Please, Don’t Call me Ma’am!

 

In last Sunday's New York Times, there was a great article about women's strong—and mostly negative—response to being called "Ma'am." You can check it out at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/weekinreview/29angier.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Ma%27am&st=cse

 I definitely related to the many women who said they recoiled in horror whenever addressed as "Ma'am,” mostly because it made them feel old, dowdy, or generally misunderstood. But it made me realize I'm often addressed with monikers that make me uncomfortable, and I'm torn about whether or not to say something.

For instance, I live in an apartment building with a doorman, and just about every day, one of them calls me "Mrs. Rubin." It's an easy mistake, because my husband's last name is Rubin, but since I didn't change my name, it always takes me aback. Then again, even being called, "Mrs. Rottenberg" throws me (I always think they must be addressing my mother!), and I have occasionally said, "Oh, please, just call me Julie." But one particular doorman continues to call me either "Mrs. Rubin" or "Mrs. Rottenberg," and at this point, it feels rude and/or petty to continue correcting him.

I have this same issue with family members who still address mail to me as if I'd changed my last name (or assume my children took my husband's name as well.) Again, it feels rude to bring it up at the next family gathering ("Aunt Sally, you look great! Now stop calling me Julie Rubin!"), but I fear the longer I wait, the worse it will be when they eventually learn they've been getting it wrong all this time. And if I were addressing someone by a name that wasn't what they prefer, I would certainly want to know.

So, in these cases, is it worth saying something?

 

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