Don't ever call me an old lady

19:20, Apr 10 2012

When does a girl become a woman, and when is a woman a lady?

The other day a female person, who I'd estimate to be in her early twenties, knocked on my door. She was lovely. She was doing the rounds, trying to sign people up to Greenpeace.

It was stinking hot so I gave her a Juicie, in what I thought was a buddy-buddy way, as opposed to a mother-to-child way. And! A minute later, when she was walking down the driveway, I heard her tell her friend, "The lady gave it to me".

Lady? LADY? When did I become a lady? Aren't ladies old, or posh, or intimidating? I certainly wasn't looking posh, unless you consider flannel PJ pants and an old T-shirt fancy. And I was not in any way intimidating - I would say apologetic, if anything. So it must be my age. Am I, at 29, officially old enough to be judged a lady?

I'm intrigued about this now, about the names we give each other and why, and whether it matters.

It obviously works both ways - a minute ago, at the start of this blog, I almost called the Greenpeace collector a "girl". Because she was younger than me, I guess. But not that young. Definitely, in the Britney Spears sense, a woman.
I wonder, would she mind if she'd heard me call her a girl?

What about "woman"? To me that's the language of carefully neutral news stories, or police press releases. On the other hand, when normal people use it, it implies a less feminine female than "lady", or at least a less gentle - and genteel - one. In Britney Spears World the line between 'girl' and 'woman' is crossed (from what I can work out) when a girl has sex for the first time.

It all depends on who's doing the labelling, obviously. I think I would rather my friends considered me a woman, but called me "girl" (if they had to call me anything) so we'd all feel younger and cooler. And if anyone must call me "lady", I'd rather it's a three year-old collecting for Halloween, not a 23 year-old collecting for Greenpeace.

What are your rules for the line between "girl" and "woman", and "woman" and "lady"? Have you been called a lady? Would you like to be?