When did being called "sir" or "ma'am" stop making you feel old?

Or did it?

I’m almost 48, and “ma’am” still sounds funny to me, but I’ve realized that I’m not too young for it any more. So I’ve stopped the coy BS of telling the youngsters that call me “ma’am” that they’re not to “call me ma’am, it makes me feel old!”

I’ve accepted it. I am officially a “ma’am.”


I think I stopped when I started instructing my children to say it, respectfully, to adults. Although truly, it was only when I was really young that it bugged me. (I’m 42.)

It has never made me feel old. The first time I was called “ma’am” I was 20, and certainly didn’t look any older than that. The person was a cashier who might have been five or so years older than I was. If anything, it made me feel like an adult.

Ditto. Havng clerks glance at my ID and call me by my first name, now that makes me feel old. Back in my day, we called all adults “sir” or “ma’am.” Only children got called by their first names.

I was a Naval Officer at age 25, so I started getting Ma’am-ed early. Didn’t bother me then. Doesn’t bother me now.

What does bother me is when people introduce me to their children and use my first name. Your 6-y/o may *not * address me by my first name. Nor may your 16-y/o. Thank you.

I taught fifth and six grades right out of college at the tender age of 22. The kids were expected to address teachers as ma’am and sir, so it was just natural. It never has bothered me.

Plus, I really like being called ‘SIR!’ during certain err… roleplaying situations. :smiley:

I hope it doesn’t make too many people feel old - anyone I don’t know on a first-name basis is a Sir or Ma’am. This includes neighborhood children (“Excuse me Sir, get off my lawn!”) and the old guys at the Elks club.

I really don’t want swampbear to supply details

It doesn’t make me feel old, it makes me feel weird.

In retail or hospitality situations, it always feels weird. That’s despite being in the same situation as swampbear, being addressed as ‘sir’ all the time at work, and in this situation it never feels odd or out-of-place.

A lot depends on the way they say it. If it’s said with a smile and the other party is comfortable saying it (as if they say it a lot) then no problem. When I feel old is when the other person cocks their head and looks concerned that I’m about to fall down. “Can I help you, sir? (do you need a chair or an oxygen mask)?”

I’m 57, and in these cases the other person is usually about 22. Dagnab it.


It never made me feel old. I enjoy being treated with respect.

Well, you could just google it and learn for yourself, I suppose. :smiley:

Ditto on “it’s never made me feel old.” It makes me feel adult, which is nice (whereas “miss” or “young lady” makes me feel like I’m being patronized, and causes me to go all bristly).

I’ll be thirty-six shortly. I’ve felt old for as long as I can remember. (I went out with woman twenty years older than me who used to make fun of me for being an ‘old man.’")

I look younger than my age, though – the last time I bought beer, I was asked for ID – and it was only in the last two or three years that that stopped being a regular thing.

So, with that setup: I’ve been called “sir” since I was about twenty. Jeans and a t-shirt? No “sir.” When I’m all polished up and buttoned down, I’m a “sir.”

So being called “sir” has never made me feel old – just respectable.

Joining the “not old, just adult” brigade. Same deal with getting called “vous” by strangers instead of “tu.”

Being called ma’am never made me feel old…just proud to be a married woman from 22 on. And since I spent most of my married life on military bases, I got called ma’am a lot.

What bugged me were the soldiers that I , as a bank teller, would address as “sir” as part of courtesy, (“Here’s your change, sir, and thank you for banking with us”) who would then proceed to tell me not to call them sir because they weren’t officers. I would then tell them that I called them sir because they were gentlemen (and besides, what was I supposed to call them? “Here’s your change, jerk.”?)

I haven’t gotten the “sir” protest in a long time, until the other day when I asked a customer if they needed help. “Did you have any questions, sir?” The guy said, “I’m not British, you don’t have to call me sir.” I responded with, “I’m not sure I understand” and he proceeded to babble on about class distinctions and royalty and knights, and I told him that my daddy taught me to address every man as sir regardless of nationality. He didn’t lke his pet rant being challenged, no sirree!

So in answer to the OP, it never made me feel old, just adult (and married).

Being called ma’am doesn’t bother me. I’ll be 34 in 10 days and I get it all the time these days. What really makes me feel old is the 17 year old girl at the gas station who insists on calling me darlin’. I feel like some little old lady with a cane needing a hand to help cross the road. Sheesh. Course I try to tell myself maybe she’s coming onto me but sadly I think that’s just what she calls us “older women”. I might go in and call her toots today just to see what she does.

Since this is basically a poll, I’ll move it to IMHO for you.

Cajun Man
for the SDMB

I have never had a problem with getting called “sir” in the appropriate context, though I feel uncomfortable when the person saying it is older than me (why would it bother me to hear it from someone my age or younger?). Similarly I find it very rude for children to call adults by their first names. My next-door neighbors insist on it, but I’ve tried to make it clear to my children that this is an exception and not the rule. Hell, I even feel uncomfortable myself not calling them Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill (they’re my parents’ age and I’m 35).

And oh yeah, one of my favorite Homer Simpson quotes is now germane: “For once, maybe someone will call me sir without adding, you’re making a scene.”

I don’t think it will ever make me feel old, since I was an Army officer (well, I’m still a Captain in the National Guard, but that doesn’t count. :wink: ). So, I’ve been called ‘sir’ for the last 5 years, and I’m 28.

Also, because of the rank structure, a good proportion of those calling me sir were older than me, so I got used to that too.