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Transitioning to Adulthood



When I was a little girl, I couldn’t wait to grow older. I thought that being a woman would afford me the freedom that I desired. I couldn’t wait to start making my own decisions and doing things for myself instead of having to answer to my parents for everything. Now that I’m a 31-year-old woman, I often forget that I’m not the little girl I used to be… isn’t that strange? I’m older, with a job, a fuller life, and responsibilities, and now many see me and conclude that a woman such as myself should be addressed as “ma” out of respect! Oddly, this is one aspect of growing up that I don’t appreciate.

I had always thought that my mum and her friends were the ones deserving of the “ma”. I never really longed to own that title. Yes, I’m older and life is better for me with each passing year, thank God. I’m more mature, more in control, and most of all, I’m glad to be alive. So with all of this, I wonder why it bothers me when people refer to me as “ma”. As a happy thirty-something year old, who enjoys every other bit of growing up, why does this particular issue irk me?

The first time someone referred to me as “ma”, I was upset. Then this continued to happen over and over and I really wondered why? Am I really that old? Do I look old? Is it because of my designation at work? Could it be because of what I was wearing at that particular time – maybe if I was wearing my hot pair of jeans they’d realize I was 31 and not 60!

When I couldn’t stop people from crowning me with this “horrid” title, I would refer to them as “sir” or “ma” in return. To me, that was my silent way of getting them back– maybe in this instance, one bad turn deserved another!

However, on one Sunday afternoon, I had had enough of this horrible title. After Sunday service, I spotted the cute guy who had said hello to me a few times in church. I’d been wondering when he’d work up enough nerves to start an actual conversation when all of a sudden he walked up to me and said “sorry ma, I see you’ll be a little inconvenienced because someone has parked his car right across yours”. I almost jumped out of my skin! I was so shocked that I couldn’t even pay him back by saying something as silly and vindictive as “thank you for the information sir”! I went home really worried and confused – why was this happening? Was I overreacting or was there something on my face that made me look much older than I really was? I could have sworn that this guy was either my age or even older!

I spoke to my cousin about this and he said that people refer to him as “sir” all the time and it isn’t a big deal. Well, he is a man so how can he possibly understand what I am going through. But when I related the same tale to a female friend of mine, she referred to the issue as trivial!

So please my dear readers, is this issue really trivial? I know Nigerians are big on respect but I honestly, do not want or deserve this “ma” title! I can’t help but picture an aged / bent over woman with grey hair, no teeth, and a walking stick each time people call me “ma”.

I’ll be honest, I have spent time reflecting on the issue and even though it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to, I still would like to know what you all think. I realize that I am no longer 13 but a woman who people look up to and perhaps call me “ma” out of respect. However, I can’t help but begrudge nature, a little, for signing me up for the “ma” title without my permission!

Growing up and growing old is inevitable. The only other way to be remembered as a little girl (or boy) always is when one dies before growing up and God forbid that happens. Since we are alive and this can’t be stopped, lets all embrace it – “ma” or not! Being an adult is beautiful!

However, if your like me and the “ma” thing still gets to you sometimes, the next time someone makes you feel older than you really are by referring to you as “ma”, call them “ma” or “sir” (as applicable) in return. You’ll get a kick out of it, I promise.

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  1. Tobechi_daniel

    May 12, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Yes Ma:)

  2. Jayla

    May 12, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Hehehehehe i banned my little cousins, nephews & nieces from calling me ‘Aunty’, i ma happy with my name as it is. But you can’t really stop strangers from referring to you as ma or madam.

    I have come to accept it and don’t pay attention to titles anymore. In my mind i’ll always be sweet 16.

    • MsLuffa

      May 12, 2011 at 3:21 pm

      oh my goodness Jayla, i can live with the Aunty palava – some kids need boundaries, if they don’t call you aunty, they’ll enter your nose and come out through your ears.
      I’m trying very hard to enforce the ban on my church folks from calling me Mama xxx! As in seriously! what’s wrong with just calling name. if it’s not Mama xxx, it’s xxx’ Mum, and worst of all Iyawo! which is 10 times more ridiculous seeing as i’ve been married years.

