let me call you sweetheart

Let me call you sweetheart I’m in love with you,

let me hear you whisper that you love me, too.

Keep the love-light glowing in your eyes so true,

let me call you sweetheart I’m in love with you.


words by Beth Slater Whitson, music by Leo Friedman


Part of the joy of blogging is the random hits I sometimes get involved with while surfin’ when I am bored or just want to see what other people are writing about.  Did you know that there are more blogs out there about knitting than you can shake a stick at?  If we aren’t careful the internet is going to be slowed down by yarn.  Ofcourse there are the ones that are based in silliness or their ability to use the “F” word with impunity.  Some are looking for friendship or just want to vent their frustrations.  Others pose some profound insight or questions that intrigue me, like the one I read recently about a woman complaining because she was being called “sweetheart”.

Apparently this woman wondered if it was acceptable in society that a younger girl called her “sweetheart” while taking her order at a restaurant.  I’m not sure if she felt it was too familiar,  taking liberties by questioning her sexuality  or just flat out improper etiquette.  Being an “aw shucks buffoon” from the mid-west I have called men “Sir” and women “Ma’am” as far back as I can remember. Recently I have been told by girls not to call them “ma’am” with great disdain.  Like I was labelling them old schoolmarms or virginal spinsters or something equally mortifying.

I have to admit I used to find this practice offensive until I started doing it.  I don’t think I compromised my integrity or anything, I just realized that perhaps the world needed more sentimentality and the usage of these terms of endearment weren’t meant to be offensive, but rather an offering of goodwill from the speaker to the recipient.  Maybe we have succumbed to a more relaxed approach when greeting strangers but I wonder if that is all bad.  To be stiff and compliant to a set of rules in most instances seems pompous to me, but again it would depend on where I was and the circumstances involved. 

If I were in a greasy diner and the proprietor chomped a stubby cigar while growling, “What’ll it be, mac?”  I wouldn’t retort, “Don’t call me ‘mac’ ” and march off in a huff, I’d just place my order.  But if I were in the crystal and lace surroundings of the grand promenade dining hall aboard the S.S. Titanic, I might question the brand of the cigar.  No seriously, the manner of the approach would be conducive to the environment.  If there were a grey area between the diner and the dining hall, my instincts would be less refined and more user friendly.  But that is just me.  I understand that there are boundaries that should not be crossed but I don’t think the precept should be so rigid.  Being called, “hon”, “babe”, “darlin’ ” or “sweetheart” doesn’t offend me as much as cold, calloused or indifferent service does.

My friend Perry had a ’68 Chrysler that when it started on cold, wintery mornings used to get a pat on the dash and a “that’s my girl” as a way of bestowing gratitude or approval.  It didn’t mean he was infatuated with the car or had it confused with a human being, he was using it as an affectionate expression.  And I am reasonably sure that the car knew it.  

Maybe that is one of the reasons I enjoy Jesse Winchester’s music so much.  It has such a southern charm, tenderness of expression and down hominess about it that I feel relaxed and atoned for.  If one of the greatest songwriters that ever lived can convey such humility in his words and actions,  why can’t I?  Let those little things remain minuscule, render a benefit of the doubt when torn between two assumptions.  Like the Bible says, “As far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.”  In my mind Jesse conveys that thought through his music.

I don’t know if being called “sweetheart” by a stranger offering me service is necessarily an inappropriate thing.  But having been on the receiving end of far worse labels and/or expressions, I choose to accept them for what they are, an attempt at setting a relaxed tone and a friendly,  non-evasive exchange of words.  It is not a proposal of marriage, just a simple greeting that can be met with like tone and manner.  If it is rejected for a more dignified address or met with a condescending response, the exchange would be awkward and the setting strained.  There is no substitute for good manners on behalf of both parties.  But take it from someone who generally eats out at least once a day.  With all its ceremony and etiquette,  the experience of dining ain’t much more than the tying on of a feedbag. 

  You can call me “Sir” or “Mister” or “babe” or “sweetheart”.  Just don’t call me late for dinner…   all I really want is to be fed.

pass the biscuits,  please.


18 Responses to “let me call you sweetheart”

  1. jenne Says:

    yep! preach on brother man…

  2. ideasmith Says:

    🙂 Guess its just a matter of the lingo that one’s used to. Can’t figure out why people are so shocked by the way other people talk. I mean…its just words, right?

  3. Ms. Chiquita Says:

    Hey thanks for the comment. Happy New Year to you!

  4. inksmudge Says:

    Hey, thanks for the comment and hope you have a great year. And about being called “hon”, “babe”, “darlin’ ” or “sweetheart”, you don’t hear it very much here in California.

  5. frugalmommy Says:

    I was the one you’re referring to – the one “complaining”….and I agree with you that it depends on the situation, AND what one is used to. I’m not used to being called “honey”, “sweetie”, etc. by strangers. It’s just a pet peeve of mine and maybe I came across too strongly in my blog. You’re right, there are a ton of worse things you could be called. But for me, “honey” is just a term I save for my hubby….

    Btw, love your blog – you really are a great writer…will be bookmarking your blog for sure!

  6. chrisfiore5 Says:

    perhaps “complaining” was not the appropriate word, better to say “you were uncomfortable” because actually you were inquiring as to whether it bothered anyone else. my comment could have used a little more sensitivity as far as you were concerned. I didn’t mean to make you sound prudish. Thanks for the insight and kind words. peace.

  7. Sherri Says:

    Thanks for coming by Mostly Fluff 🙂

    I’ll be coming back for more of your insights.

  8. accamp Says:

    love your blog! thanks for commenting so i could find it. 🙂 happy new year to you too!

