I look young for my age. I'm not boasting (although I might be if this trait sticks around for another ten/twenty years or so!), it's just a fact. I used to hate it and think it was embarrassing, and I still get annoyed when people make assumptions about my ability/knowledge/understanding/experience based on the fact that I often get confused for five or tens years younger than I am. But frankly, it is a good thing, and one to embrace while I can.
So imagine my intrigue when around the time of the student demonstrations in London I was Christmas shopping, and stopped a policeman to ask for directions around a blockade. I got "Now is not the time, Ma'am" from him, and a hasty "sorry madam, we're just a bit busy" from his colleague.
Then a little while ago at the shop a man came in looking for a gift and said "excuse me madam, but could you suggest something for my wife?"
This evening, I was sitting on the train, deep in thought as I battled to count the stitches on the scrumpled up graph paper of my scarf pattern, and the conductor came through the carriage checking tickets. Upon presenting mine the conductor responded with a very serious, "thank you ma'am" accompanied by a very serious nod.
Now, really, I know I've recently had a birthday, and okay, I haven't been getting as much sleep as I usually would (thank goodness the Ashes are done and dusted, as it's positively rude to hold cricket matches in a time zone that means I have to stay up all night to watch them!), so those dark circles around my eyes are a bit darker than usual, but is it really time for me to embrace "madam" and "Ma'am"?! I was hoping I had a good few years to go!