  3. MsLuffa

    May 12, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    i feel you on this one. I felt the same way shortly after i got married. immediately people know you are a Mrs, they think to call you madam or Ma – annoying!
    Having said that though, there’s certain places you’d go where the staff there are told to call all female clients/cutomers ma.
    it seems like you, life just reminded me that i’m not a kid anymore.

    The day the penny dropped was when a teenager at church told me she wants to be like me when she grows up…*shock/horror* when did i grow up myself!!!

    • iREAD

      May 13, 2011 at 11:56 am

      Hahahahahahahahaha @ teenager saying when she grows up. That’d have horrified me too @ 29.

  4. Tiki

    May 12, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    First please?*looking around fearfully*

  5. Obiageli

    May 12, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Lolllllll……I totally identify with this, I thought I was the only one this was getting to..being part of the 30 something age group and all..I will take your advice but seriously have come to the conclusion of thinking of “more important” things when such remarks get to me…Thanks for sharing..:-)

  6. asabe

    May 12, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    I’ll surely follow dis advice

  7. BonMee

    May 12, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    I think u they refer to you as ma………..only as respect(which i think u should appreciate). But if you dont want that respect extended to u, simply tell whoever refers to you as “ma” dont you dont fancy it. With time pple will learn not to refer to you as “ma”. But it doesnt take a day…………it takes time.

  8. fokasibe

    May 12, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    I think it trivial….Its a Nigerian thing really….You can see an old man of about 50 who drives a young girl of about 25….he calls her Ma even if he may very well be her father!! It”s all in words….I’m not saying I like it though…I don’t wanna say my age but people started calling me Ma sinceeeeee………I also revenge by calling the Sir or Ma back…Take that!!

    • fokasibe

      May 12, 2011 at 3:19 pm

      calling them**

  9. ugo

    May 12, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    well, i’m in my twenties and people refer to me as lady. when this started happening, it was a bit in my face like wooow, wait a minute, where did that come from? [fela] i be girl o, i no be lady, i be girl o[/fela]… lol. i started wondering if i had outgrown my youthful looks and had indeed started to look like a grown lady/woman. and now, as odd as it sounds, i still feel rather uncomfortable if someone referred to me as a lady. ideally, i want to be referred to as a girl. but in truth, if i was referred to as a girl by a stranger, i might feel a little insulted. *sigh* the contradictions of it all.

    but life is a journey, these are all things we have to experience. don’t let the “ma” thing get to you. just see it as a rite of passage =)

  10. adaeze

    May 12, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    as farr as am concerned there’s nothing wrong with it
    even though i prefer the american ‘ ‘maa’m

  11. Fifi

    May 12, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    *smiles* it still gets 2 me sha…especially when am just in my early 20’s.but my mum said its my tall,big boned frame that gives them the impression u “there”(age,status,accomplishments) and am like,i havnt even started yet… tk 2 serious weight loss regime and now am luking sick and still get the ” ma” how wont it get 2me?hearing from a fellow bella naija reader,will just let the matter rest,abi???
    They will still call you Ma,for some reason best know 2 them.

  12. amethyst

    May 12, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    looool i dunno what the iss is with women and age o! but your not alone. im 24,not too long ago when i was about 19/20 i had this friend who was a year older,when ever she talked bout me and some other people my age she went”they are your mates” hmm and just around the time i was turning 23 she changes her choice of words and starts saying”our mates” i couldn’t stop laughing.

  13. ugo

    May 12, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    lol… it’s funny, but it kinda makes sense. the older we get, the blurrier the age distinctions become.
    a one year old baby and a three year old baby. 2 years difference they are VERY different in every sense of the word. one’s visibly much bigger than the other. one’s running, the other’s crawling. one’s talking, the other is just uttering sounds. one barely knows who he is, the other already goes to school and has a social circle of friends, acquintances and relatives. fast-forward 20 years and they’d look just alike. depending on genes sef, the younger one just might even look older

  14. ugo

    May 12, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    ps: last post was in ref. to amethyst 3:35pm

  15. Fifi

    May 12, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    @ amethyst,she wants 2 believe she aint the only one adding a year every year….lol
    we dey alrite,as long as the guys we attracted 2 like us rite back or or bf tell us how special we are or or husbands says theycouldnt have prayed for a better companion,lets, let it rest…..

