Am I Your Sweetheart
I've noticed something recently. One of the things I get paid to do is notice things.
I grew up in a time and place where any adult male could call any female "honey" or "sweetheart" or "darling.'" The woman who served you breakfast, your insurance agent, the woman who sold you cigarettes, bank tellers. The women frequently "honey-ed" you right back, too.
I did it, too, but I quit it when I moved to New England, a colder spot in more ways than one.
Recently, here in frequently snow-capped Massachusetts, I've been getting sweetie-ed by the woman at my coffee shop, the woman at my convenience store, at a diner I frequent, the dry cleaner and a few other spots. The women who "honey" me can very properly be called "girls" by me, since I am 57 and they all appear to be in their 20s.
There I am, tweed-capped and gray bearded, reeking of pipe smoke and pained maturity, a $5 bill in my fist, standing before the cash register in the drugstore, the other hand clutching a package of rainbow-colored malted milk Easter eggs. She takes my money, this Amber or Brenna or Desiree and hands back the change.
"Have a nice day, honey," she says.
"Thanks, kid," I mutter, glancing around for the camera that is secretly recording her harassment of me, or my harassment of her.
Perhaps the young women of this generation are more secure, more playful, less inclined to be strident n their feminism, though it's hard to see how female minimum-wage retail workers can be anything BUT strident.
Or perhaps it's a linguistic fad, a change in the slang.
I do not "honey" back at these women. A man my age who throws "honey" at a 22-year-old store clerk can end up in baseball bat or gun trouble with either her boyfriend or her father, both of whom are younger than me. If I want a fair fight, I'm gonna have to scrap with her grandfather.
And maybe that's it; maybe all the "sweethearts" and "dears" are not a trend within feminism or a rising new slang. Maybe I am so old now that young girls think me both cute and harmless and they say "honey," to me as they would if it was their job to tuck me in at the nursing home while praising me for having had a good bowel movement.
"Have a nice night, sweetie," she says as I leave the liquor store with a six-pack.
And I walk out slowly, no longer a dangerous man.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's newest book, "Volume I," a collection of his best columns of 2014, is available for Kindle and Nook.
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