a rant for friday, after dinner on thursday


The waiter brings the apps, sets mine down and says, “There you are, young lady.”

He sets down my husband’s. “And for you, sir.”

We are the same age, my husband and I.

And I am no young lady.

When the main course comes the waiter repeats his little service mantra and I point out the above—lightheartedly, but clearly wrapped in a message. It rattles the poor soul but he’s not the sort that moves easily beyond his ignorance and chooses to stand firm instead, explaining that many people like being called ‘young lady’.

“People?” I say. I point out that in our case, my husband is called ‘sir’ every time.

He looks to my husband who purposely says nothing. This is my discussion and that seems to rattle the waiter even more.

He says some people prefer ‘sir’.

Again with the people.

I should mention that the waiter is thirty something. In other words nowhere near old enough to be calling anyone young. Were he my parents’ vintage or older, or even my vintage, it would be another story and more acceptable, because it would be coming from a whole different place. Does this chap call twenty-five year olds ‘young lady or man’? I doubt it but if he does I’m guessing it might also come across as odd. In fact I can’t think of any age, beyond maybe eight, when I would have thought it normal. But more important than the age thing, is the gender thing. My husband is referred to with respect, as in ‘Sir’. While I’m expected to be content with the nonsense of ‘young lady’.

Women may be subjected, generally, to more dears and sweeties and hons, than men, and from both genders, and that’s another story, but this is about more than endearments or habits of speech. The ‘young lady’ thing, however, seems to come predominantly from males… and is directed at females who are not young. Perhaps these misguided men think of it as some kind of gift…

I try to explain this, to enlighten him with the news that women don’t actually enjoy being condescended to and that this ‘young lady’ thing is just plain silly, and then I present him with a challenge so that he might see the silliness more clearly. I suggest he turn things around, call all male customers, of any age, ‘young man’.

His face falls a little.

I smile. “Go on,” I tell him. “Give it a whirl. Maybe some people will prefer it…”

No answer to that and I’m suspecting he doesn’t give it a whirl.

I swear if I was his boss I’d insist he do it.

Later, when I pass on dessert and hand back the menu, he says, “Thanks, love.”

“You’re welcome, darling,” I reply.

If he gets where I’m coming from he doesn’t let on.

It’s only when he places the bill on the table and I immediately reach for it—and I know he sees this—that for the first time all night a light seems to come on for this boy as he realizes he’s made a terrible mistake…



7 thoughts on “a rant for friday, after dinner on thursday

  1. Good for you. Never pass up an opportunity to educate a ‘young man.’ My hairdresser calls me “Hon,” and she’s 15 years younger than I. But I’ve heard myself call my young woman next door neighbour, “Sweetie.” And as soon as I do, I wonder why. Maternal instincts, I believe. Sounds like your waiter was as thick as a stump. If the service was good, other than the misnomers, I guess the tip will make him forget what a crabby old ‘dolly’ you were to him.

    1. I’m going to place a small bet on the idea that your hairdresser calls everyone — of any age and gender — Hon. If not then it’s something to ponder. My quibble isn’t with these tics of language, annoying as they may be [because they can be charming too], it’s with the condescension that’s attached to the ‘endearments’. One person can say Honey Sweetie and it’s fine; another and it’s just so ugly in its disrespect.

      And you are one hundred percent right. Our waiter was thick as a stump. But the tip I left would have been of no consolation to him…

  2. In my younger days as a waiter, I learned very early on that Mam was a no no. In those days of bra burning frenzies the mantra that was acceptable was Ms. It fit whether the lady was married, single or a feminist. Later as a service Plumber I had to curb myself as I often would let slip ‘Dear’ ‘Darlin’ and even ‘Love’ but at least I didn’t discriminate as I also called the guys bud, buddy or pal.I guess I was just too darn friendly. Thanks for listening sweetie.

    1. Thanks for this, hon. I get what you’re saying about the bra burning frenzy years… when Ms. was so hard for guys to say — they’d pronounce it MIIIZZZZZ and make a bit of a production of it. As for the Dears and Darlin’s… nobody really loves it. Try it on some of your buddies and pals sometime, see how it flies! (;

      But I do, sincerely, appreciate your comments. I don’t suppose this is easy for chaps to understand. Sounds to me like you’re one of the good ones who’s at least trying.

      Points for that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s