For me, one of daily challenges is being addressed as "sweetie" or "hon" by complete strangers.
I get this regularly--from the coffee-cart vendor or department store salesperson, on the phone or at a doctor's office. Since when do strangers feel they can address others with such familiarity?
It rankles that some of the people I get this from are young enough that I could pass for their mother--that is, if I had had kids early. I understand the attempts to be friendly or convey warmth, but would the salesperson or vendor addressing me as I stand before them in a suit do the same to a man next to me dressed similarly? Somehow I doubt it.
Is it a generational thing? Or a cultural disconnect? One colleague says she doesn't mind at all being called "sweetie" because it makes her feel young.
I guess I'm of the Jane Austen school of social conduct that believes "sir" and "ma'am," "please" and "pardon me" are proper forms of address in daily discourse. I say "excuse me, ma'am" or "sir, could you please..." when I have a question or need assistance. Perhaps I exaggerate, but I do sometimes worry that the increasing erosion of good manners I see every day or read about could spell the end of a civilized society.
A New York Times article last year detailed how being called "sweetie" or "dear" chips away at the dignity of older people. "Professionals call it elderspeak, the sweetly belittling form of address that has always rankled older people," the article says. The piece refers to studies showing "that the insults can have health consequences, especially if people mutely accept the attitudes behind them."
On several occasions, I speak up, asking others to refrain from addressing me with undue familiarity. Just tell me yes or no or provide help or point me to the right direction--no niceties or terms of endearment necessary.
Readers, what's your take on this? Do you mind being "sweetie-d" by strangers? Have you used these terms yourselves to casually address people you don't know?