I’m Going to Need You to Stop Calling Me Sweetie, Honey, Dear or Baby Unless You Know Me

women standing

Art via Pinterest

So, you didn’t know this, but I’ve been selling a home, buying a home, breaking down my nest, packing and doing all those things you do to transport yourself from one house to another. My new home did not come with a refrigerator or washer and dryer, so I found myself in that wonky place of wanting to indulge in the fun part of starting over in a new place—like buying a sauna and decorating—but knowing I had to be practical first and get something to store food and clean my clothes.


Anyway, one sunny day I set out to an appliance store and the salespeople swarmed me the way they do. The one who reached me first, said: ‘Hi Sweetie, welcome to the store.’

I almost got whiplash turning around to see who he was talking to behind me. Of course, there was no one there. With the other salespeople scurrying away, he tried again, “How can I help you, Honey?”

Nah, I thought to myself. This can’t be my reward for deciding to have a good time being responsible.

My smile retracted entirely, and if I had to guess from his expression, I was wearing full-on warrior face.

Pet names and catcalls flung from strangers do that to me. Like fingers on chalkboards and leaky roofs, I always want it to stop.

Plus, I thought casually throwing out terms of endearment and sexism to strange women had gone the way of cavemen, great grandfathers and all those men who are getting in trouble right now for being sexist creeps in workplaces. Had this one not heard of the Me Too movement?

I took a few slow breaths and stared at him like he was speaking another language and he seemed uncomfortable. But that was not enough. I had to verbally correct him as well.

‘Do not call me Sweetie, Honey or any other pet names,” I said plainly, without roaring.

He was confused and red. This was weirder still because he looked young enough to be the son I don’t have and I tend to count on the next generation to behave better than the last.

“I didn’t know your name,” he stammered, all of that salesperson bravado draining from his spirit.

“So, you automatically assumed you could use a term of endearment with a customer instead of just saying hello and asking my name? How do you address male customers?”

‘I’m sorry ma’am,” he offered and although I took that like a blunt blow to my vanity, it was more respectful than random pet names that made me think I’d time-traveled back to the 60’s.

He was quiet. I was quiet. And then, for speaking to me like I was a daffy or fragile, familiar woman instead of one handling her business, I decided to haggle him down to the bone and ended up with great discounts on the three items I wanted.

Next, I had to call a plumber to come out and install a water hookup for the refrigerator so I could get filtered water and ice.

I explained the situation to him and asked if he could do this particular thing and he replied: ‘Yes, Dear. I do that a lot.”


I was about to give him the same speech I gave the young guy at the appliance store though he sounded older. But these things have more effect in person. I said my name. He mispronounced it. I said it again and again like I was trying to hypnotize him; like it was some kind of mantra. I could feel him waiting for me to move on and make an appointment, yet he still dutifully repeated my name after me. Until he was willing to stop being ridiculous, neither was I. Eventually, I told him I was still checking around, still getting bids. I was not. He had great reviews on Yelp, Home Advisor and Angie’s list. I checked all of that on my laptop while I was making him say my name.

The other reason I hired him is so I could tell him, in person, to stop automatically calling women customers by pet names meant for their daughters, wives, mothers or Barbies. I don’t remember signing up for male behavior modification respect training, but it’s a civic duty I feel called to perform so other women won’t have to suffer through these inappropriate moments with strange men. I don’t want to be quietly mad about it. I don’t want to just let it go. I want to shut it down.

6 thoughts on “I’m Going to Need You to Stop Calling Me Sweetie, Honey, Dear or Baby Unless You Know Me

  1. I love you for this, sweetie. I really do. Too many men are going unchecked and it’s unacceptable. And sad.

    Thank you for sharing. I got a laugh but also shared your disgust.

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