She had to be in the ballpark of about fifteen to seventeen. Bleached hair and a nose piercing, she had a good lathering of foundation to give her a bland hue only contrasted by the vibrant eyeshadow that shouldn’t see the light of day outside of a rave.
I handed her my ticket. She looked at me out of the corner of her eye, “Enjoy your meal today, Ma’am?”
It wasn’t the good Ma’am, the respectful salutation of status; no, it was the cold hard edge of ‘You’re old and I cannot relate to you’ Ma’am.
I gulped. “Fine.”
I remember the first time I called ma’am by an officious ID checker at the base commissary when I was about fourteen or fifteen. I knew that it was just a somewhat belittling, a mockry, but in the moment – in the moment – I felt it was right.
‘That’s darn right,’ I thought. ‘Ma’am! The glory that awaits, the pooooower.’ I was then asked by Mom to grab a shopping cart.
As I slunk out with my ticket and followed J to his car, I mumbled to him, “Am I that old?”
He whipped out the standard answer of, “You’re fiiiine.”
“But…but…Ma’am… Ma’am is my mother.”