Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sweetie, honey, dearie, babe

My father called me "Baby" even in my 60s. I didn't mind at all, even though I knew I wasn't a baby. He wasn't belittling me and that was also about as affectionate as he got. However, when I was a little girl I can remember watching the blood rise in my mother's face if we were in a dress shop and the saleswoman called her "Honey," or "Dearie." Usually, Mom's fingers clutching her purse would start to twitch (a bad sign) and that was the end of that store for that day, regardless of the need. The other day I overheard a young, accomplished, educated woman say, "The little girl who works for us had her baby and will soon be back at work." If a man had said that about a female employee it would have raised eyebrows, or even caused disciplinary action. Women often use the phrase, "little girl," or just "girl" as a term of endearment, but it can also describe a woman in a lower social status, the same way men use the term.

I'm not saying it's in the same category as a hip hop artist using "nigga" or "Ho," but I think we're in the ballpark.


Anonymous said...

I had to watch and catch myself calling one of my co-worker.."little one". My meaning was affectionate enough,as she was the only human being I worked with toward last. She was tiny...short and trim,just little all over and cute as a button and she sort of hopped around the office...full of energy(like me when I was young and full of it myself). I would always correct myself and she would graciously say..."Oh, I don't mind my mom calls me that,too" thus making me feel old for the day! My late husband always fawned all over any waitress we might chance to have and it bothered me a lot at first but I got used to it. He thought of himself as handsome and charming and always gave a more than amble tip. But I can just see your dear mom and can relate as her hands tighten around her purse...No sale ! Nice piece..Lynne

Hokule'a Kealoha said...

You have written a great peice. However I wonder if we have removed any emotions/affection out of public life by our own sensitivites... Yes many people use terms of endearment to denegrate, but most people I know use them for exactly their purpose as a term of affection and familiarity, the discomfort they feel when they realize they are not PC is uncomfortable to say the least