it might as well have been a granite crater, the way it stung and burned and hit me, hard…that teenaged checkout kid and his quiet inquisition… “Would you like help out with this, M’am?”

Dude whah?

Did he just call me m’am? My grandmother is a m’am. My mom is even a m’am (albeit a young, very pretty one). But me? I’m not a m’am (you worthless little shithead juvenile). Not nice, Janelle – stop that~!.

Well, yes, evidently I am a m’am. I know this because everybody keeps calling me it. Using my vast deductive reasoning skills, I have concluded that somehow, unbeknownst to me, I’ve wandered into m’am territory and, as we all know, there ain’t no gettin’ outta here. In fact, I’m so entrenched in m’am–hood that when people call me “miss” I look at them gratefully but knowingly, because while it strokes my ego for a moment, I know they’re just being kind. And in a way, it almost stings more.

I mean goodness, I’m only 31. Well, 32. At the end of this month.

And I know I lead a ‘m’am’ sort of life with the husband and multiple offspring and house and family vehicle and lack of stilettos, etc., but it’s just that I don’t feel like a m’am yet. I don’t feel grown up. I look it, and occasionally I act it, but I’m not really there yet. A friend of mine recently joked that she and her husband often wonder what their kids would have been like “had they been born to grown-ups rather than them.” For obvious reasons I adore this woman.

And she’s right. I mean it appears that there are people out there who feel prepared and sufficiently matured and ready for this parenting gig…or maybe they just pull off the façade better than I do. But at this rate, I’ll be grown up and settled into myself and wise enough to raise kids around the age of fifty, when I’m too old to reproduce. What a jip.

Seriously, sometimes I try to be stern and adult-like at dinner when my kids are misbehaving and I get those damn giggles right along with them and I can’t keep a straight face as hard as I try. And sometimes I make strange, random unsolicited noises solely to be loud and annoy people, just like my 5-year old. I sing 80s ditties in a horribly offensive operatic manner, driving people nuts intentionally, because it’s fun…and I think I’m funny pretty much all the time and when I get overtired I cry and lash out and complain like a 2-year old nearing the breakdown point. But yet, I’m 32…the prime child-bearing age. The ‘right time’ to be a mother, the right time to settle down and take care of other humans and guide and lead and love…to be wise and grounded and a ‘m’am.’

So, grocery store check-out guy, I just want you to know that I die a little death every time you call me that awful name and you think you’re just being polite but really you’re launching me into a new level of existential angst. Thanks for that.

And by the way, yes, of course I want help out to my car. Can’t you see how tired I am?

  • Franki Halloran

    Having been in M’am territory for some time now, I can assure you it doesn’t get any easier to bear…

  • Mad Woman behind the Blog

    GAH! Is there a dirtier word in the English language? I’m 3…doing math, 38! Whew…anyway, I JUST gave up my “Facing 30” book to my younger sister so I’m in complete denial with you!

    Funny thing is that they don’t say ma’am when they card me. HA!

    • renegademama

      I shall stay safely in my denial until, well, forever. And the most annoying thing is that there isn’t a male version of “m’am” — just “sir.” If you’re 19 or 50, you’re still “sir.” Fucking conspiracy.

    • renegademama

      Love your blog! And there’s a facing 30 book? I should get that. I haven’t faced it yet. Although I don’t plan to…until maybe I’m 40. Ha.

  • Shan

    Aww, LOL. I’m roughly exactly eight years older than you. I will shamelessly ask people to card me when necessary. Really pisses me off when they decline.

    • renegademama

      “roughly exactly”. why is that so freaking rad? you have a great way of saying things my friend…

  • MamaHawk

    I got over this issue early. In the Air Force, in which I enlisted at age 17 (for reasons left best explored in another post), I was called ma’am by 34-year-olds who had to answer to me for silly reasons. And one sergeant helped me accept it as an acknowledgement that I was an old soul. So, ma’am was less about age and more about respect. So, in that light, just embrace the respect that the speaker is affording you. They are recognizing you have a lot on your plate and wisdom to share.

