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The Mis-use of "Miss"

As a recently widowed person, I find myself eating out a lot. I am frequently addressed as "Miss," even though I'm past 60. I don't really see the need for an honorific after a query such as, "Would you like bread? Am I being overly sensitive?

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      1. re: weezieduzzit

        It isn't polite. She isn't a pre-pubescent girl.

        1. re: lagatta

          What makes you think it's not polite? In parts of the States -- i.e., the Northeast -- this is the default form of polite address for a woman whose last name you do not know regardless of her age. See comments of Ratgirlagogo, downthread. I note that you are from Canada, where Missus is evidently the standard form. While Ma'am is used as the default in many parts of the US, that usage is not universal. My nonagenarian mother, for example, born and raised in NY, would much prefer Miss over Ma'am.

          1. re: masha

            Where I grew up in California I would consider it inappropriate to call an adult woman "Miss." It's a status thing: traditionally a married woman has higher status, so calling an adult woman "Miss" implies she is lower status. It's what snotty people, especially women, call clerks and waitresses: "Oh miss!" It's like (although obviously not as seriously offensive as) calling a black man "boy." That said, life is to short to take offense when clearly none is intended.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Really? Where in California did you grow up? We were taught to address any adult unmarried female (such as a teacher......a Sunday school teacher.....a store clerk etc.) as Miss.... such as Miss Smith.....Miss Anderson and such. And my parents had a fit if one of us dared to mention an adult by first name...even when a parent of a friend insisted we call them by their first name it was taboo! My parents were old school and considered any veering from old school manners by any of their four kids a disgrace to them:) I am still so respectful when I interact in the real world not online. I grew up in west side Petaluma in the 60's and 70's.

              1. re: MamasCooking

                <I grew up in west side Petaluma in the 60's and 70's.>

                I grew up the same but in a different city up north.
                "Miss", for a single woman, was a sign of respect….

                Beyond that, as a child, it would never enter our minds to address an adult by their first name. Things, obviously, became more casual in the '60's and traditional social customs fell by the way-side. I still find it lovely when one of my dear friend's sons calls me Mrs. and single women Miss.
                I would never attempt to correct him in order that he would be allowed to call be by my first name. It was the way he was raised and taught. He's one of the most respectful men I've ever met, with impeccable manners when it comes to women.
                It's so sad, to me, that a woman would find him offensive.

                1. re: latindancer

                  I'm sure that was respectful by the standards of those days, but those were days when women were not considered equal, and still viewed basically as baby-making machines. I think I'm probably about the same age you are (boomer) but I always felt a deep feeling of revolt about that state of affairs - and about other forms of injustice, such as racism, when I saw the news about the Black girls murdered in Birmingham Al, and read Anne Frank's diary.

                  I do hope that in your country too, a woman's marital status will become of no business to anyone but her husband, their families and public records (to prevent bigamy and other forms of fraud).

                  There are lovely, courteous aspects to traditional social customs, but racism and sexism were traditional too, and nothing lovely about those.

                  1. re: lagatta

                    <those were days when women were not considered equal and still viewed basically as baby-making machines>

                    Did you experience, those stereotypes?

                    I can assure you, lagatta, those are stereotypes I never experienced, ever.
                    The women I knew, including the women in my family, were anything BUT. I was raised to be strong, independent and free thinking. I knew what my place in the world, as a female, was at a very young age. The men around me respected me.
                    Interestingly, I never felt the same 'deep feeling of revolt' as you do/did.
                    Anne Frank was a victim of her times, the Holocaust, and I'm very well aware of it, personally, unfortunately. As we all know, if anyone cared to know her, she was very strong, brave and independent in her thinking. She was not considered weak or subservient or dominated by any man. She was the one, in that hour of horrendous darkness, who helped men to understand what the word 'courage' meant.
                    Racism, as my very educated black female friends/colleagues will confirm, is still very much alive and glowing…we'd all just prefer to pretend and to think it's not. Fortunately, we now have laws in place that help to prevent injustice (although they don't) what happened in Birmingham.
                    Traditional social customs are necessary for a society to run itself properly and with meaning. We're not the only country with them. It's a shame that a man cannot call a single woman 'Miss' without some sort of backlash either quietly or in their face.

                    1. re: latindancer

                      I think a man should call a woman who 'appears' reasonably young Miss, vs. Ma'am, esp. if he does not know her or her marital status. I got offended alot in my 30's and 40's when called ma'am as I thought it meant people thought I was old - married or not. Miss can be a kinder form of address to some of us.

                2. re: MamasCooking

                  Old school was not that far back.... When we moved in '94, my son was six. Our new neighbor told him to call her Aunt Judy. After we walked back across the street, my son said, "Can I just call her Mrs. (so and so)? She's not my aunt."
                  I was very proud of him.

                  1. re: MamasCooking

                    I'd argue that it's vastly more "snotty" to imply that a marriage license elevates a woman's "status".

                    1. re: LeoLioness

                      I've never, ever heard that a 'marriage license elevates a woman's status'.

                      I'm thinking there's got to be some projecting going on with that statement.

                      1. re: latindancer

                        I never heard that either until I read the post to which I responded.

                        1. re: latindancer

                          Are we entirely in agreement as to who is projecting what?

                          Just sayin'.

                    2. re: Ruth Lafler

                      oh wow, i respectfully completely disagree with this! maybe married women enjoyed "higher status" in the 30s or 40s or even 50s, but i don't ever think of "Miss" as being a denigration. and i really, REALLY see it as an overreaction to compare it to someone calling a black man "boy"! even though you're saying not to take offense.

                      1. re: mariacarmen

                        It's not the same thing as that racist insult. It IS sexist though to distinguish women on the basis of their marital status when there is no such distinction for adult men.

                        At least we've eliminated that stuff here...

                        1. re: lagatta

                          Lagatta, I agree that it is sexist to use titles for women based on marital status but not all women feel that way. The original question was what honorific should be used to address a stranger whose last name is unknown (i.e., where Ms. Smith is not an option). Perhaps there is a universal usage in Canada (evidently there is), but there is not here. Miss and Ma'am are the 2 most commonly used terms and it's pretty evident from the comments on this thread that some women strongly prefer one over the other.

                          And, indeed, even where the last name is known, this issue can be fraught. I'm a "Ms." who has kept her last name for 30+ years of marriage, but I've given up on correcting people who want to use "Mrs" in preface to my last name (that's my mother's name, not mine), just as I don't correct people who want to call me "Ma'am." And, I come to realize a long time ago that certain of my SIL's are offended if I were to use "Ms." on an envelope addressed to them, so I use Mrs. in reference to them.

                          1. re: masha

                            I don't think it is universal in Canada; I was referring only to Québec.

                            As for the SILs, I'd simply use first and last name then.

                            1. re: lagatta

                              Well, if I addressed an envelope to my SIL who preferred Mrs over Ms, omitting both honorifics, it still would be obvious that I am not using her preferred mode of address. I could do it, but it would probably annoy her. Note, that she knows my preference and uses "Ms" on envelopes to me and I'm happy to reciprocate.

                              1. re: masha

                                I agree.

                                Why would anyone purposely offend someone who prefers to be called Mrs. when it's obvious the person having the problem is projecting their own issue(s)?

                              2. re: lagatta

                                <I'd simply use first and last name then.>

                                They prefer to be addressed as 'Mrs.'

                                I'd be like me saying 'NO' to my married, female friends who want to be addressed as Ms.
                                Of course I'd address the envelope as Ms…
                                It's what they prefer.

                          2. re: mariacarmen

                            ok, Ruth, you edited your post so now mine looks like i''m overreacting to your post! no fair! :)

                          3. re: Ruth Lafler

                            I've lived in San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles and now in the greater Los Angeles area and know no one that finds it derogatory to be called "Miss." I think its one of those things that falls into the category of not a big deal unless you're looking for something to make a big deal about. Of course I've also never hung out with people that would and was not raised by people who would "rank" people by their marital status.

                            1. re: weezieduzzit

                              <falls into the category of not a big deal unless you're looking for something to make a big deal about>

                              Amen to that :).

                            2. re: Ruth Lafler

                              "Traditionally a married woman has higher status..."

                              Good grief, I thought that thinking only existed in novels written by Edith Wharton and others.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                while: "traditionally a married woman has higher status"
                                In reality she stood to lose everything. Under English Common law and much American Law (especially here in New England where I went to law school and practice). a woman who married lost all her rights and property. A single woman could own property, but as soon as she married it became the property of her husband (as was she).
                                Back in the late 70s I was engaged to be married in South Africa (operating under the British Legal system) we had to enter into an ante-nuuptial agreement (not a prenup as in the states) in order that my future wife did not becaome an infant under the law upon marriage and would be allowed to have her own bank account,

                                To quote the Virginia Slims cigarette commercials of our youth, "youv'e come a long way, baby...."

                                1. re: bagelman01

                                  while: "traditionally a married woman has higher status"
                                  In reality she stood to lose everything. Under English Common law and much American Law (especially here in New England where I went to law school and practice). a woman who married lost all her rights and property. A single woman could own property, but as soon as she married it became the property of her husband (as was she)."

                                  I live in northern Maine and you are going to have to quote chapter and verse to convince me that such a law is still in effect in the United States in general and New England specifically.

                            3. re: lagatta

                              Yes, but in many parts of the country it is at least an attempt to be polite. Its still much better than "hey you" or something to that affect. Our society is too easy offended.

                            1. Yes, you are being too picky. It's common for younger people to refer to women as "Miss", probably because many of them have been recipients of the "stink-eye" when they addressed a woman nearing 40 as "Ma'am". The first time a woman is called "ma'am" is not a happy day. True, the honorific is not obligatory in many an exchange, but the server or clerk doesn't have the luxury of time to ponder what to say.

