Recently, our local newspaper featured a letter to the editor from a reader irate not about the war, economy, unbearably hot weather, unsafe eggs or the plight of the dolphins.
No, this reader was driven to distraction by the fact that some retail clerks, waitpersons and sales people refer to her as “sweetheart.”
Apparently, using terms of endearment toward patrons is now offensive.
Honestly, if the worst thing that happens to me on any given day is someone calls me “hon,” then I personally believe I am leading a pretty charmed life.
Worse, the original complainant suggested in lieu of “sweetie” or “hon,” service people consider using the term “ma’am.” From this, I can only surmise the writer was attempting to get someone killed.
I have found women of all ages react to “ma’am” as if they’ve just been handed a happy 110th birthday banner. Indignant cries of “I’m not old enough to be a ma’am!” soon fill the air.
This sentiment seems to hold true whether the recipient is in their 20s or 60s. Meanwhile, if you refer to someone as Mr. or Mrs. you receive “Mr. Jones is my father!” or “Mrs. Smith is my mother-in-law!” for your trouble.
Finally, there are the people who take issue and umbrage at what children call them. This is probably the only area where I tend to bristle, just a tad.
In our family, adults are alternately Mr. and Mrs. first or last name, or Aunt or Uncle someone.
Example: Dear friends we have known forever who I would trust with the very lives of my children are still Miss Sandy, Miss Jodi or Mr. Kevin; not Sandy, Jodi or Kevin to my children.
Still, once in a blue moon, we will meet a new adult and when introduced as Mr. or Mrs. Smith, the adult will bristle at the formality between himself and his new best friend, my 11-year-old, and say “just call me “Joe.”
This puts my children in the uncomfortable position of having to decide which adult to disobey — their own parent or the very nice stranger to whom they have just been introduced. Awkward.
Having grown up with my childhood best friend’s mother known as Mrs. B. I know how firmly instilled the habit is.
After I reached adulthood, Mrs. B. once said, “You’re old enough to call me Ann.” I tried. I really did. “Ann” however, she could never be. In love and respect, she would always remain a much beloved Mrs. B. to me.
Perhaps I just have a thicker skin than other people. (Big lie: I don’t.) I just don’t see getting all worked up about what people call me, presuming they don’t use curse words or terms that cast derision on my mother.
I personally love it when someone refers to me as “hon” or “sweetie.” It makes me feel young, fresh and somehow loved — if only in a very superficial way for stopping in that day.
It’s all good. In fact, in my professional life, I have had occasion to interact with the nicest people. Invariably it does happen from time to time that a gentleman of a mature age will refer to me as “honey” or “sweetheart.” I like to think it’s because I’m so darned adorable, but concede that it’s probably just force of habit since many of these gentleman come from an era when people fought over world wars and not, so much, over someone saying the wrong nice thing to them.
Almost instantly, he will hearken back to some feminist-induced trauma, clap his hand over his mouth and apologize, “Oh I’m sorry.”
To this I can only say, “Sir, I am a married, middle-aged mother of two. Anyone who calls refers to me as a ‘girl’ or ‘sweet’ has my undying gratitude at this point in the game.”
Nowadays, it seems as if a person is between a rock and a hard place when directing their comments to anyone out in public not related to them via blood or marriage, and thus conveniently endowed with a built-in term of endearment.
When out with Mr. Wonderful, for example, I find that “honey”, “baby”, “sweetie” and, in a pinch, “Hey you, I know you can hear me so stop pretending you are too far away and/or don’t speak English” all work.
Isn’t that right hon?