I am not your dear
I felt my jaws clench.
The checkout person had just handed me my purchases and said, “There you go, dear.”
Perhaps she was trying to be friendly or show she appreciated my business.
I did not feel appreciated. I felt patronized.
I know that other people are not responsible for my reactions. If I choose to feel patronized, that’s my responsibility. It may only be my imagination that she did not say “Dear” to younger customers in the line-up.
Okay, so I’m not comfortable with this aging thing. My reaction speaks more about me than about the cashier. That’s all true.
And–I get to decide who can call me Dear.
I had an instant of asking myself, “Do I want to make a production out of this?” and decided, “No.” But I’m still thinking about it. There are, on this planet, people I treasure who can call me “Dear,” “Honey,” “Love,” and other terms of endearment that have personal meaning.
The drug store cashier is not any of them. Neither is any serving staff in a coffee shop. Neither is any health professional in a clinic or hospital or care facility.
Once, when I was with my mom for many hours in big-city hospitals, I noticed that many of the staff called the patients “Dear.” I imagine they thought it expressed caring. However, both mom and I judged their degree of “caring” by their actions, not by their fake terms of endearment.
On one occasion, a fake term of endearment really set my teeth on edge. Mom had asked me to stay overnight with her–and I was glad she did because of what we’d observed on the ward. I got permission from the day shift head nurse to do so.
Later that evening, we witnessed staff yelling at the patient in the next bed, and not answering her calls for help, presumably to “manage her behaviour.” Both mom and I were glad I was with her. We couldn’t stop the noise or help mom rest, but at least mom knew she was not on her own with no protection, and that I would get help if nobody answered her call.
About 11:30 p.m. that evening, the staff person doing check-up rounds observed me sitting in a chair next to mom’s bed. She said to me, “Sorry, sweetie, you have to leave now. Visiting hours have been over for a long time.” “Sweetie?” Two things were confirmed. First, obviously nobody had told this staff person that I had permission to stay. That confirmed our suspicion that we couldn’t count on information from one shift being communicated to people on the next shift, which was one of several reasons mom wanted someone with her overnight. And second, the incident confirmed that a term of endearment should never be confused with actual caring.
One of my stupider moments happened when I was going through airport security. I debated whether to take off my boots to avoid setting off the alarm, but it was a hassle. I decided to keep the boots on–my first stupid choice. Yes, the alarm was set off.
The security person said, “You’ll have to take off your boots and go through again, Dear.” You know how sometimes your rational intelligent mind is telling you something, but your mouth is already in action? While my rational intelligent mind was saying, “Just get through security,” my mouth was saying, through gritted teeth, “I am not your dear.” Double stupid!
So, am I over-sensitive to being called “Dear” by strangers? Probably. A serving person once said to someone I was with, “I’m just trying to be friendly.” On a scale of violations, this is not one of the bigger ones.
But I do think we all have the right to be called by whatever name we choose, and on a personal level, I do not presume to call anyone “Dear” unless I know it’s okay with them. How about you? Do you like being called “Dear” by strangers?
If you have comments about this column or suggestions for future topics, send a note to Bonnie@BonnieHutchinson.com. read more