                              35 Replies
                              1. re: greygarious

                                "The first time a woman is called "ma'am" is not a happy day."

                                Really? The first time I was called ma'am, I was pleased to be shown respect and acknowledged to be an adult. May have been different for you, but I'm happy to be growing older. Being young was hard!

                                1. re: Hobbert

                                  Ma'am is so common in the South where I've lived before, that I never bat an eye at it. You will get called Ma'am by everyone regardless if they are your elder or your superior. For Southerners, it's just a polite way of addressing a female, period.

                                  1. re: SaraAshley

                                    How do you feel about "Yessum" ? Is it used more or less the same as ma'am ?

                                    I'd LOVE to live in the South. I think there's a part of me deep down somewhere that connects with all things good in the South. Startin' with good manners, lookin' out for your neighbors, and chicken fried steak with red eye gravy :-D

                                    1. re: LotusRapper

                                      I don't recall ever really hearing yessum used.

                                      I loved living in the South. I've only ever lived 2 places, so I can't compare between it and a lot of other regions of the country, but there were definitely some positive differences between Charlotte, NC (where i lived) and Northern VA (where I'm from and where I live now). Technically I'm below the Mason-Dixon line in VA, so South, but there really is nothing Southern about Northern VA.

                                      The good manners is not a myth, and strangers say hi to you when passing you on the street. I remember doing drive by house hunts with my now ex-bf and how if we ever passed anyone while they were taking out the trash or picking up mail, they would wave. People only do that if they know you where I live now.

                                      1. re: SaraAshley

                                        re: the South - I miss being called 'baby' as in "uh huh and you want anything else with that baby?" it ALWAYS won me over and generated a grin.

                                        1. re: hill food

                                          Lol, I use lots of terms of endearment to refer to a lot of people in my life. From friends to bfs to bartenders. I will routinely refer to them all at some point as babe, baby, or hon. I realize from these boards that people on here would hate me. I can assure you though that most people I refer to with these names do not mind it because they do the same thing to me. It's just how we talk. And back to ma'am, I've been known to refer to people wayyyyyyyy younger than me as ma'am, as well. Like my nieces. If they're doing something wrong I will give them a look in a stern but calm voice and say "no ma'am." Ma'am to me is just a respectful term, regardless of age.

                                          1. re: hill food

                                            Or at the checkout: "Uh huuuuuuh, you got it, HUN-AY !" :-)

                                            As a Canadian, I find those mannerisms very endearing. So maybe it's not about Trader Joe's, cheap gas and dairy after all ...... ;-)

                                            1. re: LotusRapper

                                              As a fellow Canadian who travel to US for business, I find endearing provided it's said with a genuine smile (which it often does). Though it's more informal than 'Ms' or 'ma'am', 'hon' just makes the service experience a bit more friendly.

                                              It's when I'm called 'ma'am' with the enthusiasm of a dead fish that makes me feel I'm my mother's age.

                                              1. re: Nevy

                                                I hear ya.

                                                Guess my beef is, we don't get much of "sir", "miss/mizz", "ma'am" etc. at all from our local service industries, with or without genuineness. I'm happy when I even get solid eye contact and a smile from frontline customer service folks, whether it'd be restaurants or retail. Then again, I'm in Vancouver, and from my experience, people here are not big on connecting meaningfully, whether in retail transactions or as neighbors and folks in the community:


                                            2. re: hill food

                                              I'm from Philly and I miss being called "hon".

                                              1. re: monavano

                                                I thought "Hon" was a "Balmer MD" thing?

                                                1. re: Motosport

                                                  I didn't realize until recently that it's HUGE in Balmer!

                                                  1. re: monavano

                                                    I always thought people were calling Balmer "Hun Country" (y'know a vestige of the revolution and the Hessian/Prussian mercenaries).

                                                    until I realized.

                                                  2. re: Motosport

                                                    i live in arlington, va (originally from s.w.florida) but "hon" is nothing i'd heard myself (south of baltimore) until last year at the cowboy cafe here in arlington. i guess our waitress was from baltimore.

                                                    i don't like "hon" but i guess that's because i didn't grow up with it. it reminds me of flo in mel's diner. LOL

                                                      1. re: LotusRapper

                                                        a doll indeed. always made me smile. (she could also pull a tear or two from these eyes when she wanted. polly holliday is a very good actress).

                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                          ha, she's the aunt of my old (usual) babysitter in STL! I never met her but could see (later after she was on TV) the family resemblance to the sitter's dad.

                                            3. re: LotusRapper

                                              "Yessum" is a relic from another, less-glorious era.

                                              1. re: LotusRapper

                                                An old adage:

                                                "In the East, people will invite you to dinner but are too busy to do it.

                                                In the South, they'll invite you to dinner but don't mean it.

                                                In the Midwest, they'll just come on over with a casserole."

                                                To finish the adage....is there a good one for the West?

                                                1. re: Steve

                                                  In the West they just won't invite you for dinner because they don't cook


                                                  In the West they say they'll invite you for dinner but never do it.


                                                  In the West, they'll never invite you for dinner.

                                                  1. re: escondido123

                                                    In the West, they'll invite you to dinner then cancel at the last minute

                                                    1. re: escondido123

                                                      hmph! everyone i know cooks out here in the West! dinner invites galore.

                                                    2. re: Steve

                                                      In the West, everyone is welcome at the barbeque, just bring your own beer.

                                                    3. re: LotusRapper

                                                      yessum? that sounds like some characterization of a servant's speech. i never heard "yessum" growing up in the south. i'm not saying it never exists these days, but not in my exoerience.

                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                        There was some of that, but it wasn't African-American per se, just a Southern custom, albeit very old. A contraction of "yes ma'am":


                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                            I was raised both southern and military, I call 18 year old little girls Ma'am. In my raising, Miss is only used in front of either a first name of a close family friend who is old enough to be considered the speaker's elder ( a 20 year old being spoken to by a 9 year old, a 60 year old being spoken to by a 40 year old, etc) or followed by the last name of an unmarried woman. Yes'm is to be used as a sign of respect but only in an extremely informal situation.

                                                          2. re: LotusRapper

                                                            thanks Lotus. I'd love to have you. But you could practice all 3 right where you are ?? do your best and try not let our extreme uglies (yeah, you know what they are) slip in. spread all those good things around to everybody - lord knows we all need them.

                                                          3. re: SaraAshley

                                                            LOL my cats and dog are all referred to as Mr or Miss "their name".

                                                          4. re: Hobbert

                                                            This made me laugh because the first time I was called ma'am I was about 25, and the gentleman was about 55. And I was waaaay to young to want to be called ma'am. However, it was the south, and they guys on the job were bothered by it. We finally settled on "Miss Andrea".

                                                            1. re: Hobbert

                                                              Hallmark used to have a free animated e-card that was in the 40th birthday section. In it, a carefree woman places her order at a fast food drive-thru. She tootles along in her car to the pick-up window, where, as she is about to drive off, the pimply-faced teen boy waiting on her says, "have a nice day, ma'am". She scowls and steams as she stamps on the gas pedal, tires squealing, muttering "Ma'am!!!". The final caption is "Get used to it". The friend I sent it to got a big hoot out of it.

                                                              1. re: Hobbert

                                                                You summed it up perfectly for me Hobbert....being young was hard....being 60......retired...great pensions...good health and time to live well and enjoy it (yes I too am widowed) is a blast!!!!!!!!

                                                              2. re: greygarious

                                                                I have to say, though, I much prefer 'ma'am' or ladies to 'guys' or 'you guys' when in a group of women.

                                                              3. I'd say you're being overly sensitive. I get what you're saying, but I'm sure this is just the way that particular server addresses female diners and gives no thought if the age of the female diner he is addressing. What would you prefer? Ma'am? Not trying to pick, just curious.

                                                                On a bit off topic side note, a recent guy that I was dating (no longer) saw that one of my credit cards had Miss in front of my name and made fun of me for it. He called it a "douchey" move on my part. Go figure.

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: SaraAshley

                                                                  Sara - huh - so you no longer date a guy who referred to a decision of yours as 'douchey'? wow I can hear what he'd ascribe to the cause of your mood after you had a bad day. (smirk) what a loser (well him and me)

                                                                  yeah I guess I only tolerate comments like that from near and longtime friends.

                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                    Haha, well personally I don't mind a little good natured picking from someone I'm dating, but yes, there is a long list of reasons that it didn't work out.

                                                                    1. re: SaraAshley

                                                                      second-guessing myself is my new hobby. re-reading this you were right to DTMFA. I was alluding in the post that you might very well have been setting yourself up for snarky comments every 28-ish days that I really don't have to illustrate, right?.

                                                                  2. re: SaraAshley

                                                                    Any guy using the word douche is clearly not a gentleman anyway. I'd have shown him the curb too.

                                                                  3. You just look young for your age. I can tell.

                                                                    Enjoy it. It doesn't last.

                                                                    1. "Miss" doesn't bother me at all (I'm 48). I think it's polite and kind of sweet, and I prefer it to "Ma'am."

                                                                      1. I am so very sorry for your loss. :-(

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: chefathome

                                                                          And yes, sorry for your loss. I think I must have skimmed over that part at first reading. :(

                                                                        2. I think the problem is that only women have to put up with these terms to denote age and marital status. Which is, in a word dumb. A second would be "archaic." Terms need to be standardized for the benefit of the one saying them and the one receiving. It's NOT too sensitive to be bothered by being called the "wrong" term, since women are so socialized with and by them. (It wasn't long ago that "Ms." was used with negative undertones to denote a divorced woman; some women still find it a measure of "acheivement" to be called Mrs. For what??? To show they can bag a man??) A man will only ever be Mr. or Sir, regardless any lifestyle choices. It should be, then, that a woman is only ever Ms. or Ma'am. The person delivering the salutation should not have to choose the salutation for the customer and the customer should not have to wade through the myriad of social contexts connected to those salutations. /steps off soapbox

                                                                          21 Replies
                                                                          1. re: fracklefoodie

                                                                            call me old and a user of archaic speech...................

