THERE was a bit of a hoo-ha recently when a care home in Harrogate was criticised by inspectors for allowing its staff to address residents with terms of endearment.
“Good morning, my love,” and “How are you, my darling?” were not appropriate ways of speaking to elderly charges, the po-faced inspectors decreed.
I’ve often overhead my mother’s carers speaking to her in exactly those terms, and it makes me really happy. I like the fact that they express their affection for her in this entirely natural way. I don’t consider it disrespectful. Frankly, someone using the endearment “my love” is not likely to be cruelly digging their fingers into a delicate, easily bruised arm, and that’s a priceless reassurance in the caring environment.
However, away from that scenario, I find myself increasingly grinding my teeth over the growing use of terms of address that go just that bit too far with their so-cool cheery matiness.
Let’s get this straight, all you snappy, trendy, try-hard baristas and waiting staff out there: I am not a “guy”. Greeting me and my friends with a loud “Hi guys, what are you having today?” does not put us at our ease. It makes us cringe.
Guys are male people with youth on their side, not a collective term for women, especially women who, sad to say, patently have no trace of youth on their side.
My friend Kate and I, both of us grannies, are firmly in that category yet last week were repeatedly and enthusiastically addressed as guys by the staff where we were having lunch.
In another place in the same town, I often take my mother where the very same thing happens. We are greeted as guys and the term sticks for the duration of our visit. If Mum’s hearing aids ever worked and she picked up the word I know she’d be highly amused but, like me, quite baffled.
I’m not sure how those of us who are not guys are meant to feel about this labelling, this verbal reassignment of our gender. True, it is a tad better than “ladies”, which, while accurate, is too cloying and obsequious and sets me off tooth-grinding all over again.
I ask my daughter how she tolerates being part of a group of “guys” and she says she cannot bear it either. Sensibly, she suggests we don’t need to be addressed as anything. We don’t have to be verbally embraced and made to feel we are the most special guy-shaped customers on the planet when what we would so much rather be treated to is a friendly greeting, such as “Good morning, what may I get you?” It really needs no embellishment and it is never in danger of veering into that dangerous territory of patronising the patrons.
You can be certain that the staff who have decreed we are all “guys” will be the ones who come along later, put plates of food on the table, and exhort us to “Enjoy!”
Kind of you, I want to say, but who’s giving the orders around here? I’ll certainly enjoy it if it’s good, but what if it is like the salad that Kate and I shared which had been so drowned in dressing it needed wringing out?
Difficult to “enjoy” when you’re disappointed, but naturally, when the waitress returned a few minutes later to do that irritating interruption along the lines of “Is everything all right for you guys?” we lied an enthusiastic “Yes, thank you,” and mopped our chins when she wasn’t looking.
I guess that’s how good guys behave.