  16. Gosh!

    May 12, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    I’m sorry Ejire,but what size are you? Maybe you’re on the big size which makes it easier for people to assume you’re a ‘Ma’…. With due respect to every big lady reading this…

    • gorgeous

      May 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm

      My thoughts exactly… I think when you are a bit more robust looking, Nigerian’s equate it with age.

  17. bluebubbles

    May 12, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Ejire ur own case is not as bad as mine.I’m 24 with two kids and each time I go out and im referred to as ma it rily amazes me especially from the single girls in my church that are almost ten years older than me even when i want to introduce myself I dont introduce as Mrs xxx because I dont want it to be like im rubbing the marriage thing in their face so I just use my first name like saying my name is Folake but then they reply”nice meeting you ma” and it rily baffles me if they r just doing it to hurt me or its out of respect.

    • obi-talk

      May 12, 2011 at 4:50 pm

      dear bluebubbles,
      the single girls in your church are somewhat confused, I would never address someone who was 24 as ‘Ma’. it doesn’t make sense to me

    • Turn Turn Turner

      May 18, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      What is it? Did they see an age-ometer on her forehead that indicates she’s 24?

      Abeg jo…

  18. bluebubbles

    May 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    And bellanaija when are you going to give ur readers a chance to contribute to BN prose?I’d love to have one of my write ups here.

  19. Alero

    May 12, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    lil wonder my boss hits right back @ me when i refer to him as “sir”. 4 me its a sign of my previous place of work, it was mandatory to address every1 by their 1st name irrespective of their position.It was really a difficult thing to do.lovely write up!

  20. obi-talk

    May 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    ‘why was this happening? Was I overreacting or was there something on my face that made me look much older than I really was?’


    Maybe you should consider botox. LOL… seriously that statement is crazzy funny!

  21. DIVAZU

    May 12, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    omg!!!!…the ma thing gets to me so much…upsets me actually!!!!….I will try ignoring it but when i cant i will retort the ma/sir thing too!!!!…LOL…

  22. partyrider

    May 12, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    first of all,i think ladies carry this age thing on their head too much,whatever the situation might be..
    however i think its an african thing,or in this context a nigerian nigeria when you cant call someone by their name,u just “dash” them uncle,aunty,ma or sir and most importantly i see it as a sign of respect..
    and for ladies,once u get married,whether u like it or not u are going to be referred to as Mrs ,Ma or madam;i would like to call it a “natural thing”(nigerian)dat goes with the wedding band. apart from close family and friends,theres this respect that comes knowing u are a “mrs” and so people stick to that prefix
    my cousins that are much older than me i call them “aunty” cos i cant call them by their names..
    in a nutshell,rather than think its a way of mocking u or watever,i think its all about respect..cos wen u decide to allow a small child call u by ur name,the day the child will disrespect you,u wont believe urself.

  23. Ready

    May 12, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    I was talking to this guy from Sudan some months ago & he said, “after this degree, you’re gonna get married, right?” Omo, see mini-panic attack. I went, “whichever guy wants to marry me must be a pedophile, I’m so young.” I just turned 22…not so young, abi? He basically looked at me like, “you think say you be small girl, have you looked at yourself lately?” So, I don’t know when I became a lady o, but I know I’m not a girl, so in the meantime, I call myself young lady.
    As for the ma thing, my mom has a school in a not-so-hot area. You know those schools where the teachers train the children to greet, “Good morning ma, we are happy to see you…” Yeah…every time I go in there, they wanna do that. I know it’s necessary for them to show respect, but calling me ‘ma’ in a sing-song voice too? Mba. I don’t hate it or think it makes me sound old, it’s just unnerving for my younger cousins/family friends to kneel down or curtesy every time they see me. Just a few years ago, that was me doing that. Weird…

  24. rosebud

    May 12, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    i like it. i’m small so i like it when people refer to me as ma especially at really i dont see the big deal..if they call u ma calle them ma or sir back…

  25. Miss ATL

    May 12, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    OMG!!!! I feel you! I hate being called “aunty”! If you’re not 10 or below, you have NO business calling me “aunty.” I almost cursed out my cousin whose 4 years younger for calling me “aunty.”

    “Sister” is a slightly less-annoying one too.