                                                                            As I was taught: Sir or Mister is used to address an adult male. Adolescent or juveniles should be addressed/referred to as Master X, upon reaching adulthood, Mister X

                                                                            Females of unknown (to the speaker) marital status as Miss, Married as Missus. MS. crept in in the 70s and solves some of the problem.

                                                                            When working retail as a teen, I once called a 50+ female customer madam (ma'am being sloppy southern pronounciation, not used in New England). The annoyed customer, looked me in the eye and replied:
                                                                            "I'm not the madam, I'm just one of the girls!"

                                                                            With its demeaning reference to the sex trade explained, I've never called a female madam again........................

                                                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                                                              My mother taught me the same. Maybe it's a Southern thing? I remember living in the West and using Master in addressing an invitation and the little boy thought that was so funny. So I explained it to him.

                                                                              1. re: rasputina

                                                                                Not unless it was Southern Boulevard in the Bronx, cicra 1922 (where mom was born).

                                                                                Back in the 50s and 60s it was a big thing when ol;der bro and I reached Bar Mitzvah age and our mail from family friends and relatives started to comed addresses to Mister instead of Master.

                                                                                The Maitre D at our country club in Connecticut called us Master until we went off to college.

                                                                                Working in the family retail business (15 stores) employees referred to us as Master XXXX(first name) until college age, then Mister XXXX(first name), our Father was Mister B. Only one sister and she was called Miss XXXX until she married,

                                                                            2. re: fracklefoodie

                                                                              My understanding was that "Ms." was used to blur the lines between married and unmarried women in the current business world.

                                                                              Interestingly, it is indirectly derived from the old English honorific "Mistress" which, in today's terminology, has a different meaning. But "Ms." was used in past eras to, again, remove the marital status upon addressing any woman in public or in writing - not to delineate a divorced woman.

                                                                              And as I noted, I dislike the Ms. terminology, and I'm totally fine with "Miss".

                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                No, it wasn't intended to blur the lines.

                                                                                It was intended to remove any explanation or stigma as to the woman's marital status -- and when the term was first born, there were plenty of women who were told in no uncertain terms that they needed to find a man and settle down.

                                                                                A man is Mr. no matter his domestic situation. It's ridiculous that a woman has to define her professional existence under the definition of her marital status, which really isn't anyone's business at all.

                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                  Ummm, if you're speaking of when it came *back* into use in the early 1970s, I believe we're speaking of the same thing - blurring the lines as to marital status = removing the "stigma" as to the woman's marital status.

                                                                                  And yes - a man is Mr. no matter his marital status. It's been a man's world for thousands of years, with men calling the shots. I suspect it'll take awhile longer before this issue becomes fully a moot point in the business world. And it's only ridiculous if the woman takes issue with it. I don't.

                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                    It never went out of use across a large swath of the country.

                                                                                    The 70's is when it first appeared in writing as "Ms."

                                                                                    I think it's already a moot point -- even school teachers are now Ms. Soandso, and I don't remember the last time I saw someone use Miss or Mrs. in a professional setting.

                                                                                    And so it should be -- no one should have to label themselves according to their personal life -- their education and experience should stand on their own.

                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                      Yes, I *know* that the 70s is when it came into common use as "Ms." I am saying that it went out of use for hundreds of years prior to that after it's original use and meaning of "Mistress".

                                                                                      And I guess it depends on what you do for a living as to how you're addressed. I've said - I don't care for Ms. but if that's how someone wishes to address me, fine, that's their prerogative. I'm single, I'm a Miss. And I'm fine with that.

                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                        i thought "Ms" orginally was also for divorced women

                                                                                        1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                          It applied, and continues to apply, to women of all ages and marital statuses. That's the whole point.

                                                                                          1. re: greygarious

                                                                                            I remember when it came into being, they always made it a separate choice that you could choose if you wished not to be known as Miss or Mrs. It didn't really seem to mean anything, more of a neutral heading, for those rebellious types.

                                                                                        2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                          and I'm saying that no, it never went *out* of use in a pretty large sector of the US.

                                                                                          See the multiple side discussions of Miz as pronounced in the South.

                                                                                        3. re: sunshine842

                                                                                          I agree that in every professional setting I've been in, Ms. is commonly used, primarily in written communications. In face to face or telephone introductions, typically one's full name is used without honorific.

                                                                                          I'm in a community with a lot of military presence so use of ma'am is common to refer to females to whom you want to show respect. Even though I didn't grow up with it, I've encouraged my kids to reply "yes sir" or "yes ma'am" to elders they don't know (until invited to do otherwise). I typically invite young people I know to call me by my first name but some call me Mrs. DH's Lastname, which isn't my last name.

                                                                                          At the end of the day, I'm pretty hard to offend. I don't mind being called ma'am or miss by wait staff or others I assume are trying to be polite. At my age, miss seems a little silly but, hey, I've been called worse.

                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                            That's probably because you don't work in the UK. The choice of 'Miss' or 'Mrs' is still popular in these parts.

                                                                                            (Re: Sunshine's observation about work environments.)

                                                                                            1. re: Lizard

                                                                                              No, I do work in the UK (not full-time, but I work with numerous UK companies and visit regularly) -- and I'm seeing more and more UK women using "Ms." -- and have been for a couple of decades now.

                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                Indeed there are, Sunshine. I am one of them (when not using my other professional title). However, I'm sure you can sympathise with the difficulty of asserting 'Ms' in a see of institutional 'Miss or 'Mrs'.
                                                                                                (Take note, I am in the UK, and I'm not keen on having my experience rendered invisible. Nor, based on your posts, are you someone who would want to contribute to that.)

                                                                                                1. re: Lizard

                                                                                                  not at all -- just pointing out that it's not because I don't work in the UK -- I do, in fact.

                                                                                                  Haven't been called either Miss or Missus often, though -- I seem to attract luv, pet, and the occasional chook...!

                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                    The interesting thing, more than common practice/interaction, is that (when I arrived) so many forms gave me the option of Miss and Mrs only (still the case with my bank!).

                                                                                                    Meanwhile, I am all the more curious: You live in Paris and work in UK? You seem to have cracked something I am keen to. (I would work in Paris save for the fact that my particular field of research isn't as represented there; it's more a Northern Europe thing...) I continue to envy you.

                                                                                                    1. re: Lizard

                                                                                                      hehe -- none of the above -- I used to live in Paris (hubby's job) and work in the UK (and the US, Canada, the Caribbean, most of Europe, and anywhere else the need arises) -- I'm work in international business, so that's the rules of the game.

                                                                                          2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                            I don't know, and I don't live in the US. I think a woman's marital status is absolutely nobody's @#$%?& business in the world of work.

                                                                                            Do you think people of colour should also accept demeaning language, as it (in the West) has been a white-person's world?

                                                                                    2. A good looking, youthful, attractive gal like you? Take the compliment as a sign of youth. However, as a recent widow I do understand why you would feel the sting. Sorry for your loss, I didn't know.

                                                                                      1. I'm so sorry for your loss.

                                                                                        Are they calling you "Miss" or "Ms"? I haven't hear "Miss" used for someone over driving age in years and years and years, but "Ms." is quickly becoming the accepted honorific for a woman, as it is void of implication as to one's marital status.

                                                                                        While non-English-speaking Europe doesn't have an equivalent of "Ms", many European countries are eliminating the equivalent of "Miss" (fraulein, mademoiselle, etc) from various forms, opting to just let the married version (frau, madame, etc) stand on its own.

                                                                                        45 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                          I doubt that servers anywhere address women as "Ms"

                                                                                          1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                            haven't been out to eat lately?

                                                                                            I live in the south, so Ma'am tends to be the catchall for most women, but yes, I've been called Ms plenty of times, in plenty of cities across the US. I use it as my preferred title professionally, too.

                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842


                                                                                              I've been out to eat lately, thanks very much.

                                                                                              But I've never once heard someone referred to as Ms ever.

                                                                                              Ms is a form of written and not verbal address.

                                                                                                1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                  this reminds me of that silly show in the mid-70s, "One Day At A Time", where the lead character - a feisty young divorcee raising two daughters as a self-avowed feminist had a stuffy, unhip boss who insisted on calling her "M.S. Romano" - as in "Em. Ess." I have to admit, though, I've never heard anyone use "Ms." as a verbal address.

                                                                                                  1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                    Back when Ms. was still at the fringes of general acceptance, I had a fusty classics professor who, when reading a class list aloud, said "Em. Ess,,,,,hmmph,,,,manuscript".

                                                                                                    1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                      i remember that show. a very dedicated (ahem) feminist.

                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                        yeah 'Maude' handled the issue of emerging feminism a lot better.

                                                                                                          1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                                                            "Just Bea It" (satire of a 90's Calvin Klein ad campaign)

                                                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                          yeah, i never said it was actually a good portrayal of a feminist, that was just the premise of the show.

                                                                                                          1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                            yet "One Day" wasn't a bad one, and was somewhat concurrent with MTM whose original production notes had her as recently divorced and 'Murray' as a gay man, both ideas nixed by 'the suits'.

                                                                                                    2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                      I've never heard Ms used in the South, especially not by food service persons.

                                                                                                      1. re: rasputina

                                                                                                        Sure you have. They just spell it "Miss" -- but it's pronounced Mizz. See Sunshine842's comment, below. I recall when the term "Ms" was first introduced in the 70s that this point was specifically made -- that it was a time-honored Southern tradition to refer to all adult woman as Mizz regardless of marital status.

