Yes, Ma’am. Monday, May 20 2013 

I live in the Deep South.  Okay, I live in Florida, but contrary to what many snowbirds, reformed-Yankees, and other newly-minted Floridians seem to think, much of Florida is inhabited by proud Southerners whose ancestors settled this state and put it on the map through ranching and farming.  Now that our pioneering ancestors have transformed this swamp land into the glorious Sunshine State, droves of transplants from the frozen North and parts beyond have flooded into Florida to live, to enjoy our beaches, and to visit one of our ubiquitous theme parks.  Once they arrive, they unpack their bags, take in the fresh air, and promptly go about the business of rejecting our Southern heritage.

An integral part of being a Southerner, of course, is having Southern manners.  When I was growing up in the sticks, surrounded by mossy oak trees and cattle, my mother and father taught me the importance of saying “ma’am” and “sir” as a sign of respect.  This was not a quaint but optional turn of phrase; it was mandatory.  To refer to a teacher or parent or adult as anything other than ma’am or sir was tantamount to blasphemy.  You might as well address your pastor as “dude” and call your school principal by his childhood nickname Sparky.  So when my mother would call out for me, I did not respond with a snarky “WHAT?!” as many kids do today.  When my teacher asked me whether I had completed my homework assignment, I didn’t respond with a “yeah” or a “nope” like I was speaking to my kid sister.  A crisp yes or no, followed by ma’am was in order.

Like my mother before me, I have diligently tried to instill in my children the importance of saying ma’am and sir.  I admit that it has been an uphill battle.  Many of my female friends (transplants all) think it’s antiquated.  Some of them go so far as insisting that they not be called ma’am because they consider it derogatory.  Well, I’m here to set the record straight.  Ma’am is not some pejorative slang of the inbred masses.  Ma’am is a contraction of the word madam.  In Britain, ma’am is pronounced “mahm” or “muhm,” and it is used as a title of respect, especially when addressing female royalty.  When addressing the Queen of England, one must first address her as “Your Majesty,” and then only as “ma’am.”  Similar to ma’am, but not as reverential, are the titles dame, gentlewoman, and lady.  In the United States, Britain, and Canada, ma’am is used to address female officers of esteemed military rank.  Ma’am or Madam is the highest title of respect one can bestow on a woman — Madam Justice, Madam Speaker, Madam Secretary, Madam President.   In the case of a very young woman, girl, or unmarried woman who prefers to be addressed as such, “miss” is an appropriate ma’am equivalent, but in the South, ma’am denotes any female, no matter her age or position.  Still feel insulted, ladies?

Tellingly, I have never heard of a man feeling sullen and combative for being called “sir.”  That would be inane.  Clearly, the disdain for ma’am is a women’s issue, not a cultural one, which says more about the person who is offended than the person who is just being polite.  I would venture to guess that women who hate being referred to as ma’am are the same women who refuse to disclose their age and become depressed on their birthdays.   To those women, I say with all due respect and sisterly affection, buck up!  It’s not about you or how old you are or how you consider yourself exempt from trite Southern labels.  It’s about respect, so deal with it.  We will not sacrifice our manners or relegate hundreds of years of tradition to the dustbin of history to appease your vanity.

Many years ago, I had a substitute teacher who scolded me for calling her ma’am.  Visibly, displeased, she demanded, “Would you please stop calling me ‘ma’am’?  I don’t like it and consider it rude and offensive.”  Sheepishly, I looked down to the ground and whispered, “Yes, ma’am.”


In Defense of Plus Size Models Sunday, Aug 19 2012 

Me as a super-sized toddler.

I’m nearly 6 feet tall and shall we say “big-boned.” Always have been.  I was pushing 5’10 by age 15 and towered over nearly everyone at school.  One of my sisters who was petite and cute as a button used to jokingly refer to me as “Big Mare” growing up, which she later shortened to the universal acronym for going #2 – “B.M.”  That did wonders for my fragile self-esteem.  Anyway, I digress.  Despite my considerable heft, I was a reasonably attractive lass who was crazy tall and had a great head of hair and big blue eyes so all was not lost.

On several occasions during my youth, well-meaning old ladies from church or around town would stop me and say, “Marilyn, bless your heart, you should be a model.”  As my head swelled and I prepared to feign my humble gratitude, the old bats would usually add something like “really, honey, you’d make a great PLUS SIZE model.”   Feigned humility quickly devolved into righteous indignation.  “What?!  Moi, a plus size model?  Bite me, ladiesYou must have cataracts.”  I mean, seriously, I didn’t even wear plus size clothes.  I was like a 12 and well within the weight range for my height, thank you very much.  Plus size.  Blech.

Twenty-five years and 50 pounds later, I have developed a new admiration for plus size models.  As I passed 30 in the rear-view mirror and settled into my cush-but-sedentary legal career, my big bones just kept on getting bigger.  In fact, they got downright huge when I had my daughter at the not-so-tender age of 36.  Unlike other women, who start out as a size 6 and have to work their way into the “Women’s” department, it was just a hop, skip, and a jump for this Amazon to go from shopping in the “normal” section into the land of elasticized waistbands and freedom fabric.  To this day, when I’m asked to help one of the fantasically rotund shoppers grab an item off the top shelf or find myself grabbing for the same sweater as a Richard Simmons devotee driving a Little Rascal, I say to myself, “But I’m so tall.  I shouldn’t be here.”

