Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My britches aren’t made of sugar

There’s been some interesting talk going on around the trucking industry about what is an endearing greeting and what is sexual innuendo.

It all started when two truck stop employees won a lawsuit against their employer because of a claim that they were sexually harassed by customers.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I’m a little bit thicker skinned to this subject than a lot of women. For starters I grew up in the South and, secondly, I’ve worked in male-dominated professions.

Dealing with people calling me “sugar” and “hon” is something I’ve begrudgingly gotten used to. I have been called everything from “missy” to “baby cakes.”

That doesn’t mean that I’m particularly fond of it. Even if you get a laugh, that doesn’t mean anything. It was fake and half-hearted because women like me were raised to not tell you off at first meeting. We – with our properness – have learned to laugh it off and walk away, and sometimes wash it off at the end of the day because it was so wrong.

With that said, I’m pretty sure I can help the well-meaning individuals bridge a gap that exists in society.

In general it’s not OK to address complete strangers or people who are not close friends by any sort of nickname.

Take for example a recent trip of mine to the local grocery store. There was a young checkout clerk who was obviously trying to be super nice to the customers.

After she addressed the older gentleman in front of me as “hon” for about the fourth time, I caught the subtle eye roll. He’d had enough.

As I stepped up to the counter, she called me “sweetie,” “dear” and “lovely lady” in about a 45-second span.

It should be noted that I had just run into the store after working in my yard. After a few hours in the blistering heat, I have to be honest – I was hot, sweaty and about the furthest thing from a “lovely lady” in terms of both mood and appearance.

So not only was she giving me insulin shock from the sappy sweet pet names, she was an outright liar.

After my daughter and I were outside the store, I pointed out to her that there’s a definite line between trying to be sweet and polite and being so heavy-handed with it that it’s obnoxious.

In general I told her, good manners and downright nicknames that imply character, appearance, smell or personality are very different creatures. Anything that refers to sweet pies, a dumplin’ or britches are just readymade for a groan.

There’s nothing wrong with “ma’am” and “sir,” especially if the person is of like age or older than you. Otherwise, the tried and true term “you” can be used. The generic, “good afternoon,” will serve you well. “Have a good day,” and “thank you” are staples in a polite conversation.

It’s sad because politeness is such a rarity in this day and age. So, if you’re trying to pay a compliment, just don’t confuse a dorky, cheesy, creepy or half-baked attempt at being cute for being polite.

But, then again, this is the advice from a woman whose mother still calls me “Minerva Jane.”


  1. It won't come as news that as we get older, we're less inclined to tolerate insincere comments like "young man" or "young lady" when it's obvious we could've whelped the speaker's parents. It's condescending and rude, and likely not the way they'd speak to their parents or grandparents. "Sir" or "ma'am" works just fine.

  2. I too was raised in the south,Texas that is. I came from a family of salesman where that even though it might be disingenuous it is a common practice of salesman to be 'sappy sweet' to a certain extent - it is part of the pitch used to accomplish a certain goal. Yes, I do also talk this way to my relatives even when they are hot and sweaty and been working in the yard but it is always followed by the comment"thought you could use a pick me up!"and in all actually some of us are naturally sweet and happy all the time and try to spread the feeling. I also have worked most exculsively with men most of my adult life and have never encountered a problem with my "friendliness".Frankly, I feel too many people are on the edge and looking for a potential lawsuit to alleviate their financial needs.Too many times people take themselves way too seriously and get the reputation as a crabby old whatever. With my southern drawl and my friendly nature I secure around 120k per year for each truck I handle,so thank you very much, honey.

  3. Related - your poll "yes, no, only if it makes her uncomfortable". By the time you you catch on, if you ever do, it is already too late. Just don't go there.

  4. Well Britches,

    I am a male from Texas grew up around trucks trucker and the proffessonal rodeo circuit. And I too am a product of my culture cause this is what i saw in the people who role modeled for me when i was a young chicken in the barnyard.
    We don't mean to be rude or insensitive! Remember, that we are coming in after hours at a shipper/receiver no shower, no food (except what is carried on truck) and you pretty things we call sugar britches are the bright spot in our work day! In our own way we are trying to be nice and at the same time in the best way we know how say thanks for brightening our day just as little bit!!!!
    Well just somethinn to think about next time you get upset at someone's innuendos!

    True Texan and Pretty darn proud of it!


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