                                                                                                        1. re: masha

                                                                                                          Right because feminists are so well known for trying to perpetuate time-honored Southern traditions. uh huh

                                                                                                      2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                        it may SOUND like MIZZ, but it is Miss. (southerners don't hiss unless it is VERY obviously meant to indicate a snake or diss someone! ;). i don't know what "south" you are in where anyone would use Ms. as a form to address someone in person, other than as an introduction: Ms. So and So, this is Ms. Natasha Pimplewort. Maybe the youts are being taught this "Mz." in their public "education"? <ahem>

                                                                                                    3. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                      In the south pretty much any adult woman is called Miss.

                                                                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                                        Nope. Any adult woman in the south is called Miz. There is absolutely no 'ess' sound at the end of that word.

                                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                          Guess our parts of the south are different. I'm in NC and was brought up in DC. I was taught, and have taught my daughter, to call (most - close friends she doesn't have to say the Miss part with) Miss and then their names. Like "Miss Helen, may I have another cookie?" And most of her friends call me Miss Kari.

                                                                                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                                            I tried to do that "Miss Cindy" here in the Midwest, and everyone thought it bizarre.

                                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                              When I lived in Indiana, there was a local beauty school. The owners required the students to call them Miss Peggy and Miss Barbara.
                                                                                                              It seemed very demeaning to me.
                                                                                                              But here in Georgia, it hasn't got the same connotation.

                                                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                I can imagine that somewhere else it would seem odd. But here it seems totally normal, and respectful of other moms. For instance, Lulu hears me calling them by their names, so she obviously sort of equates that name with them. But she's showing that she realizes her relationship with them isn't the same as mine.

                                                                                                                My condolences on your loss, pikawicca. I'm very sorry.

                                                                                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                                                  I agree -- as a child, I was only allowed to call my parents' very closest friends by their first names -- everyone else was Mr. Smith and Mrs. Jones.

                                                                                                                  The Southern tradition is nice -- it acknowledges a close relationship without giving up the respect -- so our friends are Miz Jane and Mr. John to our kids.

                                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                    My children were taught in preschool to call their teachers Miss Nancy & Miss Julia..... We still refer to them that way to this day....and I'm positive they don't feel it's condescending at all.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                                      I have people in my life that started as children calling me "Miss [given name]" also and if I see them today, I expect they would address me the same way and I would welcome it (as a matter of fact, it would warm my heart).

                                                                                                                      That's quite a bit different than being called ma'am, miss or young lady by a stranger.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Harts52

                                                                                                                        So how is a stranger supposed to address you? Hey buddy?

                                                                                                                        1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                                          Aw geez....REALLY?? Search for my name and read any of the other posts. This subject is really beyond done.

                                                                                                              2. re: LulusMom

                                                                                                                One of our neighbors calls my wife Miss Helen. It always reminds me of the show "Gunsmoke" and the Madam, Miss Kitty.

                                                                                                                1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                  We had a dog living next door for a while called Miss Kitty. I just loved that.

                                                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                      nah, Lulusmom's neighbor's dog was a real bitch.

                                                                                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                                                    Here in Charlotte, all women are called Miss. Miss First Name if you know them really well and Miss Last Name if they're a teacher or the mother of a friend. My daughter started doing it years ago and I got used to it but as a former NYer, I find it strange. In a good way.

                                                                                                                    1. re: southernitalian

                                                                                                                      Here in NY we always called our adult neighbors Mr and Mrs (last name). I had been noticing I don't get that courtesy anymore.

                                                                                                                  2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                    But it's not meant as the feminist use of Ms.

                                                                                                                    1. re: rasputina

                                                                                                                      Really? it's a title of respect used to address a woman, regardless of her marital status.

                                                                                                                      Sounds like the same definition to me.

                                                                                                                2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                  I've driven ~439,000 miles and was called Miss just this week.

                                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                    I live in Québec, and here it is madame for any adult woman in the world of work, whatever her age or marital status. And no honorifics at all on bills, cheques, bank statements or other official stuff still sent by post. Remember that Fraulein, mademoiselle, signorina etc are diminutives. I know that mademoiselle and signorino once had masculine equivalents: a "damoiseau" was a young unmarried man (usually aristocratic) and the Italian term "signorino" is still in use, but it connotes a fussy bachelor.

                                                                                                                    And marital status is becoming very blurred in many countries, at least in the West. A majority of my friends here in Québec have never been formally married, but that doesn't mean they are either celibates or swingers. We simply have one of the lowest formal marriage rates in the world (reaction against Church domination in the past).

                                                                                                                    1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                                      And while France still clings to honorifics (not entirely a bad thing...), "Mademoiselle" is disappearing from forms both public and private (voting records, bank accounts, leases, etc., etc., etc.) at a high rate of speed. More and more have only Madame or Monsieur as an option.

                                                                                                                      I've wondered if they'll ever arrive at an equivalent of Ms.

                                                                                                                      (My female ESL students were initially confused when the lessons I used introduced Mr, Mrs, and Ms as forms of business honorifics -- but they universally loved the idea of having a form of address that completely ignored domestic status. Many French ladies are partnered, formally or informally, but not married, and they bristle at being called Mlle.)

                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                        "..... Mademoiselle" is disappearing from forms both public and private ....."

                                                                                                                        You tell that to Hercule Poirot !

                                                                                                                        1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                                                                          Hercule Poirot is a fictional character who "lived" several decades ago, when women often didn't even complete the forms required for day-to-day life, which were not nearly as numerous as they are today.

                                                                                                                          He is not a modern-day government employee trying to not annoy half of the population by insisting that they broadcast their marital status in order to drive a car or open a bank account.

                                                                                                                          I wouldn't have to tell him that -- he'd probably mention himself.

                                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                            Moreover, Poirot was a Belgian, not a Frenchman - not that there is a great deal of difference in terms of the use of honorifics between France and francophone Belgium. According to the Wiki article, he joined the Brussels police force in 1893, well over 100 years ago.

                                                                                                                            1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                                              "francophone Belgium" thank you for making that distinction.

                                                                                                                              while I AM descended from "Bloody Belgian Bastards" (the best epithet Monty Python could elicit) it's nice to know others know of the bi/multi-lingual nature of that land.

                                                                                                                            2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                              I'm well aware of the fictional character, I was just making a joke. Easy on the coffee there, eh ?

                                                                                                                            3. re: LotusRapper

                                                                                                                              I think I could get Hercule interested in the asymmetrical aspects of male and female forms of address ;) I remember he was also happy to comply when women wanted to be addressed as Countess.

                                                                                                                      2. Yes, IMO, you are being overly sensative

                                                                                                                        I'm 55. Eat out by myself quite a bit. I'm not addressed as "Miss" that often but it never occurred to me to take umbrage at it.

                                                                                                                        Misplaced politeness is always ok in my book.

                                                                                                                        Better than the opposite.

                                                                                                                        And I am also sorry for your loss. It's a difficult adjustment. :-(

                                                                                                                        1. we still have lots to figure out in that regard (women, honorifics, symbology vis-a-vis age and marital status). and everyone has their preference. I'm sure it all still stings, but they don't know what's behind your eyes and are trying to be nice in some regard.

                                                                                                                          the next time, you could squint at the servers name badge and gently request "since we seem to be on a first name basis, uhh 'Drew', please just call me 'Jane'"

                                                                                                                          or "y'know when it comes to this I just really prefer Ma'am" (or whatever - it's your call)

                                                                                                                          no harm, no offense offered or taken.

                                                                                                                          or if you're feeling feisty just growl "and by the way pal it's MX now"

                                                                                                                          1. My condolences pika..

                                                                                                                            In regards to 'Miss', I thank them profusely and usually tell them that I could French kiss them..

                                                                                                                            The look of horror is priceless but those darn teenage boys will take me up on it and I remind them I could be their Mom or Grandma..

                                                                                                                            My lawyer used to call me Minx..love that and I think I prefer that over Miss!
                                                                                                                            ; D

                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                                                                              Oh Chick, I am _so_ stealing Minx.


                                                                                                                              1. re: kariin

                                                                                                                                There is enough room for a couple more Minx's in the world.

                                                                                                                                Minx Chica

                                                                                                                              2. re: Beach Chick

                                                                                                                                pikawicca, mine too. Somehow the personal story didn't register as I was reading over this quickly.

                                                                                                                              3. picawicca, condolences on your loss first of all.
                                                                                                                                While I agree that the honorofic is unnecessary, my sense is that person was just being polite and following their customary form of address. I had what used to be politely called, "a maiden auntie," and she would say, "you can call me 'miss,' if you want, but I haven't missed a thing!!"

                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. My sympathies, picawicca. Hope you're coping okay.

                                                                                                                                    After reading other threads discussing how "ma' am" is such an unwelcome term to many women, I wonder if perhaps the wait staff now prefers to chance it with the more casual "miss".
                                                                                                                                    Now, here in Georgia, women of every age are referred to as "Miss (first name)" . It's just traditional.

                                                                                                                                    I've never minded being called ma'am, but when you are raised in a military family, you consider it a common term of respect no matter the ages of the people involved.

                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: kitchengardengal

                                                                                                                                      my mother hates it when we say " Yes ma' am" to her. She prefers us to say " Yes, mom or mommy"

                                                                                                                                      "Ma'am is for strangers or help" very few things drive her bats but for some reason this does and I find it so weird.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                                                                        I always find it funny how every family is so different. No one way wrong or right. In my family it was always "yes ma'am". "Yes, mom" would land us in the hot seat as it was seen as being sarcastic.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: hheath9h

                                                                                                                                          I know right-- she is like " I didnt carry you for nine months nurse you change you and raise for you to call me ma'am like you do the the woman hands you a ticket at theater"

                                                                                                                                    2. "Madam?" no that won't work.
                                                                                                                                      I refer to most women as "young lady." I'm old enough (60 ish male) to get away with it.
                                                                                                                                      No one has ever complained and I usually get a smile from my contemporaries!

