Can I Help You, Young Lady?

You can avoid mirrors and wear scarves to hide your neck, but you know you’re a woman of a certain age when they start calling you “young lady.” By they, I mean the people who sell you tickets and check out your groceries. They’re the ones who offer to carry your bag to the car though all you have are two cans of soup and a box of cereal. They’re the ones who all but push you into the seat they just vacated, though you insist you’d rather stand.

I tell them I’d prefer to be addressed as “ma’am” or even “miss,” but they insist “young lady” is a compliment. If that’s the case, I reply, why do you address my husband (who’s older than me, by the way), as “sir?” It’s virtually impossible to convince them that “young lady,” is something you call a little girl to make her feel like a grown-up, not something you call a grown-up to infantilize her.

When someone “young lady”s me, I’m tempted to drop to the floor and give them ten push-ups. But then, they’d probably comment on my “vim” and “vigor,” or tell me how “spry” I am, which would make me feel almost as old as addressing me as “young lady.”