What to say when: proper address

               Before going over this week’s “What to Say When” topic, I would like to explore the concept behind being ready with an answer.   In other words, how does a person know “when to say what” or even if to say anything at all?   To some, my “What to Say When” topics might seem surprising, petty, or not worth making a big deal about!   Of course, this is because we are all different, and what I find hard to handle or difficult to reply to might evoke a flawless response from someone with a different background, experience, and personality than mine.   However that may be, a well bred woman’s response will always be mindful, respectful, kind, and reflective of her unique lifestyle.   Although the average person would stutter or giggle nervously in a certain situation, a woman with strong convictions and a settled mindset on how to live would rather be able to respond with a thoughtful, well reasoned response.   Thus, some people will inevitably find my emphasis on finding the right words in a particular situation to be overkill or simply unnecessary.   However, I believe that if there is ever an instance in which a woman feels uncomfortable, her toeing the status line by smiling, not answering, or acting like everything is okay when it is not is more harmful to her inner self than being picky about how she wants to react to a particular situation.   Repeatedly acting like everything is all right on the outside when it is not, forcing a smile, and faking reactions have been linked to poor mental and physical health!

               A few months ago I posted about the proper way to refer to others whose names are unknown.   Today I will share how I handle being addressed improperly by others.   As a mother of small children, I often find myself bringing them along on my errands.   While I can (and have) passed as a college student or teenager when I go out alone, I find the transformation of my image amazing when I am seen with my family.   I can hardly run a day’s worth of errands without being referred to at least once as “Mom,” the most irritating form of disrespectful address to my mind.   It bothers me even more than terms of endearment.   I suppose it is because it makes me feel that I have been reduced to a functioning uterus in the eyes of the person speaking, and it irks me that someone would refer to a woman who is not their mother as “Mom.”   I mean, would any stranger ever refer to a woman with children as “Mother”?   “Here you go, Mother,” or “Need any help with this, Mother?”   Of course not!   So why is it okay to repeat the same phrases referring to someone as “Mom”?   Well, it is not.   And it irritates and upsets me.   After puzzling it out, I realized I have three options:   magically let go of the discomfort it brings and not let it bother me, be silent while being offended inside, or politely request the offender to refer to me as “Ma’am.”   Most people would probably think the first option is the best, or even the only alternative.   After all, we hear it ALL the time in America;   “don’t let it bother you, let it roll off like water off a duck’s back, stop being so sensitive.” My question is when does this apply and when does it not?   After all, if the grocery store attendant offering to accompany me to my car said, “Can I help you out with this, Fatty?” no one would even hesitate to decry that as not only offensive but also something that needs to be addressed post-haste.   “Excuse me, sir, but you have no business referencing me in terms of my physical appearance.”   Then why do people feel the need to reference people in terms of their biological choices?   “Can I help you to your car, woman who has never given birth…”   Right.   So whether or not others agree, this well bred woman in progress has decided that any further situations in which someone refers to her as “Mom” will be met with the following response:   a friendly smile, first and foremost–this dispels tension and puts both me and the other person in a good state of mind–and with a kind tone of voice, the response, “You can call me ma’am (or “my name” or “Please refer to me as ma’am, thanks!”).”   When I brought this topic up on my personal Facebook recently, certain people were very quick to point out that if a person’s intentions are good, I have no business taking offense, but that really does not apply here or in any situation involving good manners.   That is to say, if any and all instances where someone could choose to exercise good manners or not merely come back to their having good intentions, we would not need manners at all, only an x-ray machine that revealed people’s intentions.   If your intentions are truly good, you will become acquainted with proper modes of conduct and will make them a way of life instead of slipping into the comfortable mode of slang and carelessness.

               Can anyone sympathize with just wanting to be able to feel okay when put into a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable or insulted?   Let me know in the comments below.

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2 thoughts on “What to say when: proper address

  1. I love being a mom and being called “mom” by anyone is an enjoyable reminder to me. As a female doctor, being called nurse requires grace. I’ve seen several more senior female surgeons handle this poorly, not necessarily a sign of poor manners, usually impairment due to fatigue. Are you more likely to be offended by “mom” when you are tired? As an aside, a while back we had an unmarried nanny who was not only given dirty looks but unkind comments by a woman who thought she was the mom, as in “No ring, hmmm?” “Well, I hope they at least have the same father!” Fortunately our nanny, who was ex-military by the way, had enough grace to simply smile and answer “Yes, ma’am” to both. So proud of her!
    p.s. LOVE your blog!!!!!

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    • Hi, Lori, thanks for sharing your perspective! Personality has a lot to do with the way people prefer to interact with each other, and I have always been a more formal sort of person who prefers the safest, most conventional practices. I prefer being called “Ma’am” rather than “Mom” by people who are not my children because it is a form of everything in its place, to my mind. I am not so offended by it as much as left wishing that I could be “mom” to my children, but perceived as a total adult (not just a biological reproducer if you will) to others. And a lot of it probably stems from too much caring about what others think of me. 🙂 I have not noticed a difference in my attitude when tired, although that is influential in other areas of life. Glad to hear from you!

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