Yes. It's true. The time has come to accept that I am a woman of a "certain age." At Wholefoods supermarket yesterday, a woman called me "ma'am." I'd accidentally taken her trolley full of overpriced goodies and wheeled it away.
It reminded me of an incident a few years ago when I was crossing the road with my daughter who was 21 at the time. A ghastly man passed by and made a lewd comment that had a lot to do with wearing a short skirt. Outraged, I turned to my daughter and said, "Can you believe it! I'm not even wearing a skirt!" And she said, "Mum, you're wearing trousers. He was talking to me." It was very humbling.
I entered my thirties with the optimistic joy that comes with having suffered a horrible decade of "finding myself"; I embraced my forties as a woman who knew who she was and what she wanted (and married unexpectedly at 45); I hit 50 and had a mini crisis but still bravely soldiered on.
Age is all the mind, isn't it? Especially in California! This is Cougar Town! But somehow, the words "ma'am" stopped me in my tracks. It could be those glorious southern manners that I really love, it could be that she saw the ring on my finger - but most likely, it was because she saw a dotty woman tossing vegetables into her cart muttering "Could Professor Plum kill Miss Scarlett in the library with the lead piping ...?" (a mystery writer is always plotting).
However, I much prefer the French way. "Madame" sounds ageless, don't you agree?