Rebecca, you are hardly alone in this. The sweetie piece is also the kind of infantilizing language used to diminish and control older people.I get it all the time from men, women, the medical community. It’s in part a knee jerk reaction to aging folks, and hugely goddamned offensive. In many cases I could damned well “sweetie” them right out the window onto the sidewalk below. It’s tempting, believe me. In these cases I am beginning to call folks out on this bullshit.

I’m not going to tell you that this is easy. Setting boundaries is for me one hell of lot harder than throwing myself out of an airplane. At 66 I’ve been subjected to this for a lot more years but don’t suffer the added dimension of cultural pressure, with one exception. I was born in the Deep South, and the sugary, treacly use of Sugar, Sweetie, and Honey were all part of the cultural landscape.

Diminishing, limiting, controlling language. Not all the time, not in all cases, but you can feel the hairs on the back of your neck rise when it is inappropriate.

It would be fair to suggest that in some cases, people have no clue how offensive they’re being. If we don’t make it clear, they will never know.

Your sensibilities, your boundaries, your right to set them.

I don’t know any other way to claim your power. I just yesterday had to do precisely this very thing while out with a guide here in Mongolia. She was treating me like a child, she did not hear me say politely over and over to . Four days of it and we ended up having a conversation that was very uncomfortable for her. I am not paying eight grand to be herded and controlled and spoken to like a toddler.

In this case there are some significant cultural issues. I worked hard to stay within those boundaries for four days. It was her choice to ignore my wishes. And frankly, it is not my problem if her nose gets out of joint after I made every attempt to be clear, to be nice about it, and to use very polite language.

Such is the case with anyone who has stomped on a boundary or committed an offense. It’s fair for us to point it out and give them a chance to correct it. If they don’t, well, they kinda deserve what they get at that point. If people care, they will accommodate. If they don’t, they will continue to be boorish jerks. Their problem, not ours.

You and I have to take risks or we are forever relegated to hiding in a kitchen corner and nursing our PTSD. I have it too, from military rapes. Plural, thanks. So yes I understand the feeling. We can let that limit us or show us the way forward.

For what it’s worth, I sincerely hope you don’t let others' ignorance dictate your quality of life. You owe the world your gifts, as I do, as do we all, and we have the right to enjoy those gifts in full. We can’t do that if we live in fear of what people might say.

But that’s just my choice. Doesn’t make it right for you or anyone else.

Written by

Horizon Huntress, prize-winning author, adventure traveler, boundary-pusher, wilder, veteran, aging vibrantly. I own my sh*t. Let’s play!

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store