Thursday, May 27, 2010

Upon Which I Protest What You Call Me!!!

You know, you get called a lotta names as you progress through life. I can't say as I've been called too many "bad" least not to my face. But lately, I've been called....of all things..."Sweetie"....and it makes me cringe!

Let me back up a bit in time.

Over a year ago, while in the hospital recovering from surgery, I had the nicest young student nurse. Nursing was to be her second career...she had been in accounting prior to this time and after losing two jobs due to downsizing, decided to take her life in a new direction. As a student it was her "assignment" to be my "nurse" for the day on two separate days. I was her only patient. And so she carefully took my blood pressure at the appropriate times, helped me into the shower, brought me fresh water and ice.

She was a sweet young woman, raised in the south. During the two days she took care of me she very kindly and respectfully called me, "Miss Judy". I've never been called "Miss Judy" before. (I haven't been a "Miss" for well over 40 years!) But I realized this was her southern upbringing and it was a term of sincere respect, so I submitted and enjoyed being called "Miss Judy".

Several times the past few years, in grocery stores, and undoubtedly due to my white hair (when I still had hair) I heard myself being called "Ma'am". It was a bit startling. You see, to my way of thinking, "Ma'am" had a rather matronly connotation. And even in my matronly years, I did not consider myself matronly. I still felt young(er). But I submitted, realizing that since I am well past my "Miss" days, I am probably well within someone else's idea of "matron" and therefore "Ma'am" was a sign of respect .

Within the past week, however, I've twice been called "Sweetie!" the store. By young female clerks.

It is not that I am ignorant of how I look. I stand in front of the bathroom mirror every day. In addition to hair loss, chemo causes your facial hair to disappear. Very few brow hairs remain. Only a few last stubborn eyelashes. I'm drawing brow lines and I'm using eyeliner to give some faint illusion of lashes. I know what I look like. I look like a bald cancer patient with a face puffed into roundness. I look like I have cancer. Which I do.

I notice that they look at me and with an aura of sympathy deal with me kindly, taking extra care to make certain I have what I came for, offering to carry my bags out, etc. It's not that I mind their noticing, but I surely do mind being called "Sweetie". It reminds me of how you might address a poor little old lady on her last two legs. (I've been on my last two legs since childhood...never had more than two...just the two!) It's just that when a teenage clerk calls me "Sweetie" it makes me feel as if I am some frail death-bed person for whom pity is the only thing left available. As in "Oh, you poor thing!"

Dear Young Women! Please Do Not Call Me Sweetie! Just call me "Ma'am". That'll do just fine.



Karen said...

People keep calling me "Ma'am" all the time, too, and it makes me feel old. When I was still working as a nurse, older (mature?) female patients used to call me "Sweetie," and at the time, it made me feel like a little girl!

Maybe those clerks/nurses are just trying to be nice, but I agree, I don't like to be called "Sweetie" by anyone - except maybe by my husband.

Gregg said...

I would agree. I cant understand why 20 something's want to call, ...something's sweetie, dearies, or sweetheart? I don't get it.

Marydon Ford said...

Chuckle! I can't agree with you more!

Have a safe & lovely Memorial holiday weekend.
TTFN ~Hugs, Marydon

Pilgrim Mommy said...

I like the southern way of using "Ma'am" and "Sir" as a sign of respect and courtesy. It used to make me feel old, but not any more.

Glenda said...

OK . . . I'm from the deep south and called Miss Glenda frequently . . . but I don't think I've been called "sweetie"! I don't think I'd like that either!

Have a great weekend!

melissa said...

Well, maybe you're being inundated by endearments because folks are just being friendly. If you were down here, in TN, you'd hear those all the time, and I don't mean maybe!

And if you've noticed, I've probably called you sweet thing and sweetie as well! :)

Never meant in sympathy, but always in love.

Laura in IA said...

It really deflated me the first time I got the sweetie thing. I think it is my gray hair. You don't see that much on women anymore - maybe there wrinkly old husband, but not the women. Its tough enough getting old(er) without being reminded of it. I'd like to be seen as just another human being dealing with what I've been handed in this world.

Debby said...

Eh. I've been called worse.

As a store clerk, I call people sir and ma'am, and yes. I call the kids sweetie. And you know? The ones that 'eat' that right up are toughest looking kids. They seem to like that, and it inspires them to even speak. I answer them. They talk back. Actually conversation. Never ceases to amaze me. I'm trying to think if I call elderly people sweetie. I can honestly say that I do not call old men sweetie. Absolutely never. Older women. Only if I've gotten to know them. I'm pretty funny stuff, and I make people laugh. This almost always starts some sort of friendly relationship. (They wait to speak with me the next time they come in, etc.) And I believe that I may have called some of them sweetie. What will I call you when I see you? I've made a little note. I will not be calling you sweetie.

I can't help thinking though. Those young women, even if they did look at you in pity, I have to say, they looked at you. They looked. They saw something, and they tried to say something to make you feel better. And that is what I try to bring to my counter daily.

Lots of love to both of you, my friend!

Marian S. said...

President Obama once called a female reporter "sweetie". He called her the next day to apologize!

A Novel Woman said...

I'll take Sweetie over Ma'am any day. The first day I was called ma'am, I felt as though I'd been doused with cold water.

WhiteStone said...

Debby, I got to thinking about this last night, before I read your comment. I thought to myself, "At least they 'saw' me, at least they were 'looking' at me." And in their looking they made a decision to be kind. That was a good thing indeed. In spite of my taking it a bit wrongly.

Kelly said...

As a southern girl I hear/use "sir" and "ma'am" all the time. Even as adults now, my kids still refer to some of our friends as "Miss Shelley" or "Mr. Ricky". Funny thing I've noticed now, though, is how often when I see it written down folks use Ms. or Mrs. instead of Miss. I was always taught it's Miss regardless of their marital status.

I've always reserved "sweetie" for children and animals.