“Ma’am” is fine if you can’t think of anything else

Not “Dude.” Do not call me “Dude.”

Laverne says, “I don’t care what you call me. Just don’t call me late to dinner.”

It’s Sunday morning and Mr T and I are listening, as we do every Sunday, to the vintage American Top 40 with Casey Kasem.

Alas, it’s a show from the ’80s, which cannot be as good as a show from the ’70s, and we are being forced to listen to Kenny Rogers’ not-best work, that is, “Lady.”

There are many reasons not to like the song, not the least of which is I know how great Rogers can be, but part of it is just because he is calling this woman, “Lady” and not her name.

I hate that crap.

A former boyfriend would call me “Dollface.” I think he, who was wonderful in almost every other way, thought he was kind of edgy and hip and cool, but I hated it.

I think I told him not to call me that, but maybe I didn’t? Maybe this was long enough ago that I was scared to say what I wanted because what if what I wanted wasn’t what a man wanted and then what would happen?

Screw you, patriarchy. I’m not playing that game anymore.

I had another boyfriend – who was also lovely lovely lovely – who wrote a song for me called “Dama.” He would also call me that.

Again, did I voice my displeasure? I don’t remember. What I do remember is I did not like it.

Why? Why do I hate this so much? Is it just because I think the nicknames themselves are stupid? Mr T will call me “Sweetie,” but I also call him “Sweetie.” I don’t mind that name, but I think “Dollface” and “Dama” are stupid.

Maybe it’s because it’s part of a larger pattern – and this is why I am going toward revolution – of men thinking they get to decide every damn thing in the world, regardless of what women want? That they even get to name everything?

YES I KNOW #NOTALLMEN. I know that. I am married to a wonderful man who is sweet and thoughtful and gentle and kind.

But even Mr T doesn’t know about all the things. I read him a story similar to this one:

A woman’s worst nightmare? That’s pretty easy. Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, “They are afraid women will laugh at them.” When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, “We’re afraid of being killed.”

I explained that all women think about where we park after dark, whether we go for a walk after dark, what neighborhoods we feel safe in, where we sit on public transit.

He was surprised. These things had never occurred to him and it hadn’t occurred to him that women think about these things.

So yeah – men don’t even know and they think they get to name things and – where was I? I think I am getting off track here.

My point – and I did have one, I am sure – is that I want to decide what I am called. Don’t call me “Dollface.” Don’t call me “Dama.” Don’t call me “Lady.” I decide. Not you.




2 thoughts on ““Ma’am” is fine if you can’t think of anything else

  1. We (husband and i) once belonged to the local “chapter” of the United States Power Squadron – a group that supports boating safety. All of the men referred to the the female person in their lives as their “lady”. I hated it! Told my husband that if he EVER tried it, i would kill him. We finally quit – for many reasons, but one was the overwhelming misogeny. The worst!


  2. I’ve read that the reason women read so many murder mysteries is because we’re looking for clues and warning signs (how to stay alive). My husband walks through the city without fear – I’ll always cross the street to avoid walking next to a park (men hanging out…) and I won’t get into an elevator at the library downtown if there’s only one man in it…I’m 63…these are lessons learned from experience…


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