When did I become a “ma’am?” According to some of the employees at the Starbucks near me, I am one. In all due respect, I know that cultural norms advise people to respect their elders but I don’t consider myself a “ma’am,” not yet. I have recently begun my 41st year on this earth and have never felt so healthy, but am I now old since I have become a "ma'am?"
I have had the genetic gift of going gray very early (age 19) and while highlights covered it for several years, I was still in my 20s when I had to move on to single process coloring. When my roots show, or as my friend calls it, “the landing strip,” it is quite noticeable due to my dark hair. Maybe I would understand the title of “ma’am” if I was greeted in this manner only when my roots are apparent, but it has occurred at times immediately after my hair has been colored.
What I do not understand is that I actually do not look my age. I have been told time and time again that I look much younger. I would be lying if I said these comments do not affect me. I hold on to them with all of my might. It’s not that I mind being 41 years old, I am obviously very open about it. I simply do not want to be seen as “aging.” Who does?
I celebrate each birthday with excitement and never shy away from an excuse to celebrate. It could just be semantics but I do not mind aging; what I do mind is being seen as aging. That feels more sad and finite.
I spend my time trying to keep up with my 5 year old daughter and that certainly helps to keep me “young.” I wish that those Starbucks baristas who see me could do so with the same pair of eyes that I use to see myself. They may see a woman who only drinks decaf coffee and is always friendly. I see a woman who is working hard to maintain her health, both physical and mental; and I also see a woman who feels she has so much more to accomplish in life.
Do not call me “ma’am.” Not yet. I am not mentally there and I am not sure when or if I ever will be. And really, it’s just Starbucks and you’re going to ask for my name for my cup anyway, so use it.