February 10, 2010

Label lust:: Two dears, a hon and a Mary

I try to believe it doesn't matter what you call me as long as you call me on time for dinner. But when I hear some of the things you call me, oh my.

I have an unusual name. OK, a lot of names. Even I admit Mary Ann Chick Whiteside is long and often shorten it to mcwflint online..  But it is still my name and I have a right to be called what I want, what I expect.

In fact, a telephone call that begins with Mary quickly clues me in that the likelihood that this is an unwanted call is high. I prefer that folks call me Mary Ann and I usually try to correct those I want hanging around in my life.If they don't remember that after awhile, I get that they don't really want me around.

I am getting much better at gliding past the Mrs. Lawrence Whiteside from those of a certain era. (Yes, it starts "you can't enlighten the dead" rolling through my head.) And, I rarely donate money for the thrill of seeing my name in a program book that heads to the recycling factory.

I'm getting used to hon and sweetie by those I'm not married to, but ma'am still feels like a sucker punch. That ma'am - that's for people who command respect merely because of their age. It quickly turns me from the young woman in that famous illusion into that old woman in the famous illusion. (Take a break - look at the possible lineage of that classic illustration.)

Still I was surprised how hurtful a recent dearie was.Even more surprising was to get two dearies in one day and realizing that I'd always heard a blessing in the label from this person.

But hearing the label recently from a new acquaintance brought up another image for me: An old woman's face, all crinkly and smiley and wrinklely, the type that generates offers of help across the street from the nearest, kindest stranger.

That dear, that dearie, magically switched my hands with the hands of my grandmother in her latest years, her last years.

Still, at the end of the day? I'll take dear over ma'am any day ... and please don't forgot to call me for dinner.


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