As I walked away, a clerk called out, “Sweetie, you forgot something.” Though I’m older than his mother, I never let a term of endearment go by unacknowledged, so I decided he was talking to me, turned around and gave him my best smile.
No matter what the speaker’s intent, it’s the recipient’s attitude that matters. Even if the person doing the talking might be trying for a bit of sarcasm with the “Well, sweetheart” or “Oh sure, darlin,” I choose to ignore the barb and accept it all quite literally. If you call out any one of these terms, I’ll answer to it.
You know how sometimes a restaurant server addresses you with “Just a minute, Hon” or “Be right with you, darlin’,” and sure it could mean “Wait your turn. I’ll get to you as soon as I can,” but it might also mean “I call everybody Hon,” leading to the best possible interpretation, which is “Have I seen you here before? Well I’m gonna treat you like a regular anyhow.”
Here’s the conversation from last week, in a coffee shop. (I spend a lot of time in coffee shops.)
My server to me: “You want coffee, Hon?” She poured, then carried on three conversations at once.
To a nearby table: “No, that was Doris’ brother in law who moved away.”
One booth over: “Joe was already here and gone this morning. He catches the early bus to the casino now.”
And to another table: “Yeah, she’s learning English, studying hard, but somebody gave her an app so she can talk into her phone and I get her order right away.”
Some might object to this level of familiarity, saying these forms of address are sexist or inappropriate among people who haven’t been introduced. I find this language from strangers oddly comforting. It’s way better than being ignored, so you can call me Hon anytime.