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.”