The gent in the formal suit, called a young girl towards us and said. "Ma'am would you please be so kind as to follow the usher, she will escort you" I stopped myself turning around and looking for this Ma'am. When did I become a Ma'am. I can't see any outward changes that have made me into a Ma'am. The reason I knew he was talking to me, is that it was only, him, Thandi (the usher) and I, alone in a long corridor. Thandi continues the litany of Ma'aminng me down what seems an endless corridor. She passes me onto another gent, that Ma'am's me just as much.
I get to my seat and breathe a sigh of relief as two eighteen year olds say howzit. Somebody shuffling down the small space between rows stops by me and says "Ma'am sorry you are in the row in front of this one." Without blinking an eye I step over the seat, ala cinema style. Now lets see them carry on calling me Ma'am. A Ma'am wouldn't do that.
This is the second notable time in the last two days that I have been addressed as Ma'am. It surprises me, it will always surprise me. In my mind, I am and will always be Kim. Now I have outside influences telling me, I have to add another aspect to my view of myself. The camera's are going crazy and I automatically shy away, look away. I'm not very camera friendly. I watch how the journo's are nearly up against a tall man, who graciously smiles and lets them continue about their work. Snapping pictures and flashing bright lights at him and his partner.
The one woman journo, I've seen her at other functions, she has blonde hair falling into her face and she looks like she could rust iron with a look. She's scary and she is nearly inhaling the air he exhales while she takes pictures from the same angle. Picture/Flash - Picture/Flash - Picture/Flash. I sit quietly 2 rows behind him. I made the mistake of turning and laughing with the man sitting next to me. Picture/Flash a different journo sees me looking at him, after he had picture/flashed me. He shrugs an apology, he can probably see the shock on my face.
First Ma'am and now picture/flash. I don't understand this world, I don't know why they want me here. I am still wearing my hiking boots and ole black coat. I didn't dress up or do my hair. In the front row a lady turns around and scans the seats, she smiles and nods at various people, she smiles at me and her eyes crinkle at the corners. I like her eyes. A man with salt and pepper hair, he nods at me and I wave back.
I feel I have become a Ma'am because of the company I keep. This was my first thought. However when the taxi driver,last week, said to me "Welcome to South Africa, look that is Table Mountain" I nearly fell out of the taxi. I replied "Naai man, tjy's mal, ek het daai blerrie berg al so baie geklim."
I am still the same, but something has changed. Not my clothes, definitely not my hair, not my speech. Maybe it's accepted responsibility. Maybe they call me Ma'am for the same reason I call woman I respect Ma'am. Maybe they do it to be polite. Maybe the texi(sic)driver didn't know, this is my home town. Hopefully I can get used to being a Ma'am. Or maybe in this this new world, they want me around, so that they don't forget that they are not always Sirs and Ma'ams either. Maybe, just maybe looking at eyes that look back, will make a difference.
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