“A young lady is a female child who has just done something dreadful.” Miss Manners
It’s strange how little things can sometimes bug the hell out of you.
Sweetie and I did a bit of shopping the other day, trying to get a jump on Christmas. Our reward was dinner and a movie.
At the restaurant, I ordered quesadillas and requested no spice or sauce. Just plain please. (I know, I know…) Of course they showed up covered in Cajun spice, the kitchen no doubt thinking it must have been a mistake. Back they went. The server and the kitchen were very accommodating and in no time I had what I wanted. That’s not what bugged me.
Not long after the replacement meal arrived, our server – a pleasant young man I’d put in his early twenties – swung by and said, “Everything okay here, young lady?”
I blinked. Glanced around. Yes indeed he was speaking to me. After I assured him the meal was fine, I asked Sweetie if he’d noticed the “young lady” comment.
Sweetie blinked, suspecting a trap.
“Would you rather he called you ma’am?” he said. He looked pleased with himself, thinking he knew how I felt about ma’am. I thought about it for a moment.
“Nope,” says I, surprising us both. “I’d rather be ma’am.”
I’m sure our young server meant nothing disrespectful. I suspect he thought he was being charming. He may even have thought I would take it as a compliment. Foolish boy. I’m clearly old enough to be his mother. In fact our five kids are likely older than he is. “Young lady” was silly. And suggested silliness. Like a verbal pat on the head. Let’s humour the old girl!
Or…. Could it be? There’s another reason for being young ladied. As in, “What do you think you’re doing, young lady?” Words I confess to using on my own daughter from time to time. Was our server attemting to deliver a gentle chide for sending a meal back?
Sweetie blinked again. The corners of his mouth began to quiver, which he tried without success to suppress.
“So I guess ‘Fluffy Pants’ or ‘Princess’ are out of the question?”
I shut him down with my best steely, ma’am-like, over-the-top-of-my-glasses glare. Well not immediately. He chortled awhile first. I tried to explain. Talked about respect and older women. Talked about invisible women.
He composed himself but mirth lurked in his eyes, daring me to lighten up. Okay, okay. I began to laugh at the molehill turned mountain. Until our server respectfully addressed the young woman seated next to us as miss. Sweetie eyed me with glee.
In retrospect I’d have done better to remember another bit of Miss Manners wisdom:
“Allowing an unimportant mistake to pass without comment is a wonderful social grace.”
Or at least, a useful strategy when dining with Sweetie.
- Young Lady Fears (allysonmarrs.wordpress.com)