                                                                                                                                      94 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                        Oof. Please reconsider. Personally, I detest being called "young lady" regardless of the other person's age. "Young lady" is a patronizing attempt to minimize me. I know you don't mean it that way, but it buys into the idea that *all* women need others to believe they are young and girlish. Meh. Not me. I like my age- ma'am, miss- those terms are fine. Just not "young lady", please!

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                              Maybe if Poirot (Suchet) says it it's ok ? ;-)

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                            (I refer to most women as "young lady")

                                                                                                                                            I am in my late fifties, and I am not a "young lady". I am a woman. Worlds of difference.
                                                                                                                                            Please find another phrase, young man.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: kitchengardengal

                                                                                                                                              I'm in my mid 60's and would consider a 50ish woman a young lady. It usually brings on a smile especially in women older than I am.
                                                                                                                                              Young + lady = two compliments.
                                                                                                                                              Hows about "hot stuff?"

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                My 84-year-old mom cannot *stand* being addressed as "young lady." She's 84, she knows it.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                                    No she does not. And she's no doddering old lady . . . was at the Y just this a.m. doing her water aerobics.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: gaffk

                                                                                                                                                      My mom was a "don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining" kind of woman, too.
                                                                                                                                                      More power to her!

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                  That smile is a grimace. I know of no mature woman who appreciates being called young lady, especially by someone younger than herself.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: masha

                                                                                                                                                    Such funny comments.
                                                                                                                                                    When on line at the supermarket, deli etc. I'll often let an older woman get ahead of me and say: "Go ahead, young lady!" I've never gotten a complaint and more often than not a nice smile.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                      I don't voice complaints to or lecture strangers who are trying to be nice to me, even when their efforts are clumsy or misinformed. In the circumstances you describe, I'd appreciate your courtesy in inviting me to go ahead of you and smile, all the while thinking that the "young lady" part of the invitation was off-putting and detracted from the experience. But maybe that's just me.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: masha

                                                                                                                                                        It's not just you. It's me and every other woman I know as well.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                        They are just being polite back. What would you expect of them..To smile, go ahead of you in line, then tell you to stop with the " young lady shit?". No. They don't like it. They think it is obnoxious, but know your heart is in the right place.

                                                                                                                                                        Pay attention to all these comments by women (not actual young ladies, grown women) here. They are not just a bunch of "funny comments".

                                                                                                                                                        We really dislike it.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                            "we", of course, referring to the rather significant majority of us who agree.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                Yes, I was only referring to the "funny comment" posters, with all the "faux outrage" ...you know, the "ball busters" that prefer to be called "hey, bitch" and want to "slap 80 year olds in the face."

                                                                                                                                                                I understand you are not included in that group ;)

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                  Among all the women I know, from 18 to 90-something.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                                                                                    We surround ourselves with different types of women, apparently.

                                                                                                                                                                    The women I'm surrounded by know themselves and a silly, innocent and innocuous 'miss or ma'am' would be cast off like a pesky fly and a chuckle.
                                                                                                                                                                    IF even given a thought.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                            "Go ahead, ma'am" would be more respectful, and will bring just as many if not more smiles (of gratitude for your courtesy free of condescension and age-ist "humor").

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ellabee

                                                                                                                                                              I don't think I want to live in a world without "humor!"
                                                                                                                                                              I am going to do a little personal survey and see what phrases work best.
                                                                                                                                                              Heading to the market after work. I'll try "Yo Babe!" I am in Brooklyn after all. If the woman is offended I'll ask her if "young lady" might have been better even if it is "age-ist humor."
                                                                                                                                                              "Sweetheart?" in my best Humphrey Bogart voice.
                                                                                                                                                              My mind is racing!!!!!!!!

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                Please do report back. I want to know what happens when you call a young woman "Snookems" in Brooklyn. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                  Women of all ages want to grocery shop without having to be the focus of sexist, ageist "humor". You're already aware of what would be the respectful language, but choose not to use it because you're convinced being "entertaining" is more important.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: ellabee

                                                                                                                                                                    Yep. Being the butt of someone's joke isn't funny.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ellabee

                                                                                                                                                                      Reminds me of the scene in "Blue Heaven" when Steve Martin sees the Carol Kane character in the supermarket. I won't ruin it. It is hilarious.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                        You're all reminding me of Jerry Lewis screaming "Hey Lady!" I have to go erase my mind right now.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: ellabee

                                                                                                                                                                        You do realize that Motosport is, in all likelihood, joking about trying out the "Yo Babe" or "Snookems" comments, aren't you?

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                          LindaWhit: "Young lady" you win the prize!!!

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                            ::fluttering my eyelashes at Moto:::: Why, THANK YOU, fine Sir!

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                Oh, dear. This essentially proves my point. "Young" is not a compliment- it's a relative term. "Lady" is also not a compliment- it's just a word that defines which gender you are. "Young lady" relies on that old presumption that a woman's worth is in her age and beauty. Some women may like it, but I wouldn't toss it around with abandon to women you don't know. "Hot stuff"? Well, see above.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                                                                                  I can relate - I hate, molar grinding level of hate, being called 'young man' especially by someone far my junior (I'm only 48 yet have been around the block). I know I should just shrug it off, yet it seems needlessly condescending and puerile.

                                                                                                                                                                  Hobbert - yes many women find the (unbestowed) term of 'lady' to be pejorative. once at a job this idiot said something about "that black lady in the office by Tom's" my boss and I exchanged glances and later I said "he really ought to know by now she a corporate vice-president (on an international level), her name is Beverly, very nice, and the currently accepted term is more like Afro-Caribbean woman (she was from Jamaica) not 'that black lady down the hall'.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                                                                                      Lady is not considered a compliment?! Since when? So, what would you rather be called, Old Hag? Senior Woman? Hey Bitch?! I mean seriously.... I'm not that old but I know the difference between a Lady and a...um, Not Lady......

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                                                                                        I agree. Lady is a lady. A good thing. Then again it's all about the tone of voice and the situation and apparently the part of the country you are in.
                                                                                                                                                                        There was a scene in an old movie where a son keeps calling his father "dad!" in a most disrespectful way. The father asks him to stop calling him dad.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                                                                                          Right. "Lady" is not a compliment. It's also not an insult. If I call you a man, that's neither a compliment or an insult since you are, presumably, a man. Interesting that you think the alternative to "lady" is "hey bitch"...

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                                                                                            My point was, if she doesn't consider Lady a compliment, perhaps she also wouldn't consider Bitch an insult.....

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                                                                                              "She" would be me. No, I don't consider "lady" a compliment. I do consider "bitch" an insult. I'm not clear on why this is a difficult connection to make. There are a million words to use other than those two.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                                                                                                Yes, but apparently you expect strangers to either read your mind, or forgo any sense of politeness to others.....

                                                                                                                                                                                And for the record, I am a "Lady"........and I prefer to be called as such rather than take offense at strangers when no offense was made or intended......

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                                                                                                  Ah! My apologies for assuming you were a man.

                                                                                                                                                                                  I think we've gotten off track here. I don't like being called "young lady". It's demeaning. Simple as that. So, no, I don't appreciate where strangers address me that way. Do I ream them out for being rude and out of touch? No, of course not. I smile and go on about my day. On the rare occasion that people I know call me "young lady", I merely ask them not to. That's all.

                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm not sure why you think my only options are to have strangers read my mind or forgo politeness, but I hope I've explained my responses well enough that you can be assured that's not the case.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                                                                                                    This thread has veered far away from the original scenario and the disparate viewpoints demonstrate the regional variation in what is and isn't acceptable and customary.

                                                                                                                                                                                    It's doubtful that the average woman who does not like how she is being addressed would mention it, other than perhaps to respond with a joke. I suspect the most common reaction is to say nothing, smile, and move on. What's interesting to note is that a man will perceive that smile as thanks or assent. If he were in the position of being addressed objectionably, he would NOT smile. At the very least, he'd
                                                                                                                                                                                    frown; he might also say something to make his objections clear. I once heard an interview with a wise woman (Maya Angelou, maybe) on the topic of jokes that are dirty or bigoted. She suggested that unless a woman speaks up in objection, she will be assumed to be of like mind. Our instinct/habit of smiling slightly when in an awkward position like this creates an incorrect impression. Ever since hearing that, I took to making my position clear. I had a coworker who was prone to making such jokes. He: "Wanna hear a joke?" Me: "Not if it's blue or dirty or prejudiced". I said this in as friendly a manner as I could. He looked surprised, but thereafter found ones that fit those parameters. I made a point of congratulating him for avoiding the R and Xrated ones and noticed over time that in general, the ones he told to coworkers had milder content.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                      That's an excellent point. It took me a long time to realize that not speaking up isn't the same as saying something to let the speaker know I disagreed. I still probably wouldn't do that to a stranger but, like you, I try to speak up when friends or colleagues tell me offensive jokes. And, bonus, now my rascist coworker avoids me :)

                                                                                                                                                                                      It's tough, as women, to speak up but it's rewarding to finally do so.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                                                                                                        when I worked for a Fortune 500 company some years ago, we all had to attend mandatory workshops on sexual harassment and racial sensitivity.

                                                                                                                                                                                        In both workshops, we were told that the first line of defense when offended is to inform the offender that he/she has crossed the line.

                                                                                                                                                                                        There are so many variables, and "offensive" is such a sliding scale that you have to point out your personal limit.

                                                                                                                                                                                        And yes -- legally, if you don't say something about it, you're obviously not finding it offensive.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                          or you are sooooo offended you are ashamed to open your mouth.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                                                                                                                            If you're that offended you are then obligated to open your mouth to that person's supervisor or directly to the HR department.

                                                                                                                                                                                            If you are offended, it is YOUR obligation to communicate YOUR limits to SOMEONE, or you will be unable to make the complaint down the road that you were offended.