  9. brahnamin Says:

    me, i’m just intrigued that you you describe your certainty of a car’s thought processes as ‘reasonable’ 😉

    for the rest, i don’t take offense to much, and so have never really bothered to note what random clerks and waitresses call me. that and i’ve spent enough time in the souht that the occasional shugah, darlin, even baby feels all but commonplace

  10. Maureen Flynn-Burhoe Says:

    Thanks for the random act of kindness. It’s like one of the those moments when a stranger puts coins in your parking meter saving you a fine. Feels good.

    I’ve just had the most extraordinary sky effects going on looking east over the Gulf Islands.

    Thanks again. Maureen

  11. MizAnge Says:

    Thanks for stopping by! I don’t know if your male or female so I was confused reading.

    But anyways, cheers for reading my blog. It’s catered to only like 6 readers so it’s good to have some stranger reading it 😛

  12. MizAnge Says:

    One more thing I just thought of:

    In Australia, older women call everyone “LOVE” and “DARLING”…while this seems fine, when older men address younger chicks on those terms it can be offensive or ‘dirty’…


  13. Aida Says:

    in newfoundland, you get me darling, me honey, me love and me son. i felt weird at first, then i learn its normal for both men and women.

  14. Rach Says:

    I hope your readership expands… you’re a really good writer 🙂 how come I hardly know anyone like this! Thanks for the comment by the way, I just started on wordpress and my site is in a total mess!

  15. Cyndi Says:

    Just catching up on your blog. It amazes me how much we think alike in so many ways! I agree with most of your comments except not sure about “old money” and “new money.” I’ve seen it both ways.

    Love ya.

  16. Idetrorce Says:

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

  17. Lisa Says:

    I think unless you know the other person, it’s better to err on the side of formality than over familiarity.

    I am personally put off when someone addresses me as “sweetheart,” “dear,” and “darling.” I am sure they mean it as a term of endearment, but to me, it’s overly familiar, disrespectful, and condescending.

    This happened to me twice recently. The first, I was pulling into a hotel when a valet motioned for me to roll down the windows. When I did so, he said, “sweetheart, this is valet only.” As a woman who wants respect, I felt it was a demeaning address — almost as if referring to me as just a pretty little thing with nothing but air between her two ears.

    The second instance happened today when a cashier at a supermarket closed the check out line after me. I placed the “line closed” marker after me, as instructed. Then a spazzy girl came up behind me and wanted to be served too. The lady said the line was closed, but the spazzy girl kept smiling, pleading, and acting cute until the cashier relented. I chuckled momentarily at the display. Then when it was time for me to pay for my items, the cashier addressed me as “sweetheart” — over which i cringed.

    I thought less of both people for addressing me in this matter, wondering if they knew any better or if they were feeble minded or just poorly brought up.

    Words are not just words. They can be weapons. They can amuse, heal, and even instigate. If my boyfriend called me sweetheart, I would feel appreciated. By coming from a stranger, the connotation is that the recipient is less (either younger, more inexperienced, a child, not worthy of respect, etc.) For someone for whom dignity and respect are important, being called “sweetheart” by strangers seems overly familiar and inappropriate and is a way of disempowering me. Depends on context.

    To give you an example which may hit the point home. Consider the “N”-word as applied to blacks. Black males call each other N all the time and think nothing of it. But coming from a white person and they feel enraged as it conjures up feelings of racism and of belittling blacks — and is reflective of white institutionalized power — of which they feel every day of their lives but which whites are largely unaware of.

    Women are often disrespected and have to fight to be taken seriously. Many well educated women have experienced the indignity of having men talk down to them, thinking they are unintelligent. For women, then, who prize their dignity…being called “sweetheart,” makes her feel she is being reduced to a silly little girl when she is actually a mature, sophisticated woman and wishes to be treated accordingly.

    Women who perhaps are socialites or party girls or even home makers may not take the same offense at the term as they may be used to playing second fiddle to men and to enjoying being protected and being treated as “special” and in need of extra care. They may also enjoy and even prefer more personalization.

  18. chrisfiore5 Says:

    hello Lisa,

    Thanks for the very informative and well thought out reply to this post. Of all the entries I have made, this topic has resurrected itself over and over again. It has also garnished about the most comments of any entry to date.

    I am a man and by no means perfect. I can easily see from your standpoint how these terms can be degrading, demeaning and belittling.
    But you did touch on one point that I was trying to make and that is the context on which these terms are offered.

    Our tone, our gestures and how we imply or emphasize can play a large part in how a word is used and/or received. My first reaction would be, “What is this person’s intention?” Is he trying to pick me up? or just hold the door open for me? Am I at a bar, doctor’s office, supermarket or quarterly meeting with the shareholders?

    My reason for this post was not to justify using these terms but more of a inquiry to people like yourself as to why and when do they seem offensive? Lately (and this doesn’t necessarily apply to you) it seems that people are taking offense a lot more than they used to, and that bothers me. We are puttng up walls rather than being receptive to what may just be well wishing and friendly banter.

    And I could not agree with you more when you say a woman in a position of responsibility and authority has the right to a measure of respect the same as their male counterparts. When this tactic is used as a way to gain leverage or “put one in her place” it is an insult to her but also an embarrassment to him, though generally men are not intuitive enough to notice or sensitive enough to care.

    If we met, my reaction to your distaste in my word choosings would be apologetic, of course… but my intentions would be honorable and thus gratifying to me nonetheless.

    I am reminded of a bible scripture that I cannot quote off the top of my head but merely paraphrase: “When you enter a house, greet the house holder with peaceful wishes. If he accepts them it is to the joy of you both, if he rejects them may they come back to you tenfold.”

    thanks again, Lisa… hope to see you around the blogasphere.


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