Dear Amy: I am an octogenarian man, still in good physical and mental health.
I try to keep abreast of the latest news, including the #MeToo movement and the concerns over the proper and earned respect owed to women, especially regarding unwelcome and minimizing nouns of address.
My peers and I are puzzled, however, that so many women in positions of public engagement (waitpersons, receptionists, sales personnel, cashiers, hygienists, nurses, etc.) feel free to belittle and degrade us by referring to us as “honey,” “sweetie,” “dearie,” “sweetheart,” ad nauseam.
These strangers do not speak to young or middle-aged persons in this overly familiar way. Why do they feel free to embarrass and devalue seniors with this childish gibberish? Do they think we have all entered a “second childhood’?
Some neighbors of similar age and I gathered for what we call “Driveway Drinks” one evening last week and this topic came up. Everyone had a story about their disgust at being referred to in this manner.
When one sales clerk asked, “May I have your credit card, sweetie?” I replied that my name was “indeed — not ‘Sweetie.’” I didn’t like my own terse response and am asking you and your readers how best to handle these unpleasant, demeaning, and disrespectful situations. – Indeed, Not Sweetie
Dear Indeed: I confess to defending this practice as a friendly, “folksy” and benign greeting from women who deal with a high volume of strangers during the course of their workday.
Then, just last week I got “Sweetied” by a woman considerably younger than I, and … suddenly it didn’t seem so friendly and folksy, but like a patronizing commentary on my own age and stage in life.
I’m not at all comfortable declaring that this is an offensive or deliberately degrading practice, however. In fact, I assume the intention is to offer a warm and comforting greeting that is gender-neutral and … easy.
If the greeting is from a health care worker or a clerk with whom you might have extended contact, it would behoove you to offer a gentle correction: “I’d prefer it if you called me ‘John’.”
Otherwise, I think you should acknowledge to yourself that this is an annoyance, but that it also provides an opportunity. Every time you are “Honey-ed,” say to yourself: “I sincerely hope that this is the worst thing I have to deal with today.”
(And … “Driveway Drinks?” Count me in!)
I’ll happily run suggestions from readers.
Dear Amy: I have new neighbors. I invited them over when they moved in and have tried to be friendly.
The husband, a retired engineer (now a horticulturalist), has started a huge compost heap next to where I park, so it’s the first thing people see when pulling into my driveway (invisible to him from his house).
I am an avid gardener and also have a compost pile, but it is not where anyone is obliged to look at it.
When my gardening helper mistakenly blew a few leaves (literally!) onto his compost pile, he was upset, yet I am looking at rotting pumpkins, piles of sticks, bags of leaves, a huge tree stump, etc.
It is such an eyesore right on the street. No other house in the neighborhood looks remotely like this, and the neighbor’s lot is large. His offending compost pile could be elsewhere!
I don’t see anything in the covenants to cover it.
I planted a lot of non-deciduous plants between me and the compost, but I still drive by it every day! I generally talk to people nicely if I am distressed about something, but I don’t feel hopeful here.
Thank you. – Heated up by Compost
Dear Heated Up: If your neighbor’s compost pile is close to your house, it could draw scavenging animals and other pests onto your property.
You are very specific about the many ways this offends you, but you are very unspecific about the risks of simply asking your neighbor if he would be willing to move this. If he enters his own property from another direction, he might not be aware of the impact this has on you.
Also, check with your town’s highway department to see if there are other remedies you haven’t considered.
Dear Amy: “Teary” was struggling to understand her extremely emotional reaction to her husband’s new and very large tattoo.
You supplied a lot of compassionate gobbledygook, but Amy, you missed the most important point – this woman has stopped trusting his judgment. – Experienced
Dear Experienced: Yes, this was the focus of her distress.
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