                                                                                                                                                                                            (this goes for initiation into clubs and sororities, and dating, and all other aspects of life)

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                              Yes. but there are soooo many girls I tell at school to report things that boys have said and done and they say " noooo I am too embarassed I could never tell annnnnnyoneup in the office they would all look at me weird forever" And when I say something I am told " The person thet it happened to has to report it" then dont even call the girl in to question her!.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                                                                                                                                then they're not really that offended.

                                                                                                                                                                                                there is absolutely no reason for someone to be embarrassed to tell someone in authority (boss, teacher, counselor, HR department) that they're offended -- I could see being embarrassed to repeat it, but that's what doors and same-sex counselors are there for -- there are plenty of ways to keep the complaint confidential, so as to make the victim (if he/she is indeed a victim) uncomfortable about calling their tormentor out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                There is similarly no reason whatsoever for someone in a position of authority to "look at them weird forever" for reporting a genuine offense....and counselors simply wouldn't even think of doing so.

                                                                                                                                                                                                And they're right -- the person who is offended *must* be the person who reports it -- it's not your place to report what offends someone else, and it doesn't hold up anywhere as a valid indicator of being offended.

                                                                                                                                                                                                In most offices and schools I've been in, they'd never get anything done if they called everyone in the office with "GOTW said you're offended about XXX saying something nasty...is that true?" It's just not practical.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                                                                                                                                  It honestly is so incredibly important to be able to speak up for yourself. Recently I read an article (OK, part of it ... I was eating and wimped out at a certain point) by a woman who had been sexually assaulted and did not stand up for herself. She had a long history of not doing so, which she traced in the article, starting with a boy who regularly stabbed her with a pencil point, as in all day every day, in elementary school. So, soo important. I hope you keep encouraging them to speak up and speak out. And I completely agree with you that the people you're talking to should care.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                          Miss Manners (Judith Martin) is my Living Goddess is all things related to human behavior among other humans and she would love you and this and me too.

                                                                                                                                                                                          And yes, I'm stealing this.
                                                                                                                                                                                          thank you.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                                                                                                            Yes, I agree that this must be a generational issue. I can understand it if you were from the generation that had to fight tooth and nail to get any respect for doing the same or better jobs as men, just because you wore a skirt. I get it. I do.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I guess where I am coming from is the next generation that is now pushing back on the pendulum that has swung so far that everyone feels the need to be PC as to not offend anyone, and frankly, I find THAT to be offensive. Life is full of ups and downs and we're all going to be offended at some point. This just seems to be such a minor issue, when compared to the big scheme of things, that I can't understand why some bother to get huffy about it.

                                                                                                                                                                                            My point now is to please forgive those of use who were taught to be polite to people, but especially women, who are older than us. I may not call you Lady or Miss, but if I'm trying to help you, as in retrieve an item you left behind, I feel the need to call you something other than Hey You, Old Lady with the Hat. And please forgive my sons if they refer to you as Ma'am or Miss as that is what I'm teaching them, as I want them to become respectful young gentlemen when they grow up. That's my job. I take it very seriously. As I stated up thread, I pray that we don't evolve into a society where pleasantries and politeness go by the wayside because a generation of feminists and another one of PC police have made it unfashionable. I'm pretty sure we can exist in the same space and get along.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                                                                                                                                                                Why thank you, Kind Sir. You truly made my evening!

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                                                                                                                Again, I'm perfectly happy being called "ma'am" or "miss", just not "young lady". I agree the world is a nicer place when we're all polite though.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: kitchengardengal

                                                                                                                                                                                "Young lady" to an adult woman is either sarcastic or condescending. I'm fine with miss or ma'am or miz or whatever. And a passing remark from a stranger offering me his place in line is one thing, a waiter is another.

                                                                                                                                                                                And Pic, my dear, going through the widowhood thing myself right now, I feel for you. I have no opinion on whether you're overreacting or not, but I sure do find myself a lot crankier sometimes than I once was. And it do take longer to come out the other side than you (and most folks) think it will. So hang in.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: lemons

                                                                                                                                                                                  <"Young lady" to an adult woman is either sarcastic or condescending.>

                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm an adult woman, extremely progressive, independent, fairly intelligent, well educated and open minded.
                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm having such a difficult time trying to figure out why every 'adult woman' is getting so damned bent out of shape with this term.
                                                                                                                                                                                  Wtf is the problem?
                                                                                                                                                                                  Is everything that comes out of the mouth of a complete stranger to be dissected from every angle and thrown back in their face like they're some sort of creep or predator who's hell-bent on offending?
                                                                                                                                                                                  I had a man the other day call me 'doll'….he was in his '80's and an extreme gentleman…he opened the door for me, a complete stranger. Should I have called him on it? Should I have slapped him? Should I have told him he was out of line and to PLEASE not call me that?
                                                                                                                                                                                  Gawd what a world.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                    Nobody's talking about physical violence, and most of us agree that being rude accomplishes nothing.

                                                                                                                                                                                    You seem to be the only adult woman reading this thread, though, who doesn't find "young lady" to be a not-so-subtle attempt to relegate intelligent adult women to be stupid, air-headed decorations who should get this whole idea of anything other than being "the little woman" out of their heads.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Doesn't mean we'd act on it by being nasty to a stranger on a one-off encounter, but it sticks in the craw.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                        <not-so-subtle attempt to relegate intelligent adult women to be stupid, air-headed decorations>

                                                                                                                                                                                        I can, without a single doubt, determine who's sending that message and who's not.
                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm not one to put up with any sort of demeaning, dismissive behavior from anyone, regardless of gender.
                                                                                                                                                                                        When an older man opens the door for me and calls me 'young lady' or anything else women were called from the generation I'm referring to, it conjures up nothing more to me than mannerly behavior with a bit of flirtation mixed in.
                                                                                                                                                                                        I can absolutely assure you I'm not the only woman who feels this way. Perhaps on this thread, but certainly not out in the world I live. The women I surround myself with are intelligent, highly educated in their field of work, have extremely high opinions of themselves and know they're attractive, both physically and mentally, to those around them. In my field of work the women are very strong, both physically and mentally, and a phrase like 'young lady' would do nothing more than produce a chuckle from any one of them.
                                                                                                                                                                                        I find the behavior nothing more than flirtatious.
                                                                                                                                                                                        Call me outdated, call me ridiculously naive and enabling, but rest assured...
                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm not.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                          Trust me, at least here, you are not alone.....

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                        What I'm finding so incredible about the varied responses here is that people are having exaggerated angry reactions to those of us who object to being called miss, madam, ma'am, young lady, etc. If someone calls me miss or young lady, it feels a little absurd or demeaning TO ME. The conversation expanded from Pika's original question to include other things like madam and ma'am and, frankly, I don't know if I would have ever felt the way I do about being called ma'am if it just didn't start happening after I let the dye grow out and started sporting a gray head. I'm north of the Mason-Dixon so ma'am is not a social convention here.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Nevertheless what our opinions / feelings are about these terms of address, I don't know that anyone here on the "I don't like it side" has been over-the-top in expressing their displeasure or irritation (no talk of uzis or AKs or even angry retorts) so I'm puzzled as to some of the strong reactions this is evoking. I have to really scratch my head anymore when I read such strong emotions coming across on the internet re: issues that are fairly innocuous. Breathe people. Breathe.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Harts52

                                                                                                                                                                                          <that people are having exaggerated angry reactions to those of us who object to begging called…>

                                                                                                                                                                                          Are you referring to me? If so, I request to take my post(s) as anything other than a reaction to the *possibility* of me, myself and I, being labeled as a lone ranger who's allowing someone to call me something that I don't find offense and 'most women' do.
                                                                                                                                                                                          I find the entire thread, for those who find the 'offenses' displeasurable, comical and the reference to 'breath' more so.
                                                                                                                                                                                          It's a big, wide and diverse world out there.
                                                                                                                                                                                          Men, from all over the world, are a big part of my life, both personally and the industry with which I partake. They view me as a very strong and independent woman. I'm very well aware of who I am and if a man calls me 'young lady' I simply shrug it off. I really couldn't care less.
                                                                                                                                                                                          If I were to take every single comment personally I'd be a very unhappy woman and I'm not.
                                                                                                                                                                                          Just my opinion.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                          The gentleman who started this discussion wasn't talking about an 80-year-old man calling somebody 40 years younger than him "young lady." He was saying he calls people OLDER THAN HIMSELF "young lady." I'm sorry, but this is indefensible. There are only two ways you can take this-either he's saying it sarcastically, as in "we both know you're older than dirt and I'm going to slyly refer to it, wink wink," or he believes that an 85-year-old woman is truly so vain and delusional that she's going to believe and be flattered by the idea that he thinks she's really in her 30s. It's not just one person who's doing it-I work with older adults and I've heard "young lady" at least 50 times from people in their 20s addressing a woman in her 70s or 80s. I also hear it from waiters from time to time. Older women also get referred to as hon, honey, dear, love, sweetie, etc by people 50 years younger than them pretty routinely, in my experience. Men do not get called "young man" by younger women, and if they do no one would dare to suggest that they should be flattered by it. The implication is that older men are venerable and deserving of respect, while older women are cute and to be humored by the suggestion that they're still pretty. While the majority in this thread are expressing dislike of the term, not one single person has suggested slapping anyone, so the hyperbole is a little baffling to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: ErnieD


                                                                                                                                                                                            Also, there is a reason that women don't call older women ( or women of equal age) "young lady". They know darn well that it is condescending. They don't do it to each other. This is something that only men do to women.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Even when the man is older- when it is a 60 year old man that is calling a 50 year old woman "young lady" is also feels inappropriately "flirty" or "too personal" somehow. Gives me the ick factor right away.

