Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I'm a fairly reserved person. I flatter myself that I'm intelligent enough to talk to anyone who can talk to me, but I'm lousy at drawing people out. Most of all, I am NOT a touchy-feely kinda gal. I remember when I first started college, eons ago. I went from Maryland to Mississippi, to what was then an all-women's school. I was shy, and a bit shy I didn't ask anyone where to find the campus laundry to pick up the duffel bag I needed to procure for laundry services. I just made other arrangements. That gives you an idea.

So when I went to my first meal at the campus cafeteria, I was stunned. All these young women who were returning after the summer were exclaiming, screeching and hugging all over the place! This was definitely not my style. I grew to deeply love the school, and made a niche for myself during my three semesters there before the first not-so-DH got assigned to England and I had to leave. But I still wasn't a big person for the over-emoting that was very popular there.

Years later, I'm still not. I hug very dear and/or very old friends, and some family. The DH and my offspring. That's about it. I do not call anyone by terms of endearment unless they are in those categories, either, or they are elementary school aged. Nope, no 'hons' out of me, even if I did grow up outside Baltimore (no, I don't say Balmer, either). I won't refer to you as sweetie, or sugar, or any other sticky things. Even if I know you.

So please tell me why it is that people who've never seen me before in their lives call ME all kinds of pet names? Waitresses call me darlin'. Drive-thru attendants call me honey. Store clerks, even in fairly upmarket shops throw in a few 'loves' too. And not once, but over and over, like a nervous tic. One of the most bizarre was a patient when I worked in the behavioral health field, an elderly man who kept calling me 'little girl' and got most offended when I pointed out that, given that I was in my late 30s, I really didn't care for being called that. Well, okay, he was a patient there for a reason.

I do not like it. It sets my back up. I'm definitely not so formal that I expect to be called Mrs. XXX, or even Ma'am , but I don't want to go to the other extreme either. I do not like the implied intimacy, or at times, the condescension of these endearments. I'm not sure if they think the uber-friendliness will get them a bigger tip, or a larger sale, but I'm here to tell you....uh-uh. I do like the custom with which I was raised, where children call their elders Miss (or Ms.) or Mr. First Name. It's respectful, but it's not cloying, and I still do it on rare occasions for someone much older than I. Not that there's that many of those around any more.

And lest you think it's just my regular snarkiness, the DH feels the same way. He is the sweetest, kindest man the good Lord ever planted on this planet (think Mr. Rogers on a glucose drip) and he doesn't want to be dumplin'-ed or snookie-ookumed any more than I. We save our pet names for when they have meaning.

Oh!...and don't call me Shirley! :-)


Tony said...

The word that wasn't mentioned that I detest the most is 'sweetie'. This is short for "sweetheart," and I only have one of those. There are very few people darling enough to me to be called 'darling," and I'm only one person's "honey." I've resolved that if someone whom I've NEVER met calls me one of those three, I'm going to tell them to stop it. Period.

Jessica said...

So you're sayin' I shouldn't call you 'shugapiehunybunch' I love you I love you can't help my self I love you and nobody els do do dodo. Sorry couldn't's a sickness really. Love ya momma

cyr said...

I'm from western NY and never encountered the "sweet nothings" that folks sling around in other parts of the country. Went to college in southwest Virginia, lived in "Balmer" and then in New Orleans for about a year and a half each.

I can't even count the attributions of dear, honey, sugah, etc. What I eventually was able to do, however, is to realize that folks don't call me those things because they mean it. It's just the local idiom.

I never adopted it myself, though I do have to say that the English language needs a 2nd person plural. One word that I do cherish is "y'all." We *need* a 2nd person plural in English and y'all is a great all-purpose contraction. Cheers from chilly NY!