Erin's Everyday Thoughts

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Call Me Ma'am

I was in the grocery store. As the cashier swiped my bag of baby carrots across the scanner, from the end of the aisle came a question from the bagger, a high school punk with nose ring and wallet chain, “Would you like paper or plastic, ma’am?”

And just for a moment, my heart paused. Ma’am. Not Miss or even Hey you. But ma’am.

Throughout my early 20s, each time I was called ma’am, I took it as a reminder of the aging process. I was not in high school anymore. I was not even in college anymore. Each time I heard the word, I felt old. I knew I was not old, not by any stretch. (And what is “old”, anyway?) But still this word had the power to make me stand back and see what had passed, to mourn for those times gone by and the fact that I would never again be 8, or 18, or 21.

I felt as though I was in a war against “growing up.” I wanted to be young, unique, creative, enthusiastic, imaginative. I wanted the world to see me this way, not as the random 20-something that the word ma’am represented to me.

And, hidden behind everything else, I think I also did not want to take full responsibility for my life. I didn’t want to hold myself accountable to accomplish all those things I said I would accomplish when I “grew up.” I wanted some excuse to hold off, to delay that time when I would need to make whatever I wanted to happen, happen.

A few weeks ago, while I was driving home in the car that I own, from the job that I go to each day, to the house that I share with my roommate, it occurred to me: I am grown up. And it doesn’t mean losing any part of my creativity or imagination. It doesn’t mean being any less unique, any less important or vital or playful or adventurous or enthusiastic or eager to learn. (Those who tell you being a grown up means losing any these things, I think, are quite wrong.)

It does mean understanding myself more thoroughly than I ever have. It does mean having a greater base of knowledge—things I’ve learned from books but more importantly from life experience! It also does mean taking myself to task for everything I’d like to do with my life. Now is the time for creation. Now is the time for molding dreams into realities. There are no excuses left, because I’m all grown up. And it’s not so bad.

So go ahead, call me ma’am.


  • That's a real nice entry, ma'am.


    By Blogger Tripp_Fontaine, at 2:54 PM  

  • Another really nice entry, Erin. What you're describing is a common characteristic of nearing 30. When we're 25 and younger, we're still caught in the belief that the world sees us and will reward us just because of our so-called accomplishments, just because we've worked hard, played by the rules, and aced everything our teachers and mentors could throw at us. When you near 30, you start to realize how much of your depends on your ability to stick with your dreams. Like George Bailey in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, we have to learn to pare down expectations and find happiness in the "now." Being in the "now" is, to me, another way of saying being in your creative life.

    By Blogger Theresa Williams, at 10:13 PM  

  • Like I'm going to take advice from a grownup like you.

    Your post does much to dash the stereotype of getting older, and I find that both refreshing and relieving. You're right. Growing older and growing up doesn't mean we have to abandon our pursuits or give in to more stereotypically mature habits, like sitting back in an easy chair, smoking cigars and quilting (not to slight those people who find both entertaining, simultaneously or not).

    I'm responding to this particular post, not because I think it is any more or less worthy of a nod of achievment (they are all really well-conceived efforts), but this strikes pretty close to home in regards to my annual resolution to Not Grow Up. I think in this light I may have to restructure said resolution. Not to remain immature, but remain open, flexible and keep a wholly pliable brain.

    Of course, that's a mouthful where resolutions are concerned. Wouldn't you say?

    And another note. I am proud that you take no offense to being called ma'am. I, on the other hand, would take great offense to such a label, and said bag boy would probably find himself spread amongst several (environmentally friendly) paper grocery sacks as a reward for his daring.


    By Blogger Sean DeLauder, at 1:08 AM  

  • I've said before that it's pretty scary to realise that you actually *are* a grownup. There's something very comforting of deluding yourself into thinking you're still "just a kid". Perhaps it's the thought that you can always turn to your parents or other trusted adults if you need help. It's somewhat ironic that we spend our whole childhood wanting to be grown-up and many of us spend our adulthood wishing we were just a kid again. I love that you have pointed out that it's really NOW that you get to take all that you've learned and turn it into those dreams for your life. And at the same time, you can hold on to that unique, creative enthusiasm (I plan to!). For me, I've realised that now is the time for me to become the artist that I always knew I was. I spent many years shrugging that off as part of my childhood and wrestling with how in the world I could ever be a grown-up AND honor that creative, imaginative side I was hiding. It seems to emerge more and more now that I'm very grounded in who I am as an adult. I've stopped wishing I were young and started looking forward to more "growing up".

    But I still don't like to be called "ma'am".

    By Blogger e_doe, at 10:23 AM  

  • I don't like to be called ma'am, either. So when I was purchasing an electronic game for my 23 year old son and the cashier looked at me and said, I'm not sure you're old enough to buy this game... I may need to see an was fun. Your entry gave me pause to think: what's "grown up" mean to me? To mean it is a process, but in part means I understand and accept that I am mindful and responsible for myself. This is a good thing, I think. But, it is not always easy, when one has a difficult decision to make and the consequences are sometimes unknown. Thanks for the great entry. ~ Beth

    By Blogger beths front porch, at 12:17 PM  

  • George Bernard Shaw: "Youth is wasted on the young."

    Never a truer word has been said. As I look back on my youth, had I known then what I know now, ahhh...

    A most thought-provoking entry, ma'am. I like being called ma'am - but only with a rich Southern accent, by a man with a slow smile and a honey-sweet voice, and... oh well, you get my drift!

    Yes, you are right on all counts. Being a grown-up means little if you sit back and say, "I'm grown-up now, and all things will change," because it is up to us to make 'em change. No excuse of youth any more. We have responsibilities, but also we have opportunities that are closed to kids. How fun is THAT? I am busy recapturing the youth I wasted when I was young. It has its ups and downs, but there are more ups than downs, and that's enough for me.

    Love the thoughts, Erin,


    By Blogger Vicky, at 1:38 AM  

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