Sunday, 17 January 2010

In which I'm no longer missed

“And I need a really nice one, and I was wondering...Well, Mum was wondering... No, well, I thought...”

“Spit it out, Lad,” I said, trying to balance the new landline handset between my phone and my neck as I did the washing-up.

“Look, Mum loves it when I do it with you; she always approves of the results. So I was wondering whether you’d help me pick one, and then I’ll take you to supper to say thank you.”

“Of course, I said, balancing my favourite mug precariously on top of the pile on the draining board. “You only needed to ask.”

And thus it was that I found myself on Savile Row one exceptionally cold Sunday, shopping for suits with Speckled Lad.

“It’s regimental selection coming up,” he explained as, wrapped up against the biting wind in a large fur coat, I steered him into the first of several suit shops. “So it has to be something a bit special. Don’t want to make a bad impression by turning up in an average suit.”

It was as we wound our way from shop to shop, three- to two-breasted, grey to navy, that I discovered something hitherto unnoticed.

Apparently I have recently passed some mysterious and unflattering point which has resulted in my being called “Ma’am” in shops. I don’t mind it so much when I’m doing things which involved my being on military turf – it’s their patch, and it’s what they do. But when I’m shopping – firmly my own ground – I feel it’s a bit much.

Not very long ago, I was absolutely in the ‘Miss’ category. Taxi drivers, door staff, the nice man I buy my large Earl Grey from at the start of the commute – if they were going to tack a title onto their patter, it was ‘Miss’. Slightly further back, I was in the ‘Miss’ category to the point when I was asked in Sainsbury’s for my ID when buying a bottle of gin (hurrah for the ‘Think 25’ policy ‘n’ all, but if it’s Tanqueray No. Ten in the basket, I’m probably old enough for it to be there).

At a push, and when feeling exceptionally generous, I can probably even understand a salesman in a smart suit shop making the mistake. I assume there was a presumption made about my and Speckled Lad’s romantic status. And, when addressing the female half of a couple – to whom the male half is making nervous gestures with his eyes about whether his sleeves are of the right length – it does seem a little incongruous to address her as ‘Miss’, when there’s clearly nothing at all innocent and virginal about her, the two of them being, as they so clearly are, at it like bunnies. Ahem.

But, apparently, ‘Ma’am’ is now the moniker of choice. The lack of large rock on my finger is obviously not clue enough. I clearly no longer possess a youthful and vigorous demeanour (which is probably about right. I think my demeanour falls rather firmly into the irritable and short-tempered categories these days, especially while I’m in London).

So, on my chest of drawers now resides a shiny new pot of night cream and tube of something (hopefully magical) for underneath my eyes. If SL can fork out for a suit that’ll get him a job, I can do the same for something that’ll work a miracle.


Gin_operated said...

I suspect it may have more to do with shopping on Saville Row in a real fur. They do tend to be a bit m'am happy round there, and a vintage fur probably tipped the balance.
I first got madam'd rather than madamoiselle'd in a restaurant on my 25th birthday with my parents (not a high point in my life) I did not react well- think Patsy in AbFab. These days, I blame presence of husband/ring rather than the inexorable slide towards 30...

P said...

Ugh - "ma'am" - it's a horrible word.

Luckily in Glasgow people aren't really polite enough to call us "miss", let alone "ma'am"!!! Phew.

Brennig said...

First time I met HMtQ a flunky came around to tell us how to pronounce Ma'am. 'It's Mam as in jam not Marm as in Farm' he told us patronisingly. I almost shot him.

Blonde said...

GO: Hmm, yes - that may have had something to do with it! Seems as if it happens circa the 25th. I think I'd have been less shocked had I been warned this was the Done Thing.

P: Heh - see? Scotland is totally the place to be.

Bren: You should have done. And anyone else who uses the word for women under 30.

Mike said...

We're I selling suits on Saville Row, in addition to contemplating how to do myself in, I would also lean towards Ma'am. In this day and age you can easily be a ringless couple. Better to treat them as a couple if they came in together. one who has been aging a lot longer than you (but not as a woman and probably not as well) I can tell you that the years keep getting better, not worse. There's only one alternative to aging, and its not a good one.

And you clearly are growing up: you wrote an entire post about doing sometheing with SL that didn't involve sex.

roseski said...

I class Saville Row and Jermyn Street as military turf. You cannot walk down either with a military type on your arm without him bumping into someone he knows!

Fluffy Pink Duck said...

Definitely agree that the Ma'am goes with the territory of Saville Row. Having been most firmly planted in the Ma'am age band for a while now, I used to find every so slightly galling on being called "Love" when on my way to the OM.

Rage Against The Dying of the Light said...

Good lord, a site redesign. You must have had some spare time.

By the way, I think any female over 16 is "Ma'am" on Savile Row / Jermyn St. I suspect the denizens thereof entirely eschew the appalling vocable "Ms", and would always err on the over-formal side.

Mike - not true, she did allude to "at it like bunnies"...almost though, almost.

jman said...

Was SL buying a miliatry uniform? You mean HMG doesn't supply them? And then one has to get it made to measure? And all for determining where one ends up in the military? Yikes!! How very quaint.

As for ma'am do you still wish to be an ingenue? Ma'am commands respect; miss not so much. On the other hand when addressed as Mr. _____ I always used to respond I am jman, Mr. ______ is my father. Growing up in some ways is so difficult.

Blonde said...

Mike: It's not the assumption of coupledom I object to (I'm used to that by now) - it's the Madaming. Surely I can be part of a couple and still a Miss?

Roseski: You're right there - full of people in blazers and chinos...!

FPD: So long as it's the area, and not the bags under my eyes. I'll choose to believe the first...

RATDOTL: Hmm. You're probably right. And I suppose the one thing that's worse than Madam is Ms. (And yes, there was a free Sunday afternoon!)

Jman: No, this was just the interview suit. Most of the uniform's provided, though I think there's some forking out involved for mess dress. You're right about the growing up. Not all it's cracked up to be.

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