It was a foggy Thursday evening. I had just worked out at the gym and was looking forward to meeting my friend for a much-needed happy hour cocktail.
As usual, Layla* was late. Well, that, and I was a tad early. It's typical for me to have a good 20 to 30 minutes by myself at the bar, which I usually spend nursing a drink alone while people-watching.
I settled in comfortably onto my barstool when the bartender, a mid-30s-looking guy with a greasy ponytail, approached me.
“What'll it be for you, sweetie?” he said, wringing a cloth and looking at me with his best comforting smile.
I looked up from my phone and frowned. "Uh, I'll just take a Malbec. Thanks."
Just like that, my mood had turned from warm to sour. His was the “sweetie” that broke the camel's back.
I knew he didn't mean to demean me, but the inflection in his voice suggested that he was speaking to someone weak or vulnerable. It went up toward the end, the way your voice goes up when you're trying to make your bestie who just got dumped by her jerk boyfriend feel better by commiserating with her. It's a tone you hear a lot when you present as nice, young and of course, female.
So men, please stop calling me “sweetie.”
Fine, I am sweet. But I've also got more balls than most men I know, and I will rise up when you least expect it and nunchuck you Bruce Lee style. Why are you automatically assuming that what I look like or what I'm wearing or the fact that I'm a woman makes me "sweet"? I'm a multifacted human being.
But also I am a grown woman, dammit, and when you call me sweetie it makes me feel like you're trying to be my father. Maybe you meant well. Maybe you took one look at me, assumed I had a bad day and thought that throwing a "sweetie" my way would put a smile on my face and cheer me up.
But if you've just met me, you don't have permission to just CALL ME ANY DAMN THING YOU WANT.
"Sweetie" is not endearing. It is creepy, disrespectful and patronizing. That young woman you just called "sweetie" at the bar, the club or on the street is powerful. She probably just closed a deal at her job with some major client and doesn't need your "sweetie" as the cherry on top of her badass day. She'd like to enjoy her cocktail without a side of infantilization.
While I'm at it, I'm just going to go ahead and create a list of other words you should never use to address a woman unless you're dating her, she's a family member or she's your ride-or-die BFF:
1. Honey 2. Cutie 3. Really anything that ends with “-ie” 4. Babe 5. Sweetheart
Now, if you must call me something, you can refer to me as "that badass boss lady." Mmhm. I can get down with that.
* Name has been changed.