What can I get you, Hun?
I shouldn’t be complaining and feel that I am totally off base but something happened this past week that really made an impression on me. While I was out picking up lunch, I went to a local café to order a salad. This particular place does a huge volume of business and is always crowded for breakfast and lunch. It should be, the food is fabulous. However, the ordering process can be quite stressful if you don’t know what you want before you walk in the door. First, the minute you walk in, there are 3 registers and cashiers prominently placed in the entry way to take your order. However, if you don’t know what you want, you will need to review the menu above the cash registers, then, and only then, it’s time to place the order. There is usually a crowd congregating right in the vestibule reviewing the menu and one might wonder where the line starts. The ordering process, in most instances, takes about a minute. In my case, it lasted a few minutes longer. First, I wasn’t sure what I wanted, didn’t have my wallet ready, fumbled through my bag for my cash, and had an interesting interaction with the cashier, adding an additional minute to the deal. It caused an added layer of stress to the perfectly timed transaction. One would think I was back in my old haunts of New York, ordering lunch in such a short time frame. I think I was out of practice and my element.
The very young twenty something woman at the register, was waiting. “What can I get you, Hun?” She asked.
I thought to myself, did she really just call me, hun? Wasn’t that term of endearment used for close family members, good friends, the sweet blue haired ladies or the weathered waitresses at the local diner? Hun. I was bothered by it, and more importantly, I was surprised that I was. So much so, that I would have much preferred “Ma’am” to “Hun” and those who know me, know how I feel about being called Ma’am. (https://lspostyn.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/when-did-i-become-a-maam/).
I found it almost disrespectful, a little insulting and bothersome that someone so much my junior calling me “Hun”. At this stage in the game, I have accepted being called “Ma’am” as I am embracing, wait for it, getting older.
I let it go, until she fired her next question, “Hun, what type of dressing?” I could feel the heat in my face starting to increase.
“What choices do I have?” I inquired. Looking directly at her with intensity, I was sure she would pick up on my annoyance. I kept thinking I can’t believe she did it again. And, then, again.
“The choices are right here, dear” she replied, pointing to the sign listing the choices. Hun, Dear, what was happening? How could this young woman be so unaware of what she was doing and become, in my humble opinion, condescending, irritating, and old, right before my eyes?
“OK, balsamic vinaigrette” I said, trying to keep my annoyance in check. I tried to count to ten – an old trick my mom used when we were younger and was annoyed with me and my siblings. We used to call her at work while in the midst of an argument, I could hear over the coiled wire of the attached wall phone, her rattling off those numbers, “One, two, three…” through her clenched teeth.
“Hun, would you like a drink”
Mind you this transaction was all of 2 minutes tops, and she must have called me “Hun”, at least 5 times. At this point I was sincerely annoyed. I tried as nicely as I could to stop her from continuing this line of pet name abuse. Once, is ok, twice, I’ll accept, begrudgingly, of course, but 5 times? What was I to do?
“Please don’t call me that, it’s really annoying.” I tried to smile as I said it. Immediately, I felt bad, ashamed, and disappointed with myself, that I let a few words, meant to be polite and nice, get under my skin. I felt awful for what I said, and wondered if she realized what was coming out of her mouth. Did others feel the same way I did? Would they ever say anything to make this person aware? And here’s the kicker, I don’t think I would have minded so much or even at all if the cashier was older. This person’s youth coupled with the informal way she addressed me bothered me most. Was I being judgmental?
“Oh, sure” she said, but she probably thought I was an uptight person from the North or just plain mean.
One thing I learned since I moved to North Carolina 3 years ago, is that most people pepper you with outwardly kindness – “Do you need help to the car with your bags?” asked when food shopping, “Can I get you a bottle of water?” while waiting for my nail appointment, “Can I get you something to make you more comfortable, before Dr. So and So sees you” but never once was I called Dear, Hun or Shug (short for sugar). I know there is no ill intent and maybe that was how she was brought up, or maybe she was trained to address customers that way, but to me it was a little disconcerting. And because I was so flustered, I asked a few colleagues if I was out of line by being upset.
Some agreed some didn’t. Most felt that it was inappropriate to address someone they don’t know with “Hun”. A male colleague said if someone called him “Hun” he’d return the compliment by calling them “Sweetie”. But would anyone say anything directly to the offender? Maybe if I had joined in and said “No, I’ll just have water, darling” it may have made me feel better, by not letting it get under my skin and most likely left her wondering why I would call her that. I felt I was validated, until a colleague and friend said, ‘The person didn’t mean anything by it’. It occurred to me at that moment that I may have started my own descent into the next phase of my life of “unfilteredness”. The act of saying what is exactly on my mind, without the fear of consequences. Of, becoming that crazy older lady.
Because I was clearly upset by this, I dug a little deeper. I googled to see if there were others out there who reacted the same way I did and sure enough Vogue, the authority on everything, had an article about it. http://www.vogue.com/966081/are-pet-names-ok-honey-dear-babe/ and it appears I’m not alone. However, at the end of the day, after discussing with others and reading through the comments, and having second thoughts, listening to someone call me Hun, Dear or even Sweetheart ain’t so bad.