The “M” Word

Author: Amy Bright Ruben, C’82

“That will be $3.25, ma’am.”

“Can I help you ma’am?”

“Civic House is over the bridge up on the left, ma’am.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

Who are they all talking to?  Oh ,no! To the 21 and under set at Penn, have I transformed from a college coed to a  “ma’am” on campus?

It is a fact, yet I was so utterly oblivious. The first time it happened, I simply turned by head 180 degrees to see who the much older someone  was holding the door for this sweet polite student.  “After you, ma’am.” Yikes! It was only him and me.

But wasn’t the real me just on the train an hour ago, headed to Penn’s campus from my home in NYC, wondering if I could pass as a graduate student or maybe just maybe a PhD candidate a few more years out of school?

And yes, sure, I have been called plenty of M words, like Mrs., Mom, and probably multiple other more malicious M’s behind my back.  But wait, it doesn’t make sense. It feels like I was just living on campus not 27 years ago. And are my kids really as old as the people who call me ma’am?

So it’s official. I’m a ma’am. But I’m no longer mortified. I’ve decided to embrace the “M” word.

Now every time I walk up and down Locust Walk, I hold my head high and smile, knowing I am minutes away from being called ma’am. And when it does happen, I simply reply, “You’re welcome, sir.”

Amy and friends circa 1982

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Filed under Memories of Penn

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