I’ve been meaning to write about this for months now. Ever since that day waiting in line to mail some return some Christmas gifts we bought for ourselves that didn’t quite fit (I told you it’s been a while…).
It was a crisp Seattle December morning, and I was waiting in line at the local UPS store. I don’t recall exactly what I was wearing, but it was decidedly feminine – complete with makeup and accessories. Naturally, being a few weeks before Christmas it was packed, so while waiting patiently I played with something on my phone. I left myself just enough attention to move along in line as I wound my way to the counter. Lost in thought I heard someone say, “I can help you here ma’am”. I prepared myself to move along in line as the cashier helped the woman in front of me. Except – there was no woman in front of me. He was talking to me.
I had been so lost in thought that my reptilian brain had reverted back to the many years of conditioning as a man. While distracted, with only an inkling of awareness I wasn’t expecting someone to refer to me as “ma’am”. Usually when I’m treated as a woman I feel a warm glow of validation – my soul vibrates in time with the universe. That day I felt … shock.
I had been shocked out of my masculine mask by one short phrase – “I can help you here ma’am”. For a long time afterwards I was pensive. I kept wondering, “What does this mean? Is it a sign I’m not meant to be a woman? Is it a window into my true nature?”. I’ve since come to the conclusion that this was a demonstration of the power of habit – I have been conditioned my whole life to respond to “sir”. It’s not an indication of my inherent femininity. In the same way that we’re trained to hear the softest mention of our name across a crowded, noisy room we’re trained to watch for familiar indications of attention.
Our senses light up when we hear a greeting, “Hello!”, or a call for notice, “Excuse Me!” or a cry for help, “Help!”. We’re not as attuned to random fragments of speech – I don’t turn my head when someone says “peccadillo”, or “peanut butter” – though my ears might perk up if I hear “crossdresser” – even when I’m not dressed – since this is something at the forefront of my consciousness.
Have you had a Ma’am Shock? What was it like for you?
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