The Continuing Adventures of Mildred and Suzette…
By Katie B. Goode
Don’t Call Me M’am
“Good afternoon, m’am,” Eduardo said, proud of his new English greeting.
“Eduardo!” Mildred said, desperately trying to hide the twitch at the corners of her mouth with a smile.
“Su ingles es muy bien,” said Suzette.
“Except for the m’am part,” Mildred said under her breath.
“Qué?” said Eduardo, serving his lunch ladies their usual, margaritas on the rocks.
“No, no. Su ingles es perfecto,” Suzette assured her favorite waiter while admiring his proud stance that reminded her of a toreador ready for the ring.
Eduardo grinned and left to try his English on a new pair of lunch ladies coming up the restaurant steps. “Did you see it?” Mildred asked.
“The hackles on my neck rise.”
“You mean because of… it?”
“You’d think you’d be used to it by now.”
Mildred gazed at the clouds over the lake, as dark as her painful reverie. “I can still remember the first time. I was at the grocery store and the bag boy said…” She paused and shuddered at the memory. “Paper or plastic… m’am.”
Suzette gasped, recalling her own trauma at hearing the “m” word for the first time.
Mildred gripped her glass. “My head spun to the rear, hoping there was an old woman lurking behind me who could take the hit. Really old.”
“No one. I stared at the kid for a moment, wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt. ‘M’am?’ he repeated. You talking to me? You talking to me? I thought, mentally lifting the kid up against the store window by his collar.”
“Some might say the kid was being respectful.”
Mildred hung her head. “I still have nightmares about that day.”
“I know,” said Suzette, slumping in her wraparound chair. “I was depressed for a week the first time it happened to me.”
“When you think about it, being called ‘m’am’ was just the first barb in that briar patch of aging.”
“That morass of lost youth.”
“That abyss of decay.”
“Yeah. The first time the world told us we were getting old.”
They clicked their glasses, saluting their timeless friendship. “It’s not that I mind aging,” Suzette said, flipping back her bottle red curls. “I just don’t like being treated like I’m prehistoric.”
Mildred watched teens skipping rocks over the calm lake. “Have you noticed how young people look at you now?”
“Or rather, don’t. It’s more like they look through you. You used to be an individual. Now you’re just generic.”
“A generic geriatric granny. Hardly worth a glance.”
“Just sucking up air.”
“Exactly.” Mildred leaned forward, intense. “Remember that lump I had removed last summer?”
Suzette nodded, playing with the salt on the rim of her margarita glass.
“Well, my son visited me in the hospital — and the doctor came in and addressed him instead of me. Hel-looo Doctor, I wanted to say. I’m here, I’m lucid, and look — I’m not even drooling.”
“Yes! But it’s not just doctors. I can remember when I was still at the top of my game, career-wise, and the young fillies started giving me the look.”
“You mean the ‘move over, gramcracker, it’s my turn now’ look?”
“Exactly.” Suzette sipped her drink and looked at the line forming at the salad bar, worrying that her favorite topping, betabels, might be gone by the time they got there.
“But you know, they’re right.” Mildred sighed, watching a handsome couple on horseback trot along the shoreline, young and carefree. “Although we have a few good races left, it’s their time to tear up the track.”
“It’s the way of things,” Suzette nodded, feeling wise and philosophical.
“Yep,” Mildred agreed. “Getting close to pasture time.”
“Actually, that tall grass is looking pretty good about now,” Suzette said, her stomach growling. “And speaking of grass, that salad bar’s looking pretty good, too…”
Mildred sighed as she rose. “Grass or greens, it’s all the same. You can send me to the farm, you can put me out to pasture, just please, please… don’t call me m’am.”