  26. dami O

    May 12, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    i can relate to this “Ma” thing i had a friend who is in his 30s and kept on addressing me as Ma and yet he is old enough to be my uncle! even mum too constantly reminds me that am no more a ‘girl’ and yet am just 24 i haven’t even started living my life to the fullest jare lol

  27. diva23

    May 12, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    hate it when am called aunty talk more of ma

  28. Sandra

    May 12, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    Loved this write-up! I feel your pain.

  29. Iceprincess

    May 13, 2011 at 8:43 am

    ..Na wa O! Person wey get head no get cap an vice versa…
    To think i actually get excited when sum1 addresses me with Ma! 30 and i actually look 18..Go figure!…Wareva!!!

  30. Africhic

    May 13, 2011 at 10:38 am

    I totally relate to this i am 35 and it upsets me, but its not as upsetting as being addressed as Mrs. I am single so that hurts like hell.

  31. ify

    May 13, 2011 at 11:11 am

    I share your concerns. I am in my 20’s, and i am being called “MA” even by men and women twice my age. They have been calling me “MA” even as early as 20 years old when i graduated from college. I thought it was a naija thing,(even though they do it the most), but even here in america, men and women way older than me refer to me as
    “MA’AM”. Some times i have even gone as far as asking some people here in the states, why they are referring to me as,”MA’AM” when we both can clearly see you are older than me by more than 10 years, and in some cases old enough to be my mother or father? The response i get is: ” it is because of the way you carry your self and the way you speak”. I am not fat or robust so it can’t be because of my size as some people’s posted comments on this website in response to this article have stated. To the few people that call me young lady,i am usually like:”thank you for referring to me as a young lady”.
    The one that makes me crazy is when naija guys call me,”MADAM”; i am usually like you are older than me why are you calling me “MADAM”? I will start calling u PAPA or UNCLE from henceforth is what i say to them.

  32. Dee Mist

    May 13, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Hilarious….thought i was the only one bothered by this ‘ma’ thing.

  33. Karimah

    May 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    So on point… I simply refer to them as sir or ma too after all I aint yet even 24 and you are calling me ma… Is it because I drive a car or live in Lekki??? You call me ma, you get a sir or ma in return. IT really ticks me off

  34. RMG

    May 13, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    It’s a sign of respect. It’s either got to do with your dress sense (if you tend to be in loose fitting clothes or native attires, you’re a “ma” by default) size,(plus size men and women get a LOT of respect in this part of the world, ask my 33year old size 22 cousin, she’s even referred to as mummy) or the kind of job you do. I’m 27 ,very slim and have been working for quite sometime ;for the past few years till now, i’m referred to as “MA” or “aunty”, I’ve gotten used to it. Cheer up girl 🙂

  35. obi

    May 13, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    funny how we ladies are bothered by this ma issue. i live in abuja and its like a culture thing cos since i came here for youthservice about 6 years ago, up till now, it ma and madam all d way and i still feel uncomfortable about it especially when im out with my guy, it makes me wonder if i look soo old. in d east, u hardly here any body being referred to as ma or madam even the old ladies cos everybody prefers auntie or sister. ejire, i feel u

  36. emi

    May 13, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    my neighbour does this thing to me i noticed that it started immediately after my younger sister’s intro. i ignored her but after a while the thing began to grate on my nerves i would greet her and this woman would yell at the top of her voice ekaaro ma!!!!! so i just stopped greeting her for a while until my church mind thought otherwise . At work its the same thing. At my former job it was first names so there were no mas and sirs but at my current job omo na so so sir ma some even go as far as calling me mummy wa , some call me head mistress the thing don tire me im 31 and a size 14 ..ok ok 16 but no be say i fat like that now. Right now i just take it all in stride if you call me ma i may call you sir or i may not it depends on how im feeling at the moment… one side of my head thinks they mean well while the other side feels that im being mocked… but you know what na dem saka o

  37. Lil miss sunshine

    May 16, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    i think as women we take this age thing too serious, been called ma doesnt mean u r hitting menopause, am 26 years old but clients and members of staff refer to me as ma’am , it is a sign of respect and very professional. Outside the office its another thing, I look very young for my age sometimes i get cat calls from teenage boys, am tempted to yell at them and say “am old enough to be your aunty”!. Either ways dont take it personal.

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