Friday, July 06, 2007

Strangers calling us 'hun' and 'baby'

Deirdre: Something I've noticed: When the security guards downstairs -- at least a dozen years older than me -- say hello and goodbye, they use terms of endearment. "Darlin'." "Precious." "Doll Baby." "Princess." It doesn't bother me; in fact, it usually makes me smile. But when younger guys address me as "baby" or "boo" or "sweetheart," it really bugs me. Does stuff like this ever happen to you?
Alisha: Sure. In fact, it happened Thursday at Bruegger's Bagels. The guy fixing my bagel kept calling me sweetie. Each time he said it, I melted. It was, um, sweet.
Deirdre: How old do you think he was?
Alisha: He made some comment that he's been married 10+ years, so ... I thought he looked 35.
Deirdre: Hmm. I don't know how I would feel about that. I think that in general, men in their 50s and older use terms of affection because that's the way they were raised -- with a protective, almost paternal, attitude toward women. But younger men, especially those under 35 ... they've been raised with women as their equals. So for them to use such a term (especially if they are strangers) can be almost insulting, because it seems more of a conscious act.
Alisha: It's not an age thing at all. On the whole, it's an issue of men being courteous toward women. If a 19-year-old guy, who is mature, calls me "sugar," then I'm going to smile and think it's cute. Just because a man grew up in the 1950s doesn't mean he's more apt to use terms of endearment versus boys who were taught good manners by their parents.
Deirdre: I agree with your last sentence, but I don't think I'd be smiling if some 19-year-old called me "sugar." I'd probably raise an eyebrow so high, I'd get a cramp in it -- I'm old enough to be his mom! I don't think that's respectful.
Alisha: Possibly. I guess it depends on the situation. I thought you, having grown up in the South like myself, would have adjusted to men using such terms?
Deirdre: I didn't hear the terms much from strangers during my years in California, so it's more obvious to me now. Also, I've become more sensitive to it as I age. I think I'm just irritated by men I don't know calling me "baby" and looking at me, as an old friend used to say, like "they want to put me on a plate and sop me up with a biscuit."
Alisha: If you're walking down a street, and a construction worker screams over the machinery, "Hey baby, what's shakin'?" then that can be construed as just rude. But, if I'm getting my oil changed and a guy says, "Car's all done, love." Then I'll just say thank you.
Deirdre: Is this mostly a female thing? I wonder if guys are ever bothered by being called "hun" by women they don't know.
Alisha: Men aren't left out. Have you never been to a truck stop before? The ladies at the counter are always calling those fellas all kinds of names.
Deirdre: It probably washes right over them.
Alisha: Affectionate nicknames are acceptable in my book, as long as they're not a disguise to subjugate me as a woman.
Deirdre: I don't want to leave you thinking I find all men younger than me insulting when they use nicknames. For example, there's a guy at work who looks about 30. When he sees me he always says "how you doin', love?" It gives me a little thrill because of the way he says it -- it's confident, there's an awareness that we're not giggling preteens but a man and a woman ... yet there's nothing skeezy about it. What bothers me about some men and their "baby's" is they come across as ingratiating. Assuming intimacy when there is none.

What say you, readers? How do you feel about terms of endearment from strangers?


Anonymous said...

Hey, men over 50 can certainly view women as their equals, so get that silly idea out of your minds. And younger guys can be perfect pigs, as I am sure you know.

I'm over 50. One of the things I like about being older is that I can now tell the check-out girl at the grocery store, "Hey, your hair really looks great."

I don't think it could be taken any way but as a pure compliment. If I was her age, say 18, she might think I was making a pass.

So older guys do have a little more freedom t dish out compliments and sweetness, and it's one of the few things I like about being a fogey.

Also ... if anyone, anywhere calls me hun, sweetie, or love ... I am in heaven for a few minutes.

Anonymous said...

As a female I use the "terms of endearment" of "hun, sweetie, darl'n" for men and women alike. There have been men and women who have shot a look my way after hearing it and I know at that point that they really are not comfortable with someone they are not that familiar with using that "familiar" a name. I think it depends on the person and where you are and what you are doing. I wouldn't call a bank teller hon or sweetie! When I man calls me any of the above, it's okay, it doesn't mean I owe him a date - I take it in the spirit of its intention. Makes me smile and brightens my day!

John said...

This is an issue I confront on a daily basis.

As a person with a disability (totally blind), I have to wonder if that woman called me sweets or hun out of habit, because she feels sorry for me in some way or, gasp, because she's actually attracted to me!

