Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Aging Southern Style

When I was a young’un I never thought I’d see the day when I went by the title reserved for all those old folks I knew. Yep, I’m now in the dreaded, “Miss” (insert your first name here)” category.

And while I know darn good and well it’s a sign of respect and I’m not supposed to shudder when I hear it applied to me... Well, I can’t help myself. Whenever some young, or not so young, whippersnapper calls me “Miss Mabel,” I shudder.

I also smile at them while my brain screeches, How did this happen? When did I age out of being the one who called older people by this moniker? When did I become old enough to be saluted like this?

Oh, let me see. When all the people older than me died?

Okay, they’re not all dead.

But that gigantic age span between me and them that seemed insurmountable when I was younger has disappeared. There’s no one left for me to call “Miss or Mr. First Name” and it would be just plain rude (but fun) if I used it while talking to my friends and acquaintances.

When people unacquainted with our ways, (i. e. Yankees, which is to say anyone not from the South) hear a youngster say this, they aren’t sure how it works. Let me explain.

Somewhere, lost in the annals of Southern history, someone came up with the idea of prefacing the person’s first name with the requisite Mr./Miss for when a person is too well known to a younger person to be called by the more formal Mr./Mrs. Last Name.
Since this system was devised way before women’s lib, there is no room for the all inclusive Ms. An older woman is automatically called “Miss First Name.” Which is how I transitioned through the years from Mabel (youth) to Ms. Carothers (early career) to Mrs. Jeremiah Tuckingham (marriage) and now to Miss Mabel (Medicare card has arrived in the mail).

If this isn’t a smack in-the-face sign that I’m aging, then I’m not Miss Mabel.

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