Let me call you sweetheart... or not


I'm a child of the South. I've been called sugar, dumpling, honeycakes, and baby doll (among other endearments) by complete strangers my whole life. So much so that unless there's some sort of wonky tone or inflection, I don't really think about it. Let's look at some context.

My first day of "real" work after graduating college, my supervisor plunked his coffee cup on my desk and said, "Keep that filled for me, lil darlin' please." I smiled ever so sweetly and told him, "Sure and you can call me Michele, honey." I went to get his coffee. He called me Michele from there on out.

I recall beefing with one co-worker in a meeting when she leaned over and said, "Sugar, you are out of your depth. Watch you don't drown." To which I replied, "Coming from someone whose idea of deep is the kiddie pool, I think I'm okay. But thanks for your concern, cupcake."

There are times when someone starts a sentence with, "Listen honey" and you know it's not an endearment. There are people who call everyone "babe" because they can't remember names. Lately, boo and shorty get tossed around with ease. Depending on context, it's not that big of a thing... to me.

So imagine my surprise yesterday when in the midst of an interview with an online radio host and two other authors, one of the authors went completely off. The host had asked a question about writing "steamy" scenes and this other author lamented at answering this question for the umpteenth time. The host responded in a light-hearted laughing tone, "Well sweetie, I'd think you'd be used to this by now." Author 2 went left. She raged about the subjugation and objectification of women and especially women who wrote in certain genres. The rant was punctuated with, "You don't know me well enough to call me your sweetie!" and "How dare you!" It was epic. Until she turned on me. "Michele, you need to back me up on this. How do you feel about random men calling you sweetie just because they can?"

Me: "Um, I'm from the South. Unless a dude calls me sugar ta-tas, drops the b- c- or n-word, I don't pay it any mind."

"Well I hope you don't consider yourself a feminist. You just set women back 25 years."

Me: "I'm sorry, Norma Rae. I don't wave my militant flag as high as yours."

CLICK. Interview over. In fact, we scrapped the whole previous half-hour and did the segment over again with just me, Author 1 and the host.

Ladies, how sensitive are you to being called sweetie, honey, sugar? Gents, with the exception of the n-word, "boy" and being called the wrong name at the wrong time, are you at all sensitive to this sort of thing? Inquiring minds want to know. The floor is yours.