Plus size in Paris, on my honeymoon. May 2012.

Despite my chagrin over my expanding bones, I am now a bona fide plus size woman.  It may have taken a couple decades, a baby, and a large arse to gain perspective, but I realize that being compared to a plus size model is a major compliment.  Not only are plus size models beautiful, I think they put their Skeletor counterparts to shame.   Don’t believe me?  Let me present my case using some examples from my favorite clothing store, Talbots.

Exhibit A:



Exhibit B:






In case you didn’t notice, these models are wearing the exact same outfits.  In what universe do the emaciated “regular” models look better than the plus-size models?  Different maybe, but better?  Also, where does Talbots get off labeling concentration-camp-chic as “regular” and calling these perfectly fit models (who I can assure you don’t even shop in the Women’s department) “plus size.”  What a crock.  I rest my case.

I wish I could go back in time, retract the snarky responses and dirty looks I gave to those sweet old ladies, and just accept their compliment.  Me?  A plus size model?  I wish!

Fine Dining in Paris, or How I Dropped a Grand on Dinner Wednesday, Jul 18 2012 

Recently, while on our honeymoon in Paris, my husband Michael and I dropped over a grand on dinner … not just any dinner, mind you, but dinner at Les Ambassadeurs Restaurant in the famed Hotel de Crillon.  Mere words cannot describe the evening we had in the finest restaurant in all of France, but I will seek to do it justice here. We took a black Mercedes taxi to the hotel (of course, all the taxis in Paris are black Mercedes but it was still tres chic), and we looked like dignitaries in our finest formal wear and my glittering (costume) jewels that I wore for our wedding.   The beautiful dining room overlooked the Place de la Concorde which was incredible for a French history buff like me.  I could just imagine poor Louis XVI trembling on the scaffold before Monsieur Guillotine as I gazed outside the gilded arched windows.
  Dining room

There were four or five different servers assigned to wait on us during our dinner, and we were pleased to personally meet the talented (and young!) chef and sommelier. We began our culinary marathon with a glass of pink champagne and decided to throw caution (and cash) to the wind and “go for it” with the six-course tasting menu.  Each course was paired with a fine wine, and it took nearly four hours to complete our meal. We had lobster, asparagus, duck liver, chicken glazed with morel mushrooms, a panoply of stinky cheeses that my husband adored, a praline dessert with chocolate mousse and banana and lime ice cream, and because our wonderful server knew we were on our honeymoon, an extra course of strawberry sorbet served on a plate that read “Congratulations” in chocolate sauce.


A delightful surprise from our server Nicolas.


I was droning on and on about the historical significance of the venue and happened to mention my minor obsession with Marie Antoinette — et voila! — our server arranged for us to be escorted to the Salon de Marie Antoinette toute de suite.  The salon was a magnificent ballroom with a balcony overlooking the illuminated and sparkling Tour Eiffel, the American Embassy, and all of Paris. The adjacent ballroom was teeming with cameras, lights, and shoes galore for the next day’s photo-shoot with the mannequins (or what we call models). We left the Hotel de Crillon much poorer but thrilled over the once-in-a-lifetime dining experience we just shared.  Thankfully, the cash our friends and family members generously provided as wedding gifts tempered our sticker-shock upon receiving the 900 Euro l’addition.  We had a hearty laugh while perusing the bill back in our hotel room and noting the 75 Euro-per-glass wine we had consumed like water.   Alas, when in France, …



Movie Review of “Rock of Ages” Wednesday, Jul 18 2012 

Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx

DISCLAIMER: If you were not a teenager or young adult in the mid- to late-1980s, or if you were too busy listening to Alabama and Hank Jr. to appreciate Whitesnake and Def Leppard and Guns ‘N Roses, this movie is not for you. If, however, you are like me and had “Whitesnake Rules” inscribed on all your notebooks (surrounded by lightning bolts or skulls), you will LOVE Rock of Ages.

I saw the live musical last year and I was not disappointed with the movie. Despite all the negative reviews I read before seeing the film, I couldn’t help but have a head-bangin’ good time.  My husband Michael and I laughed out loud throughout, sang along, and seriously rocked out (and made out to the 80s ballads).  Although I have not been a big fan of Tom Cruise in recent years, HE OWNED THE ROLE OF STACEE JAXX. He really put his all into this character, and I thought he was incredible. It was like he was channeling Axel Rose and every other washed up rocker from that era. His voice, mannerisms, and stage presence were bitchin’, and his rendition of Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” was totally wicked.  So, in conclusion, if you are a proud (or closet) hair band enthusiast and recall the 1980s as fondly as I do, RUN don’t walk to your nearest theatre and see Rock of Ages.

Rock on.

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