    Now, that last bit may take some work on your part, friend, accepting that you have valuable wisdom to share. You do. oooxxx

  • MamaHawk

    Oh, and did I mention that lately Jeremy and I completely crucify the Star Spangled Banner every morning on the way to work by singing it loudly, at the top of our lungs, almost mockingly, and yet … when I step out of my car and into my work building I pretend to be “all that” and I actually pass???

    It’s all how you stage yourself, my dear.

    • renegademama

      Awesome on so many levels. And I love what you said about respect. From now on I shall tell myself that they’re calling me “m’am” because I deserve respect. Not because I look tired and disheveled. 🙂

  • MommaResa

    I’d just like to let you know I was called m’am the for the first time at twenty, yes TWENTY.

    I was like WAIT A MINUTE! And I was only in my first trimester with my first baby! (Granted I’ve had the occasional grey hair since middle school).
    I’m not looking forward to a life time of m’am hood.

    • renegademama

      That is SO unfair! Nobody should have to deal with it until 30 at the soonest!

  • Abby

    Ugh. I’m going to be 30 in a couple months and ma’am bites the big one, so I feel your pain. I never feel old until a) I’m called ma’am, b) I hear MC Hammer on the oldies’ station (while driving with my mom, who is actually quite cool despite being old-ish in comparison) and c) a kid tells me they were born the year I graduated from high school.

    But all in all, ma’am is better than the alternative words that could (and might be) used on occasion. What irks me even more is when women my age call me “Sweetie” or “Hon.” Not happening.

  • Simon Wallett

    As someone who is the same age, 32 in April, I am just waiting for some smug little sod behind a counter to call me sir, at which point I shall punch them square in their nose!

  • Rene Foran

    Ugh…the silence of the Ma’ams…:)

  • Amy Cappelli

    I’ve been a ma’am for a good 6 years now (yikes I’ll be 36 next month). I remember being called ma’am for the first time when I was about 30 years old and I was picking out paint with my husband at the hardware store- one of my least favorite places to be. It was the paint guy who addressed me as ma’am. I wanted to yell at him, ” I didn’t even want to come here (to your shitty store) today. And, now I’m never coming back.” It makes me wonder if I address women who I perceive to be a certain age either Miss or Ma’am.

  • Jules

    AMEN! If you’re going to call me, “Ma’am, then load my stuff!”

  • Maasiyat

    One of the advantages of being short, most people don’t call you “ma’am”. I think you have to be at least 5’5 or something. I am well under that. I just pretend ma’am means bitch and if someone does call me ma’am in my head i think ‘damn straight i am a beotch and you can’t have any of this”.

    Visiting from Studio 30

  • Amanda Austin

    I know exactly how you feel. I’m almost 31 and don’t feel like I’m any older than I was at 25…well, tha’ts not true; I cant’ stay up late or drink like I did at 25, but as far as being capable of real responsibilities? No way. But I do it and make it through somehow! Stopping by from Saturday Spotlight! 🙂

    • renegademama

      Thanks for stopping by! Good to have ya. I’m on my way to your blog…

  • OKinUK

    You ain’t southern, is you? (With my accent, that sentence sounds like this: yew ayint suthurn ez yew?)

    I’m 31 meself, and I’ve always said ma’am and sir to anyone and everyone regardless of age… except children. I call them sweetiepie, sugar booger, or fussbutts.

    Sorry for your lost youth. But it was a great post.

  • Judy

    I don’t know if you really meant to send this out today, 11.5 years after you first posted it, but it made me smile. I, too, wonder when I will grow up and be mature. In fact, I made a pandemic decision and started college last year. Yup, at the supposedly mature age of 63, I am about to enter my second year of a degree program. Maybe when I graduate, I’ll feel grown up. I kind of doubt it.

  • Rob

    This just came through in 9/2022?

    Is everything ok?


    I need to know I’m not alone in my insanity.

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