Most of my friends do take real offense at these comments, but I usually like to assume the best in people. And in some way, it does make me feel nice for a few minutes.

But there's this lady who always calls me hun, I'd always thought it was cool until I managed to read some of her blog and discovered just how she really thinks of me. Like some simpleton who doesn't have to worry about bills or the stresses of daily life.

So yeah, deciphering people's meanings when using such terms is complicated. But then, isn't all human behavior?

Anonymous said...

When a woman of any age even like 70 says hun, sweetie, darling, it makes me feel great. I'm 32 and single. I try not to use terms of endearment as I'm from the liberal NE and most females in that part of the country take issue with it. I don't do it, but love it when it happens to me.

Anonymous said...

If a man addresses me with a name I don't like, I turn the tables and casually address them with that word as well. Interesting to see the shocked faces on most of them!

Anonymous said...

As a woman, I am usually offended when people address me as "hun," "sweetheart," and the like. When I travel I appreciate people addressing me sans the condescending nicknames/pet names we have in the South. It seems much more prevalent in the South, sadly, and I've had to correct men and women who make this blunder. I like the idea another reader had of turning the tables and calling the individual something THEY might find disrespectful. Bottom line is that people need to be conscious of who they are interacting with and not force their language on someone who may be offended. I know I'm not alone in my discontent with this growing trend.

Anonymous said...

As long as it's not said in a condescending way it just shouldn't be a problem. I don't use terms like that very often at all, but once in a while they do slip out and taken in the tone and manner offered, they're no big deal.

Anonymous said...

I was born and raised here and I really don't pay it any attention. Until recently, that's just the way it always was. Personally, I really like it. However, there have been a few times that it has given me the creeps. It's all in the way someone says it.

I don't understand how it would offend someone - but I do respect that.


Anonymous said...

Ladies! It is called flirting! Enjoy it or ignore it, but someday you WILL miss it. From a 44 y/o, native Charlottean, hunny. VBarnett

Anonymous said...

Hear the sirens? It't the politically correct police on the way again!

Anonymous said...

Don' Hypersensitive,hypercritical. Is it any wonder so many people cocoon themselves up in our society today? I'm a 50 year old man and think it is sad that we can't relate without looking for some form of motive. When every c omplimenet is scrutinized for the slightest political incorrectness, I find that more offensive than an offhanded compliment, no matter what the intent.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind an older man addressing me as sweetheart or love. However; when a really young guy approaches me with the "hey baby" thing it really bothers me. I am 37 but I look around 25. So I am approached by guys as young as 20 and they just aggrivate me with their terms that they think work. They actually think someone is going to appreciate things like "come here and let me holla at ya" or "dang baby, let me get your number". It is all about class and technique.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the south and being called Darlin or sweetie is something that i am used to. These days though, it mostly depends on the tone and body language as to whether or not it is offensive. Generally it is very easy to tell the difference between when someone is being genuine and when they are being sleezy. It always makes me smile when it is genuine.

Anonymous said...

Okay, here's my beef w/ "sweetie, hun, sugar..." and so on. If you are a woman(stranger) around my age (25) DO NOT refer to me with any term of endearment. I understand it's how I interpret it but to me, it's demeaning and disrespectful. My mom calls me sweetie not the girl behind the makeup counter.

As far as a guy... fine if they're over 50.

Anonymous said...

As a 36 year old man who has grown up here, I am a little surprised at this article. There is a huge difference between referring to someone as, "sweetheart, love, hun", etc. and saying things such as "Can I get at you, baby" or something about getting your number. Does context mean nothing to anyone these days??? Obviously the latter is very openly asking you for something. Where as the former is just a way to address someone. Huge difference.

I refer to women in this fashion due directly to this is how I was raised, here in Charlotte, NC. It is a term of respect to all women. It has NOTHING to do with me wanting to "get at you" or even get to know you more then the very casual meeting we happen to be in at that moment. I have never one time had any woman tell me she found this to be disrespectful in any fashion.

For people who have moved here from some other part of the world, maybe you all should realize that we do have a way of doing things here. And just because you move here, does not mean WE have to change our way of doing things to please you. If you prefer how things are done in places such as NYC, i.e. people walking by you not even acknowledging your existence, maybe that is the place for you to live? Or if you simply do not like being referred to in a flattering sort of way, you can always be polite and explain that to the person who just complimented you. Because it is a compliment to all women. Not everyone you cross paths with is trying to "get at you". We simply prefer to have a positive outlook on things. As opposed to always trying to find the "evil" in everyone. Have a great day, sweethearts!! :D

Bettieann said...