                                                                                                                                                                                            If an 80 year old calls me young lady, doll, little missy, etc ....I might feel a little different, it is certainly much more "accurate" if he is 80 or 90....however, it is still probably not a great idea for men in general to believe that "women like it".

                                                                                                                                                                                            They don't.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ErnieD

                                                                                                                                                                                              Who are you calling a "gentleman?" I'll take it, thanks.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: kitchengardengal

                                                                                                                                                                                            young lady is offensive to every girl over the age of say 11!! Women in their 20's dont want to be referred to as young lady as it is condescending . It is absurd to call any one over 30 young lady . Do you refer to men as Young man ? Try that on a cop or state trouper and see where it gets you . See what Hobbert said .. Learn a lesson , you are not charming woman by calling them Young lady .

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: saltylady

                                                                                                                                                                                              oh i will refer to some men older than 18 as young man. absolutely. it is meant playfully. i think playful is still permitted.

                                                                                                                                                                                          3. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                                            Motosport, I think you mean well. BUT....I am 43 and have a Ph.D. Any older person (man or woman) calling me "young lady," I'd find very patronizing in tone. You don't have to know my CV and address me as "Dr"; "ma'am" or "Ms." or a first name are fine.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I respect older people, but the term "young lady" would not feel complimentary to me. I don't particularly care if you (or anyone) deems me "young" or not, and to label me so sounds as if you are minimizing my experience right off the bat.

                                                                                                                                                                                            As for "lady," my father--who is in his late 70s---acknowledges that the term is archaic and has connotations of "ladylikeness" that are also archaic. If you call men younger than you "young gentleman," I think that would also sound archaic at the very least and possibly condescending.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm an adult woman. Call me Dr., Ms., Ma'am: all of those are fine. Heck, call me by my first name, which at least implies you see me as a human or a peer (and not a pre-categorized thing).

                                                                                                                                                                                            As for OP, I'm on her side. To me at 43, if someone addresses me as "Miss," I think they are either (a) without an understanding of the nuanced difference between "Miss" and "Ma'am," or (b) someone who is attempting to flatter me, and doing it poorly. For the former, fine. For the latter...PLEASE. I am 43. I am HAPPY to be 43. I look forward to 50, etc. I also own a mirror and am aware I do not look 16. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: team_cake

                                                                                                                                                                                              Oy vey!! So much emotional drama.
                                                                                                                                                                                              In most face to face situations it is obvious when a person is being offensive or playful.
                                                                                                                                                                                              At 43 I would not refer to you as young lady. If you were in your 70's I would and have never gotten a scowl or lecture that started with: "Young man.................."
                                                                                                                                                                                              On the other hand. Our local market is located near the community hospital. I often run into a doctor in his/her scrubs wearing their name badge. "Ahhh, what's up doc?" I can't help myself.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                                                Since we're having a discussion with wonderful depth, I will take just a moment (even though it's a bit off-topic) to point out that labeling a discussion as "emotional drama" is a classic way to diminish the opinions of women. Women have traditionally been belittled as emotional creatures in a society that values manly logic and reduces emotion to something that lacks control. Telling a woman she has been emotional or dramatic is a way of shutting down her viewpoint or her side of the conversation, telling her she is out of control and not worth listening to. Of course, the flipside to this is the idea that men are weak if they're showing emotion (or, going even further, applauded for showing emotion because they're "breaking the bounds of manhood"). For women, though, being cold and logical generally translates into being a bitch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: fracklefoodie

                                                                                                                                                                                                  In other words ... you can't win, ma'am.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: fracklefoodie

                                                                                                                                                                                                    In fairness, doesnt this thread require that responses to the effect of "youre being over-sensitive," are reasonable? The OP asked as much. I personally would tend to veer away from words like 'dramatic' and 'emotional' if possible because of their vaguely sexist connotations... but discussing this subject openly requires that we dance around those concepts. Whether or not its PC to say a woman is being overly dramatic and taking offense where none was intended (and, worse, the perpetrator is in a situation where any term, or lack thereof, he chooses causes offense to some)... whether or not women have historically been belittled as over-sensitive... it is still very much possible that any given woman can be over-sensitive about some topic (just as a man could be). If you can't say as much in this thread, then were not having an honest conversation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: fracklefoodie

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I never assumed for a moment that the Chowhounders posting to this topic were all women. How did you know? Is there a code I am not aware of.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      The screen names are all in blue. Traditionally assigned to male babies while pink is for female.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Ay bendito! That's Esanol for Oy vey!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Moto - when you were talking about the Mrs. recently, we were all supportive of your transparency and candor and were in your camp, so to speak - but now I suppose you'd call for green tents...

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: team_cake

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I'm 52 and basically agree but the owner of the company I work at now is 83 and he calls several of the female execs "young lady." He doesn't mean offense so I let it roll off of my back. If it were a peer a couple of years older than me, I'd take offense.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: tcamp

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Since he meant no disrespect, none was take.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      On the other hand, my lovely wife worked for an attorney who had a 60ish client (restaurant owner) who was in the office often. The client referred to her as babe, sweet cheeks, honey, buttercup etc.. Her employer was aware of this and thought nothing of it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      I stopped by the restaurant and had a chat with the client. From then on it was always Miss Motosport!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                                                        now i like THAT story. kick some sexist butt, moto!

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Good for you! Your wife is a lucky woman!

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: tcamp

                                                                                                                                                                                                          As someone else said, people over 80 get a pass. Also with terms for people of different origins that are not used any more (I don't mean the N word for Black people, the Y word for Jewish people or anything else hateful). It is just too hard for some people of great age to change - though fortunately there are exceptions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Moto: would you call your boss "young lady?" I thought not. It's not quite as respectful as advertized, is it?

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                                              no, but he's sleeping with the boss....

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I knew it. I ignored the rumors but I just knew it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Yes, you are being overly sensitive. This seems to be more about your emotional state and finding your way as a widowed person than the server being inappropriate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          The servers are damned if they do and damned if they don't...Ma'am makes one person feel matronly and Miss strikes someone else as disrespectful. The server is simply trying to get the diners attention in a polite manner and do their job. I'd think Miss or Ma'am would be much preferred over "hey lady" or "dude"! Really, it's just someone trying to find a middle ground in a moment of service.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I am a married woman of your age bracket . I frequently get called Miss even when dining with my husband . How is the server supposed to know my marital status ? I do not take offense at all . None is intended .

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I think you are upset because you do not want someone "forgetting" your spouse and it hurts you to feel that you are somehow not who you were before , ie not Mrs.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            The server means no harm. He or she is just trying to be polite . Dont read more into it than is meant .

                                                                                                                                                                                                            At my job i sign my name MS. At home my correspondence varies by whether it is business or friendly .

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I feel that meatn 3 summed it up nicely .in response above
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Also the men of my age are usually addressed as sir , not Mister when we are dining etc .
                                                                                                                                                                                                            I always give people the benefit of the doubt of good intentions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. This discussion reminds me of a scene from a "Chico and The Man" episode. The underlying theme of the episode was that Chico (Freddie Prinze, RIP) was trying to teach Ed ("The Man", played by Jack Albertson) some Spanish, the better to relate to the changing clientele in Ed's garage. A Woman Of A Certain Age comes in to buy some tires, and Ed keeps calling her "señorita". After Ed sells her a full set of tires and she leaves, Chico points out to him that at her age, Ed should not have called her 'señorita', at which Ed says, "Chico, you teach me Spanish, and I'll teach you how to sell tires!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Several years ago my husband i took French at Adult school . One young man - mid 20s referred to the teacher as "Madamoiselle"/ the elderly instructor - age 75 or so corrected him and indicated she was certainly too old for that . He replied that she looked so young , he couldnt help himself . She looked at him and said " Don' t bother trying to butter me up, there are no grades in this course "
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Maybe this is how you feel? Again sympathy on your loss.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: saltylady

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Nowadays it would be Madame (here or in France) whether she is 20, 50 or 75.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                In Italian, ALWAYS Professoressa!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. I think you're emotionally raw, understandably.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              I remember when my mom passed away 5 years ago, I spend many weeks by her side in the ICU. When I would re-watch episodes of "Scrubs" a favorite show at the time, I found myself not laughing so much anymore.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Hospital + sick and dying patients + humor?
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Nope, not for awhile.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              I can laugh now and hopefully you'll hear "Miss" and it won't ouch quite so much.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Much healing to you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Amen. I've done grief counseling for years, and many recently bereaved are understandably sensitive about all kinds of comments. What usually may seem a comment or word in passing can become deeply personal and painful when we're so wounded.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Pickawicca, I send my condolences for your loss. I hope that warm memories of your relationship will be healing and a comfort.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Are you being overly sensitive? Yes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Unfortunately, there's no one generic way to address adult women that doesn't take into consideration age, so people sometimes stumble in an effort to be unoffensive or (in their opinion) charming.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. "Don't call me sir, I work for a living!" Credit to Jack Reacher and a multitude of military men.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. In the south we mainly say ma'am. I am sorry for your loss but I am usually glad for people that are trying to be respectful, especially younger people who are usually the servers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. I'm sorry for your loss. It's a tough transition.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        For my part, when someone calls me "ma'am", I won't like what follows. Mostly, this occurs with car repairs, such as "Ma'am, you need a new clutch " or "ma'am, you need new brakes."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. I don't care for most titles or honorifics of any kind either. Not necessary in public casual settings. But, not intended to offend.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I wish more people would understand that it is more likely to offend than to be welcomed in this century...just leave it out fergoodnesssakes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. I don't think you are being oversensitive, even if you are in a period in your life where life itself is magnified and raw, and I am so sorry for your loss.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm 61 and have noticed that, just within the past few years, people have started addressing me with a "Ma'am." Every time I hear it I'm startled and then irritated. The speaker doesn't mean to offend, probably, but it does. If someone addressed me as "Miss" I would be doubly startled and offended.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The "ma'am" and "miss" and (SHUDDER!!!) "young lady" add-ons are unnecessary and just condescending.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            28 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Harts52

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              "Young lady" is condescending. "Ma'am" and "Miss" are the female counterparts to "Sir" and are intended as a sign of respect; if anything they are servile -- i.e., a subordinate uses Sir/Maam/Miss to refer to a superior, not the other way around.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Whether to append Ma'am or Miss (or Sir) to a remark is a matter of social convention and has regional variations. Growing up in Baltimore -- which is a mixture of both Yankee and southern traditions -- I knew many people who regularly used "Ma'am' because of the southern roots in their homes whenever they spoke to an adult woman. Being from Yankee stock, I never used it at all. If in a restaurant or store, where I was trying to get the attention of a female wait-person or clerk, I'd invariably use "Miss," not "Ma'am."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Harts52

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                So how do you expect people to address you formally?? "Lady" "Woman?" "Hey You?" I just don't understand all of this faux outrage over strangers trying to be polite......

