I finally did it. For years and years I’ve been swearing that one day I’d respond in kind when someone called me Dear or Sweetie. (Anyone, that is, outside a grandmotherly type, or kindly uncle-ish/auntie-ish soul, or anyone in Newfoundland… or, for that matter, anyone who does it correctly, like the British, who are masters at endearment, as are several other nationalities in various languages and dialects. Delivery is everything with this; it’s what comes with it that grates, more than any specific word.)
Well. Today someone did it. Incorrectly. Honey, they called me. About my age, maybe a bit younger. (And yes, it does make a difference sometimes.)
As usual, I was momentarily taken aback—wrong person, wrong tone—and normally, in my taken-abackedness, I miss my opportunity. But not today. Today, still within the window of normal response time, I rallied, answering in a reciprocal tone, casual, as if nothing unusual was going on a’tall, a’tall.
When she said Would you like a bag, honey? I said: no thanks, sweetheart.
I’m not sure what I expected to happen. (Would bells go off, the manager be summoned?) Thing is, I didn’t do it for a reaction; it just needed to be done. To be honest, I assumed she wouldn’t even notice but she glanced at me in what felt like an awkward beat before things got back to normal. As if she was also slightly offended but hardly in a position to say so.
I was smiling the whole time of course, which may have confused her even more.
Most importantly, I realized it was the right thing to do. I enjoyed it immensely, and, who knows, maybe she got something out of it too.
So, yeah, I’m kind of looking forward to the next time. Go ahead, call me Dearie—and be prepared for a Snookums in return.