Cultural Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts in New York State’s Southern Tier
The other morning I went for a grocery run. Parked my car in the lot,, made a mental note of the aisle number, remembered to take in my shopping bags, and although there was a “slight hitch in my git-a-long” as the old folks used to say, I was feeling pretty, pretty good. Started my tour of the store, doing the usual meet and greet along the way: commiserating, congratulating, admiring babies, sampling bits of cheese or crackers or pizza, resisting the temptations of candies and cookies, and , finally having accomplished my grocery fix for the day, still feeling pretty pretty good, got to the check out counter where a fresh faced youmg clerk competently stowed my purchases in shopping bags, totaled my order, handed me a receipt and then asked: ”Sweetie, do you need any help with your groceries?” My mood darkened, and in my mind I’m transformed from a mature woman in possession of most of her faculties into a harmless old biddy. “SWEETIE!!!” I wanted to say: “Listen, girlie, I’m not your sweetie. Furthermore if you knew me better you would realize I am basically not at all sweet.”
These virtual pats-on-the- head have become more and more common in the past few years. Someone told me the other day that the worst offenders in the “sweetie department” are nurses and waitresses. I would add to that list, cashiers and nice people who open doors for old ladies. I don’t know when I first started noticing the ubquitous ’dears’ and ‘honeys’ and ’sweeties’. Maybe it was when my husband and I were out for dinner in one of the down scale restaurants we frequent, and nice waitresses (never waiters) would ask one of us: “Is that all, honey?” or “Can I get you anything else, sweetie?” Srangely enough, my husband does not take offense but seems oblivious to the put downs that so annoy me.
I’ve heard men and women my age described as ‘cute” as in “what a cute old couple!”. Babies and puppies and kittens are cute, but most adults over 21 don’t qualify in the cute department. What’s going on here?? Why have the elderly (if you’ll pardon the expression) become regarded as ’sweet’ and ‘cute’ and why do well-meaning strangers treat us as wrinkled children? Many of my peers are downright mean, crabby, quarrelsome, and decidely uncute. Yet, our white, grey or missing hair seems to bring out the words usually reserved for tots and teeny tiny designer dogs.
Although I’ve been tempted, I’ve never expressed my feelings to the perpetrators of these put downs, generally taking a ‘what the heck’ attitude, but yesterday things got a little too much. First the “sweetie” at the check out counter, then a “dear” at the door to the post office, and, finally from a phlebotomist who was drawing blood from my wrinkled arm:”Make a fist, honey.” I ignored the temptation to use that fist,but with a few qualifying remarks intended to soften my inquiry, I asked her why she called me ‘honey’. She looked puzzled for a second and then said: “I call everybody honey, or sweetie, or dear.” I pressed her further: “Not just because I’m old?” (there! I said it!). She laughed and said “I call children and people in their thirties…..I call everyone “honey”, I just do!”
An epiphany! One more source of annoyance erased from my list of pet peeves! These terms of endearment are vocal ‘tics’ that the speakers ‘just do”, as involuntary as eye blinks or sneezes and just as meaningless. No longer will I misinterpret harmless words as subtle insults to my state of mind or competency. Nevertheless, if by chance our paths cross and you have read this sour blog: PLEASE DON’T CALL ME SWEETIE! (or honey, dear, love,or sweetheart…..etc.etc.) unless you really mean it. In case you still don’t understand what all the fuss is about, follow the link below to hear a sentimental song, written long ago before the corruption of the old endearments.