Wednesday, April 4, 2012

WISDOM Wednesday: When Are We Old Enough to Call Someone, “Honey”?



Back by popular demand! 




This story written by Malati Marlene Shinazy


     “Hello Honey, I’m so glad to see you.”  With that greeting, a sweet matronly woman would take my hand and lead me into a fitting room at the cozy ultra-pink shop named Kay Burt’s Corset Corner.  From my first-ever masterfully-determined-perfect-brassiere-for-my size-shape-and-age visit until I left for college, I was met with these words. 

     Being fitted for a bra became a treasured ritual - a rite of passage.  And, it always started with the same sincerely spoken welcome, “Hello, Honey, I’m so glad to see you.”  Forget that the bra fitting women were as dedicated and precise as NASA engineers.  Forget my mother’s annual lecture that we would never purchase an actual corset because, “If you wear one, you won’t hold in your stomach, and it’ll turn flabby.”  The most impactful part of this ritual was being warmly called, “Honey.”

     In the back of my teen-aged mind, I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to call others, “Honey.”  Somehow, I just knew, when I grew up, I too would call people, “Honey.”

     I think I’m old enough now, or close to it, or might be getting close to it soon.  So, a few months ago, I just dove in and started calling people, “Honey” or “Hon.” It never felt awkward.  It felt warm, friendly, and welcoming, just like I remembered.

     Last week, the sky fell … A male friend told me in no uncertain terms that when I called people “Honey,” it sounded condescending … WHAT?  How could it?  I remembered it so fondly as a wonderful expression of warm sincerity.

     I doubted the wisdom of my friend and decided to conduct a little social research by asking others what they thought.  The young teller at the bank said, “Well I wasn’t really paying attention.”  The much-older-than-me gentleman in my service club thought I was just flirting with him.  And on it went.  Person after person was asked and not one heard my sweet matronly term as an expression of warmth and sincerity.  Oh, no.  Maybe my friend was right.

     Finally, I got an answer that made sense.  It came from a woman who was about my age, or close to it, or might be getting close to it soon.  She told me that we are only allowed to call someone “Honey” if the person is family or much younger - and never a customer service employee.  Otherwise, she said, “It sounds like you are talking down to the person.”  She also told me I didn’t look old enough to get away with it.  In the back of my mind, all I could think was, “You mean, a lifetime of exercise and organic food, plus decades of not wearing a corset so my abs would stay taut has come back to haunt me?”

     But since the sky had not actually fallen, I wonder: Will I ever be “old enough” to call someone “Honey”? Perhaps not.

     Maybe I’ll try, “Darlin’” next.


 photo by alsjhc



19 comments:

  1. Whooo whooo!!!!! Go Malati!
    ~ D

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  2. I LOVE it! I've always wondered about that myself!

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  3. Funny! Move to Bal'more, Maryland. Everyone calls everyone "Hon"! It seems warm and friendly to me!

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    1. Malati Marlene ShinazyJanuary 11, 2012 at 11:01 PM

      Same thing in the South. Calling someone Hon or Darlin' is just normal & casual.

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  4. The checkout lady at the grocery store calls me "Hon" (or maybe Hun?) and she is probably a little younger than me. However, I always assume she says it to everyone, so it doesn't register (if you'll forgive the pun, Hon).

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    1. Malati Marlene ShinazyJanuary 16, 2012 at 12:07 PM

      She calls me that too :-) -- ms

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  5. Well written and very entertaining! Personally, if someone hears anything other than friendly affection when greeted with "honey," they are being too picky!

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    1. Malati Marlene ShinazyJanuary 11, 2012 at 11:04 PM

      Salutations have own cultural rules, too, it seems.

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  6. Well, there goes my opening line :-)

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  7. M,
    Pssh! Not long ago I had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time in the Parishes of Louisiana. There, it is not uncommon to be greeted by complete strangers (not only strangers of ill repute) as "Baby."

    Although I believe I am slightly more handsome than Daniel Craig; I was disappointed to find out that they weren't only referring to me as "baby" ... but everyone as far as I could tell is referred to as "baby" in the Big Easy.

    You go on with your "Hun," Baby.

    Big Joe G.

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    1. Malati Marlene ShinazyJanuary 16, 2012 at 11:33 AM

      thanks Big Joe! -- ms

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  8. The wisdom of your friend makes perfect sense. I have always wondered why I hate being called Honey by someone younger than me. LOL Diane

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    1. Malati Marlene ShinazyJanuary 16, 2012 at 11:34 AM

      :-) -- ms

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  9. I can relate to this with my own version: "sweetie". When all my kids were little--and even now--I always called them sweetie. Maybe I couldn't remember their names, I don't know. The problem now is that I will still use "sweetie" when talking with some people, notably some of my students, who, although young, are old enough not to like that appellation. I DO so try to break myself of the habit and don't use it much anymore. But your story reminded me of habits we now have and have retained, particularly ones we acquired with our kids. One which will ALWAYS stay I believe, and is completely harmless is my habit of swaying back and forth while just standing still somewhere, a throwback to rocking a small "sweetie" gently to sleep.

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    1. Malati Marlene ShinazyJanuary 18, 2012 at 11:54 PM

      Sweet habit embedded into your heart by you and your darlings! Do they know? -- ms

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  10. Malati Marlene ShinazyApril 4, 2012 at 1:11 AM

    This was originally written in January, 2012... I think I'm old enough now! -- ms

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  11. Very cute story!
    Joy

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    1. Malati Marlene ShinazyApril 9, 2012 at 11:55 AM

      thanks, Joy. Glad you enjoyed it! - ms

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