Hello Ma’am

SGC of the wonderful Submissive Guy Comics tumblr recently posted this really sad comic.

He knew things were really ending when she used her real name to sign off email.
He knew things were really ending when she used her real name to sign off email.

When I saw it, it brought back a rush of memories. My memories are usually packed away and mostly inaccessible without concerted effort, but they are sitting close to the surface for me at the moment because of my anniversary post. When I was thinking about what to write, I looked back on old posts and personal writings to find something that seemed a fitting topic, so quite a few things that are normally hidden away are floating right there in my peripheral vision.

When I am in a relationship, I have my submissive call me ‘Ma’am’. It seems a little odd at first, but it soon becomes a habit, a sweetness, a petting. In day to day life, really, we don’t use people’s names so much, so it’s not something that causes a problem in public, and it’s something that signals so much between us. His saying ‘Hello Ma’am’ and ‘Yes, Ma’am’ becomes ‘normal’ for us, and each time I hear it, I *feel* it. It hums between us like something tangible.

When snowflake and I broke up, it was not simple, as these things often aren’t. We were talking, trying to sort things out. Without going into all the detail of what happened, one thing sticks out clearly for me: The moment that he logged into IM in the morning as he always did and then this appeared on my screen:

“Hello MyFirstName

The impact of it was immediate and terrible: A huge thump right into my solar plexus, a terrible sinking horribleness, a dread… all of those things.

The power of it was shocking. It signalled the end more clearly than anything we had said to each other up to that point.

By contrast, my boy continued to address me as ‘Ma’am’ even after we broke up, and even when he wrote me the email confirming that it was truly over he started it with “Hello Ma’am”. I knew, really, that I should tell him to stop doing it, and he would have, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask that of him, and I gleaned some small comfort from the fact that he continued to address me that way.

Words have power, and it still sometimes surprises me just how much.

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  1. I remember someone wise and gorgeous once telling me that a world in which words had no power is not a world which she wished to inhabit. *smiles*
    Words have intense power and often people do forget this which can be really good but it can also be dangerous. I have learned to try and choose my words more wisely because of it.

    Does it make you feel awkward when an ex does call you Ma’am?
    Often the person I am speaking too dictates the words that I choose to use and the meaning which lies behind them. I don’t call everyone Ma’am. I call only those who I do respect or have gained my respect Ma’am unless it’s just a random person on the street I am addressing.

    Words mean a great deal to me; sometimes more than I care to admit. Words can make you feel vulnerable as well. Anyways, random thoughts about your post but I will quit babbling now.


    1. I agree with you that words having power means that they can have as many negative impacts as positive.

      “Does it make you feel awkward when an ex does call you Ma’am?”

      He’s the only one who has done it, and no, it didn’t. I think of it as a form of petting. I can imagine circumstances in which it might be awkward, but I’ve not struck them.


  2. SGC is great. And “ma’am” feels so natural and so sincere to me. It feels the way kneeling in front of a partner and resting my head on her hip (smiling the entire time) does. It’s the same feeling I get from being called “good boy.”

  3. At some point, I still have to talk to, have a discussion with Tavi. To see what we are and will be as people outside of a relationship with eachother. (I’m not looking forward to it.)

    I know I won’t be able to call her Ma’am, for several reasons, (not all of them sad.) But I am worried that it will hurt when I address her by her first name.

    1. I’d be surprised if it didn’t hurt, I think that’s natural.

      I’ve found in the past that it just kind of happened without discussion at the point where the address feels ‘wrong’ and awkward (too intimate, too sweet etc), so I can’t recall ever actually HAVING a discussion about it.

      I hope it goes (went?) well for you both.


  4. Once again, you’re in my head! While many (most?) other female dominants I know insist on being called Miss, I’ve always insisted on Ma’am. It denotes respect and, as you noted, helps underline/reinforce the dynamic between submissive and dominant. (Besides, when I was growing up, Miss referred to a young, unmarried girl – bah!)

    But yeah….the first time a former sub calls you by your given name feels so WRONG…almost obscene. I have an almost reflexive twitch and have to consciously stop myself from saying, “how DARE you!”….then I remember why he “dares” and it’s that instant sinking pit in my stomach. Ugh.

    Words have tremendous power. When they’re imbued with even more symbolism and reinforced by a power dynamic such as exists in a D/s relationship, they become even more powerful.

    I don’t know SGC’s alter ego, but when I saw that comic, I just wanted to give him a hug. As usual, he just nailed it.

    1. “…then I remember why he “dares” and it’s that instant sinking pit in my stomach. Ugh.”

      Ugh indeed. It pretty much shouts “I’m done here”. Horrible.

      Theoretically it would work the other way with me no longer using a favourite pet name for him, but it doesn’t because I tend to use that ‘whenever I want’.

      The fact that he uses Ma’am as affectionate address AND as acknowledgement of the dynamic AND because I told him to… yeah. Kill them all dead with just a few syllables.


  5. I also prefer “Ma’am”. I know several steps of a relationship just based on this one simple word, Ma’am. In the beginning I don’t care if I’m addressed by Faith or Miss. Other terms of endearment is fine if we are dating. I know it has become more serious for me when he would venture to call me Ma’am or I indicate that I like that term.

    Likewise, when things are ending the Ma’am ends as well. It goes straight to my hear when I realize to him, I’m not “Ma’am” anymore…I’m just Faith….

  6. I usually like “Oh Mighty One” as a term of address however you do tend to get stared at a bit in public. But it is hard and yes the emotions run the whole gamut from Eh? to furious when you realise you are no longer Domina but plain old so and so

  7. “Words have power, and it still sometimes surprises me just how much.”

    I think that words take on a special power once they have been woven into the fabric of a relationship. They can become like a secret language where even seemingly inconsequential words or phrases take on an importance that can only be understood within the confines of that particular relationship.

    They are touchstones that can be used to monitor the integrity of the dynamic and when changed, or withheld. They can either be harbingers of an upset in the balance or worse, a sure sign that the relationship has ended.

    Knowing how powerful words can be, I have found, through hard experience, it pays to choose them carefully.

    1. Such a great comment, thank you for it.

      “I think that words take on a special power once they have been woven into the fabric of a relationship.”

      *smile* Exactly, they mean something, communicate something, and that’s not about the word itself.


  8. My relationship with my boy is such that he often uses my first name but I’ll admit to loving the moments he calls me ‘Mistress’. It makes me feel so special to him.
    I hate the moment when a relationship is over and you realise you can’t use your pet name for them. That’s a wrenching feeling of loss right there too.

    1. *nod nod* Absolutely on the reverse thing.

      And when it’s raw and you are both feeling bad and you want to pet him a little, THAT’S the go-to language for giving comfort. And you can’t/shouldn’t :(.


  9. Been there with a sub. It is gut and heart wrenching. You put your heart into words, both addressing them and being adddressed. The words *mean* something to me. Hearing an ex not use those words, or at the end of the relationship, not getting the capped or honorifics. Its shocking and sad. I’ve moved on with some to be friends, you adjust, but at first its so ….tearing.

    1. *nod* Yes to all of that.

      I think the word ‘shock’ is right for the first time it happens. A ‘reeling backwards, been kicked in the chest, can’t fucking breathe’ kind of shock. BAM!


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