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" names...at 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!" Again...at 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.