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What’s in a Name?

April 19, 2012

The other day, I was at a department store at the mall, returning a pair of jeans.  I had to wait in line, which was fine.  I wasn’t in a hurry.  The only thing that sucked about waiting was that I was reminded again and again as to why I had to return the pants.  After I bought them, I went home and tried them on, only to have to button pop off as I buttoned them.  At least it inspired me to go for a run.

It’s a good thing I wasn’t in a hurry, because the person in front of me was having some, well, issues.  She seemed to have picked up everything in the store that was missing a price tag.  She meant to pick up a medium, but instead had a large.  The two shoes in the box weren’t the same size.  Bless her heart.

People started to switch lines, audibly expressing their absolute dissatisfaction with it all.  I’ve learned my lesson, though.  If I switch lines due to impatience, the next line will inevitably be worse.

So I waited (and waited and waited and waited).  The cashier was chatting with the customer, occasionally breaking the conversation to take care of the various issues.  She kept saying things like, “hold on, baby, ok?” or “baby, is this the right one?” or “let me check on that, baby.”  I’m sure I don’t need to, but let me point out that it was not, in fact, a baby that was buying clothes.  It was actually a woman who appeared to be in her 70s or so.

When it was my turn to check out, she did the same thing to me.  I guess I do need to point out that the cashier was a young blonde who couldn’t have been much more than about 22.

What do you think about that?  I mean, there’s something to be said for good manners.  Did this girl miss the mark?  It kinda feels like she did.  It’s as if she really was trying to be nice and courteous, but I don’t know of many grown women who want to be called baby, unless you do it in the privacy of her bedroom and that’s another story entirely.  This didn’t feel sexy.  It felt condescending.

I guess it doesn’t really matter all that much.  It just made me think about the way we address one another, learning habits from an early age.  In The South, so many kids are taught to answer any question asked by an adult with “Yes (or no) ma’am (or sir).”  I wasn’t necessarily raised that way, and neither was The Man, but when The Kids are in trouble, their response to “do you understand?” had better include a “yes” and ma’am or sir.

One thing I always struggle with is what to tell The Kids to call my friends.  Growing up, I remember calling my friends’ parents Mr. and Mrs. Suchandsuch.  There were a few exceptions when I called them by their first name.  I don’t care if I’m called Mrs. Wright.  As far as I’m concerned, Mrs. Wright is my mother in law anyway.

I’d prefer that my friend’s kids call me Jenny.  Not Mrs. Jenny.  Just Jenny.  Well, I don’t want them to call me Just Jenny.  Jenny.

Most people don’t feel comfortable with that.  There’s supposed to be a distinction between grown-ups and kids, right?  I get that.  I’m just not formal or fancy enough for all the Ms./Mrs. blah blah blah.  Many of my closest friends understand that and agree with me.  The rest are just uptight.  KIDDING.

I’m sending a shout to the elder who took my return.  Yeah, I know that you’re super young, but if you’re gonna call me “baby,” what does it really matter?  I’ll deal with it.  Just don’t call me Mrs. Baby.

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