Has your toddler ever called you "sir?" I can't be the only one. I'm not sure if she's genuinely confused about the gender-appropriate honorific, or if she just thinks it's funny to call Mommy "sir." The last time she did it, I told her that I'm not a "sir."
"What are you?" was her reasonable response.
"Well, I'm a ma'am," I replied with slight chagrin.
"You're a mam? Hehe you are a mammal!" she giggled.
Hm, does that make me a "ma'ammal," so to speak? I guess it's true that I may have been able to rock "miss" long after I was married, but once I started lactating? Definitely ma'am territory.
I've never really cared about my age. In fact I can scarcely remember it when I have to fill out a form. After I turned 16, there was nothing particularly thrilling to me about subsequent age thresholds. 18? It didn't really change anything until I could actually move out. 21 was decidedly anti-climactic, I'd already been to bars in Europe. In retrospect 16 shouldn't have been a big deal either, because I didn't get my license until I was 22. I was also married at 22, when I was still decidedly a "miss," despite my legal status.
When we bought a house, suddenly I was an adult. With a mortgage and home improvement to deal with, I no longer had time to act like an adolescent. However, even with the matronly dignity of a new homeowner, no one ever "ma'amed" me.
What it really comes down to is what the checkout clerk calls you. That is the best yardstick of ma'amhood that I can think of. In the movie adaptation, I'd find out I was old when a bouncer didn't let me into a trendy club. In reality, however, the triggering event for me was a kid in the shopping cart. Totally a ma'am now.
So maybe there is something to this "ma'ammal" business. Maybe it has some roots in the traditional love-marriage-kids workflow, making all onlookers assume that if you're a mommy, you must be married. But honestly, in my experience marriage has nothing to do with being a ma'am. There is something about the total responsibility of caring for another human being (all-day-every-day) that totally takes the carefree "miss" moniker out of the picture.
I think I would outright laugh if someone called me "miss" now. It just doesn't fit who I am anymore. Perhaps the next time a grocer calls me "ma'am," I'll just correct him - "Actually, it's Madame."
Image credit: http://www.bustedtees.com/nomaam