..It makes me smile when A southern boy calls me Honey , or .Miss... Ma'am ..Because I know it is becasue he has MANNERS !!
when a "Yankee" calls me Babe . Im skeeved out by it .. .. Bleck !

Anonymous said...

Being from the South, I use the terms such as ma'am, sir and honey all the time to men as well as women. I think we're going overboard with trying to be political correct.

ToiletFace said...

What the HELL is this? This kind of crap does not belong on

Should be on twoLOSERStalkaboutwhathappenedatthebagelshopyesterdaywhentheywere go to the gym fattys

Anonymous said...

I'm 25, married, and use the term 'love' when talking to most women (my wife included). I don't know *why* I do it, it just sounds more personal and normally disarms whoever you are speaking with... Unless they don't expect it out of an American's mouth. The word 'love' is common as a term of endearment in Britain, but not so much in America.

Anonymous said...

I don't see the point in "turning the tables" unless you really want to be perceived as a shrew. Someone uses a term of endearment and you respond with an intentional insult? Way to alienate people for a trivial reason.

Anonymous said...

From the Tiger post comments section:

..The point is that I have encountered soooo many black females in Charlotte that are obnoxious, outrageous, overbearing, and totally self-centered. They ... "cop an attitude" at the slightest provocation or perceived insult."

Sound familiar?

Anonymous said...

to the people who are "offended" by terms of endearment and casual public words from polite people who dont know your names, you need to get the bug out of your but and get over it. no one has the right to not be offended. perhaps terms of endearment such as s**t, c**t, b**ch, wh*** would be more appropriate to you?????? hmmmmm?
what now? terms like "hon" and "dear" are politically incorrect to some people so now we all have walk on eggshells about every word. here's 2 of them for ya: screw you.

Anonymous said...

So let's see if I have this straight: If a man who is old enough to be Deirdre's father calls her sweetie, he's not innocently flirting, just being "paternal" (which is OK. We all know older men don't flirt, right? Ahem, yeah right). If a college-age young man calls Deirdre sweetie, it's not innocent flirting, it's downright disrespectful (how dare he!). But if a 29 or 30 year old guy at work calls her 'love', it's acceptable flirting because it gives her a thrill (i.e. she's attracted to him) and it fits within her narrow confines of acceptability. Jesus Deirdre, drop the ignorant stereotypes and relax already. Clearly Alisha's the chillin' one here.

It's ALL innocent flirting and why not take it as a compliment? When you're 55 or 60 and it ain't happening anymore, like another poster said, you'll miss it.

You sound like the kind of person who's just looking for offense ALL THE TIME.

Anonymous said...

No, there are more important things to worry about!

Anonymous said...

Honey, this is what I think: you can call me honey, love, sweetie, all day long. It's a term of endearment to this woman, born and raised in NC. Only once did it make me uncomfortable, but that was the exception...the guy gave me the creeps. For those who don't like it, get over yourself and quit whining, sweetie!

Chris H. said...

I call different people by different names all the time. I refer to a lot of other guys a dude or man. Sometimes I refer to women as sugar or darlin' or sweetie, sometimes even hottie. Everyone needs to relax a little and not take offense to everything someone else says. I usually only use these terms with strangers because I don't know your name. Also, becase you are a stranger I really don't care that much if it bothers you.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't mind. i even use such terms myself but I usually reserve them for friends, children and non business settings. I won't call the 18 year old at the drive thru "Honey", but I will call a stranger honey if I want thier attention to ask for the time. its not done in offense but to nake up for a lack of name. I will use ma'am or miss in a business setting. I don't care if a guy uses those types of names as long as he is just being polite. Calling me baby everytime you say something on a business call is rude (true story) But I'd rather be called sweetheart than "Hey You!!"

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. I think toiletface is a great pet name for maybe more than one mean-spirited person here. Geez. It's just a conversation! They have those in Charlotte, right? They certainly have them in most newsrooms.

Personally, there are some pet names I like and some I don't. Baby and babe and dear just don't feel right to me. If someone starts doing it on a regular basis, I'll stop 'em. But sweetie, sweetheart, darlin' ... I find 'em nice. And they won't say those nice words to someone who has offended, bothered, annoyed, etc. So I'm livin' right when I hear them. And I live in California!

I actually hate it when the 19 year old calls me ma'am! Wah! I'm not a ma'am! I'm still young. It's just a different kind of young. ... Of course, I accept it the ma'am though, 'cause that means someone taught him or her manners along the way! YEA!!!!