Just Don’t Do It

I come with a surgeon general’s warning, not for my safety but for yours. Let me explain. I was out hunting for blueberries yesterday; not the berry itself, but the plant upon which the berries will grow. This involved a trip to four garden centres for the varieties I wanted — Duke, Elliott, Blue Crop, and Northland, just in case you were wondering, which you probably weren’t. At three of the four centres, I was called — brace yourself — “dear.” You may not have the same abhorrence for the term that I do, but these people using such a moniker were a quarter of my age. I’m not their “dear;” I’m not anyone’s “dear.” That term from a stranger younger than me is someone deciding I am redundant, am no longer relevant, and needing to be pitied. “You poor old thing,” they are whispering in their heads, thinking I probably can’t find my car. I don’t have to be a senior citizen to not remember where I parked my car. That has happened enough times over the many years to be categorized as “often.” We, by the way, are all relevant until we take our last breath, even when we can no longer remember what makes us relevant. Calling me “dear” is ageism, it is condescending, and it is rude. And I’m not having it.

I took action against the perpetrator. I gently and respectfully offered up my reasonable facsimile of a TED Talk on the matter of “calling someone dear,” during which I drummed my fingers on the counter while carefully choosing my words. I complimented her friendly manner and unhurried approach and explained my disdain for the word. She looked at me blankly, without responding. I waited for some kind of indication she was still among the living and had heard my words. I thought maybe she had turned to stone, but I don’t think I have that kind of power. So, I departed said garden centre and promised myself never to return.

I came home from my blueberry hunting adventure gone wrong, and designed a t-shirt online that says on its front — “DON’T CALL ME DEAR” and below in smaller print — “surgeon general’s warning.” So, the next time I am assaulted with a “dear,” I shall tear open my jacket as if I’m superwoman, which I am, only better, and expose my t-shirt that may blind the culprit or render them paralyzed, temporarily of course. It would be so much more effective if I could pop into a phone booth to do my transformation. It boasts of drama and urgency, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a phone booth; they have gone the way of the dodo. I’ll give the offender my grittiest stare and assure them I own and operate a chainsaw and they shouldn’t encourage me to use it, not in a garden centre. I’m not sure a chainsaw is as much of a threat in a grocery store which is the other place I am attacked by the “dears.” I’ll have to consider my options of weapon, for threatening purposes only. No physical harm should come to anyone, but I can’t promise anything. I heard a comedian from my relative age group saying that her bucket list is dark and she plans to live loud and loose with the law in her dwindling years. I couldn’t help laughing. Maybe she’s on to something.

Just because I, and others of my peer group, have grey hair and skin that has lost its bloom, doesn’t mean we want to be spoken to as if we are idiots and no longer have a functioning brain. Calling an older person “dear” is along the same lines of children should be seen and not heard or calling a woman by her husband’s name — all offensive. Just don’t do it.

Funny story — today I was slinging bags of compost from a trolley into the back of my car during what felt like a Wizard of Oz type of day. Papers and debris were swirling around in the air, plants toppling off their shelves, rain whipping at my face. A woman, of my age group, came along behind me and said, “Remember when staff used to offer to help?” I stopped what I was doing and laughed with her but said, “We’re stronger than most of them and I’m staying independent for as long as I can,” and continued to unload the bags, while she nodded in agreement. I then raised my finger to alert her as to the approach of a wise idiom. “But they better not call me dear,” I said, to which she slapped her leg and sang out — “Exactly!” Ahhh, a kindred spirit. I should have her over for tea. We can chat while we construct placards and map out the route of our upcoming protest. Don’t call me dear. Just don’t do it.