Miss (Not Ma’am) Manners

This is my judgy face. Isn’t it pretty?

The longer I live in places not called Kentucky, the more I wonder if I was raised on Mars or some foreign place, as the manners instilled in me in my youth don’t seem to be common practice other places I have lived. Some of it is a difference in age, but most of it boils down to this: I’m Southern, and Southern people just care a hell of a lot more about some of this stuff than y’all do.

So here’s what I am going to do. I’m going to let you in on a few things that I promise irritate your Southern friends that you may not even realize bother them. You may find many of them stupid and do them more often to prove a point, you may try to be more considerate of how we live, you may do nothing. Whatever the choice, let’s get started.

When at restaurants in which you have not ordered at a counter, you do not eat until everyone at the table has food. There are a few weird exceptions, like if three of you ordered a salad or soup and two didn’t, but by and large, until there is a plate in front of every person, don’t touch your utensils.

If you are the wayward soul without food, you are obligated to tell everyone to go ahead and eat and not wait for you. Now here is where the Southern passive aggressive behavior we all know and love comes into play. Unless the person telling you to eat is close enough to you that they are 1. in your immediate family or 2. someone who was or is going to be in your wedding party, this is a trick. They don’t want you to eat. They want you to wait. They are just testing you.

When it comes time for the bill, unless it is one of those parent/child husband/wfe birthday celebration situations, you offer to pay for your portion of dinner. Ladies, this includes dates. Offer at least once. If they decline, you can stop, but you have at least offer even if we all know you are pump-faking for your purse hoping to God your dinner partner is going to insist.

When at the dinner table or at other social gatherings, do not talk about future plans you have made or are going to make with people in front of people who are not invited. Again, there are exceptions, like, “Honey, should we honeymoon in Jamaica?”, but again, unless you are around people of wedding-party level closeness, it is unconscionably rude to talk about what three of you are doing this weekend if seven of you are in the room unless you intend to invite all seven.

While on the subject of invitations, when you say, “I’m in,” that means you’re in. Like, you’re gonna be there. And if you’re not gonna be there, it is because you are ill or someone died or you got in a car accident. If your excuse for not going isn’t quite up to that level, it is okay, but you absolutely, positively must notify the person hosting said event that you will not be there, or else we might send the National Guard out with a search party for you.

Finally, we gotta talk about this Miss/Ma’am/Sir thing. Sir is easy enough. Any gentleman who seems your age or older, you address as “sir.” It is the chicks that make things complicated. Chicks, man…

The other day, my best friend (also from Kentucky) was travelling for work and she told me she did something terrible. Wondering what it could possibly be, I got a good laugh when she said the following:

“So I am checking in at the airport and the attendant is clearly in her 20s or, at worst, our age and I just wasn’t thinking and I…”

This is where I cut her off mid-sentence.

“Lindsay! You did not ‘ma’am’ her??”

“I did. I’m awful.”

You may think you are being nice and polite when using the word “ma’am”, but every time a guy who is not still in high school refers to me as “ma’am” I feel about as old as the old Rose in Titanic. I get in the car, I check the mirror for wrinkles, I look over my outfit and wonder if I am dressing like a senior citizen.

At 31 years old, I am not ready to be “ma’amed” on the regular. Honestly folks, unless a woman has grey or blue hair or has spoken about how she is undergoing her menopausal change, she doesn’t want to be called “ma’am”. She wants to be “miss” to anyone who isn’t at least ten years younger than her and what that really means is any guy who isn’t at least ten years younger than she thinks she looks.

I know, we’re an insecure, crazy breed of people, Southern chicks. But please, for my sake, when you want to tell me how crazy Southern people take their hospitality, please begin the conversation with “miss”.

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