It’s not because you look old. That salesclerk could have called you Ma’am for any number of reasons! If you found yourself wondering, “Why?” while in Clarks buying your comfort loafers, here are some perfectly good reasons why you just got Ma’amed:
He thought you were a celebrity.
Not just a celebrity – one of those celebrities who’s trying to pass as a normal person with dirty hair, no makeup, and a stupid hat. Maybe even a member of the royal family or something. He didn’t want to out you and cause a scene, so he just tried to play it cool, asking if you found everything you were looking for today and would you like to donate $2 to help kids with diabetes. He couldn’t call you “miss” when he wished you a good day because you can’t call a famous person “Miss.” “Ma’am” was the most respectful, discreet term he could think of for a woman that might play that chick on CSI.
You seem more together than most women your age.
You paid him in crisp dollar bills that didn’t look like they’d been stuffed in a sweaty g-string. You were wearing Lululemon clothing, as if you planned to take an expensive yoga class. You bought the fancy chapstick that looks like a butt plug and a 12-pack of the three-ply toilet paper. He just knew you had a Roth IRA and decent insurance and wanted to tip his hat to you with a proper-sounding title.
He’s not a native English speaker.
He thinks “ma’am” means “beautiful, young woman,” not “term of address for an older woman, like your mom.” He probably doesn’t get called out on minor foibles like this because the rest of his English is impeccable and he doesn’t even have an accent. You should gently correct him next time.
It’s now store policy to call any post-pubescent female “ma’am.”
Some younger women find “miss” condescending. Some older women demand a formal gendered acknowledgement, but think “madam” sounds stuffy. They’re just trying to avoid offending someone with a strong social media presence. This is all so progressive!
He’s a stupid, young idiot.
This guy never heard of Paul McCartney until that new Kanye West song. He started kindergarten in 2002. He’s got baby pictures on Facebook that aren’t from #throwbackthursday. Kids these days! You should have him fired.
So relax – you don’t look old or matronly. You look important or they’re dumb. So chin up (it might make you look younger)!