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I am fine with strangers who want to append some sort of honorific addressing me as Miss or Ma'am. Both are terms of respect. I would also be fine with someone who left off the honorific entirely -- i.e., simply saying, "Please go ahead of me in line," without appending anything at all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Personally, I never use Ma'am because it's not in my lexicon -- i.e., I'd no more use Ma'am than I would I pronounce roof to rhyme with hoof. In social settings where some sort of honorific is needed to address a female stranger, I'd use Miss, just as I'd use "Sir" in address to a male stranger -- e.g., "Sir/Miss, you dropped your phone" to a stranger on the street.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "Young Lady" by contrast is not a polite way to speak to a mature woman, any more than "young man" is how I'd address a mature man.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: masha

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Thanks for your opinion, but I was replying to Harts52, Ma'am......

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Sorry. I realized that after I'd posted my comment. No offense intended.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    And I don't understand the outrage over how I wish to be addressed. I'd address you however you wanted.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      And since we are complete strangers, how on earth would you know how I wish to be addressed?!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I guess you could rely on the fact that I just told you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Except that I have come to prefer to be addressed as "Susan". However, most people facing "Susan" feel free to address me as "Sue" and it's a challenge to,get them to change. Often a big stick is required.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sr44

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Yeah, I think it's weird when people feel free to assign you a nickname. My mom, Patricia, not Patty, not Pat, not Patsy, would agree :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      3. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It's not faux outrage - faux discounts the objection and outrage is a tad strong. Irritated and/or offended is more apropos. How to I want to be addressed by someone to whom I am not acquainted? How about "May I take your order" + big smile; "excuse me, you've dropped your ... + big smile; "would you like to go ahead of me?" + big smile. And in the case where I need to get someone's attention, it's always a "hello" or "excuse me."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Harts52

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Of course, then there are those who consider the omission of any honorifics rude and too casual. Fewer and fewer, it seems, but they still exist.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Most people using honorifics do so because they were taught it was the polite thing to do.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Harts52

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Fine, I don't understand the offense taken..... But yes I used faux purposefully as I do think it's over the top.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            So when someone wants to get your attention, and you are not making eye contact with them, you expect them to read your mind, and come rushing up to you and look you in the eye to tell you you forgot your phone?!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Again, I find all of the offense taken by many on this board to be a bit over the top. This world is unfriendly and hostile enough, and if someone wants to show politeness to strangers, I say let them. Admonishing people for being polite is downright rude. Maybe you should hang a sign around your neck saying you don't like terms of politeness, or Heaven Forbid, endearment directed at you since you find them so wholly offensive.... Otherwise, I really don't understand how strangers are supposed to know your preferences. And if this world or even country goes down the road where everyone is rude and barks at everyone else for fear of offending someone with politeness, God help us all...... I for one, am going to continue raising my sons to address Ladies as politely as possible.....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Wow Dirty - I feel the need to be extra cautious here but you seem to be directing your post right at me since you jumped all over Masha for participating in the thread (didn't know that was pc-incorrect here - apologies to everyone that I've thread-jumped). All I can say is, you consider it polite and I consider it demeaning. Maybe it's generational? Pika and I are the same age. We are part of the tail-end (I hope) of a generation in which a woman without a man is treated like an arm without a body. We've swallowed condescension by the bucketful and have had to wage a battle against gender bias that is exhausting. If being called Miss or Ma'am is like nails on a chalkboard to me, why should you be so irate?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              So let's agree to end it here and cease turning this entire thread into something that heaps tension on top of Pika's already grieve-stricken life.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Pika - I am sorry for your loss and sorry that you are going to find that life as a single woman isn't easy, no matter how you are addressed. It's not fair to have to grieve the loss of your love and to also have to adjust to how society relates to a single older woman. Be confident and strong and understand that you will need to let some things roll off your back. Remember, you are too worthy to allow them time and space in your head.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Harts52

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                <life as a single woman isn't easy>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Not in my world where single women (widowed or otherwise) are respected and honored for their independence and strength. They find a strength they never knew existed.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I can't imagine walking around with that kind of mentality.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Some of the strongest women I've ever known are single and extremely happy.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Even when the partner is no longer with her for one reason or another many women find it actually freeing and find a new life that's fabulous.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Just my two cents.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I don't know what world you live in, but it sure ain't the same as mine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I live in a world where women, including me, remain victims for very short amounts of time. If ever.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Life happens and we just move on.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Life's just too short to feel otherwise.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Don't ever...EVER think for even a nanosecond that I am a victim.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm not sure why you feel I thought you were a victim of anything or felt like one.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I was simply responding to your statement "I don't' know what world you live in" when talking about single women and how they're perceived.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm just not aware of a world that perceives older, single women having a 'life that's not easy' as stated by Harts52.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Quite the contrary, actually. It may have something to do with women I know NOT wanting to be perceived that way and that's how they put themselves out there.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Nor mine. Actually, many women and not a few men ARE victims, of all manner of injustice, and there is no shame of that. People have to find means to heal, but they are not always instantaneous.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Victim doesn't mean someone wallowing in imagined insult.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  <I, for one, am going to continue raising my sons to address Ladies as politely as possible>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  You sons will thank you, Dirty, as mine has as an adult.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I taught him all the manners….opening doors, respecting women in the ways that matter, etc.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  He honors and respects women and the women who've respected him for how he treats them are incredible Ladies.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  One, in particular, who thanks me everyday for the job I (we) did.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Keep up the good work, Dirty, you'll raise wonderful men.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    That is so good to know, latindancer...... Thank you for the encouragement. I'm sure you realize how difficult it is in this day and age, with all the competing cultural crap we have to deal with. But I refuse to give up as I know in the end, they really do listen to me, I do make a difference, and it will all be worth it some day.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Harts52

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              So Ma'am is out, Miss is out, and so is young lady. Shall we just say, "hey you over there in the red hat"?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: rasputina

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  If I was trying to get the attention of a stranger in a red hat I would say "Excuse me..." or "Hello..." and, of course, + big smile ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Harts52

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  <Every time I hear it I'm startled and then irritated>


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I know - just ungodly of me to have my own feelings, isn't it. LOL

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                3. While I understand you being sensitive to the use of "Miss" when you're probably older than the person saying it, I have to agree that the politeness gene seems to have been bred out of many younger than I (just turned 55). So when it's used, I'm OK with it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  In fact, if someone called me "Miss", I enjoy it and joke with them that they'd just made my day, as I haven't been called Miss in many years!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It is also the honorific I use if required for a title when filling out online forms - I've never liked Ms., and I've never been married, so I remain a "Miss". And I'm fine with that title. (I understand why Ms. came into use in business; I just don't like it.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  And my condolences on your loss.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  11 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Interestingly, just went into a local sandwich/soup place today to get lunch, and the young man at the counter (and yes, he was a young man, maybe 24 years old to my 55 years of age) called every single woman who walked up "Miss".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    "Yes, Miss? What can we get you today?" and "And would you like chips or a salad with your soup, MIss?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Our ages ranged from early 30s to probably mid to late 70s. And not one of us seemed to mind. There was no disgruntled looks on any of the 8 or 9 women after me as they turned from the counter to wait for their food, and no one said anything directly to the young man or his manager.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        And I wholeheartedly agree with you, LR. Others seem to disagree.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        And yet again - on line at a very busy supermarket this afternoon, and the checkout woman (probably in her late 30s/early 40s) called every woman "Miss". (Four of us in a row, of varying ages):

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        "Hello, Miss - how are you today?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        "That'll be $67.90, Miss."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        "Thanks for shopping with us, Miss - have a great Thanksgiving holiday!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Didn't bother any of us. Or if it did, none of the other women said anything about it or was visibly disturbed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Good manners displayed on both sides of the counter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Linda, you are in the Boston area, correct? It really is a matter of regional usage. See Ruth Laffler's comments upthread regarding her perceptions that it is derogatory in her part of California

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: masha

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            New Englanders are not known for being overly polite, masha. We won't ever discuss their driving. :-P

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            But I'm just commenting based on all of the "'everyone' hates being called Miss and it's condescending" comments. Which are obviously a good bit of hyperbole. Because not everyone hates it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It's quite possible there are those who WANT everyone to hate it, for whatever reason…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: masha

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I live in the heart of LA…one of the (if not) most diverse cities in the world where, for the most part, people are pretty casual about most things socially.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I have the same experience(s) as LindaWhit.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It's just not a problem.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: masha

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Ruth Laffler, who I believe lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, as do I, doesn't speak for everyone who lives here. I would not, and do not, feel that it is derogatory to be addressed as Miss - and I'm a woman.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                It is a term of polite address. It doesn't indicate any judgement on their part of my marital status. I'd rather be addressed as Miss than as Lady, or Mom (pediatricians love this), or a guy.