Women enter “The Age of Ma’am” at different times because The Age is not tied to a specific birthday. Instead, The Ma’am Age is similar to The Ice Age, in that it describes both an era and an environment.
Although the arrival times vary, the beginning of the trip doesn’t. Well-meaning people send us to The Age of Ma’am when we look decidedly too old for “Miss” status. And we are sent there repeatedly before we look that old. Or so we thought. Eventually, we are transported to The Age so often we no longer try to leave. We reluctantly accept that we will never again look anything close to as young as we feel.
Women who live in The Age of Ma’am are seen in an unflattering light or not seen at all. People rarely attribute positive qualities to older females and society sees us as worth little. Since value largely determines visibility, women of a certain age seemingly disappear. It happens in service industries, product design, marketing, you name it. Sometimes it happens when you least expect it.
Last month as I walked to the grocery store entrance, the automatic doors began closing. I kept my brisk pace, knowing they would re-open. But they didn’t. How odd, I thought. I backed up and walked forward again. No response. Perhaps the electronic sensor is finicky. I tried approaching from different angles. Nothing. Hmmm, was I attempting to go in the “out” door? No, that wasn’t it either. Just then, a man sauntered up behind me and the doors flung open wide, as if welcoming home a long-lost son. I kid you not.
Being ignored by electronic equipment suggests a whole new layer of disrespect for older women. What’s next? Cell phones disconnect our “girlfriends” chats because they sense nobody is talking? GPS navigation systems cannot find our current location because nobody is there?
Occasionally, someone surprises us by demonstrating that we are both visible and appreciated. Like yesterday, when I handed my receipt to a handsome young man in the parking ramp booth. He smiled and looked into my eyes as he gave me change, “Thanks – you have a good day, Miss.” Miss??? It had been so long since anyone called me “Miss” that I was startled speechless. My face turned as red as a baboon’s bottom.
I’d have ridiculously over-tipped that sweet, inappropriate fellow, but ma’ams must preserve their dignity. I suppose it wouldn’t have been proper to spank him either.
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