What’s In a Name?

Some time ago, I had an exchange of short messages with a guy on a dating site. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with my most recent shunt surgery and how long it would be functional, but I was feeling, well, like I wanted to check out the pool. So of course my shunt went into failure immediately after I sent the first few messages, right around the same time he asked me what kind of relationship I was looking for. I sent him a message saying that I had to go into crisis mode without giving him any details and that it wouldn’t be a good idea after all to try to date, and that I wouldn’t be on the site anymore. His response was, “Well then why are you here, sweet pea?”

My first instinct was to get all poundy-poundy on the keyboard and slug him verbally. Then I took a breath because I needed to evaluate why that response got me all worked up.

This bothered me because 1) I was telling him that I was getting off of the site, so asking me why I was there after I said I wouldn’t be on anymore was at best redundant and at worst insensitive; 2) He doesn’t know me well enough to call me “sweet pea,” so that came off as being really condescending; 3) I’m still a human being trying to make a connection.

On a grander scale, how much does terminology affect how others see us, and how we see ourselves? If a man who doesn’t know me well calls me “sweet pea,” it tells me he doesn’t respect me (or women in general). It’s kind of like petting a strange dog without knowing if it bites people it doesn’t know. Maybe some women are charmed by pet names like that from strangers, but I’m not, and I do bite.

Back when I was in school all the way to my mid-20’s, I was still trying to figure out how I wanted other people to refer to me. One friend and I attached the word “babe” after our names, so she would call me the equivalent of “Kiwi-babe” and I would call her something like “Kristi-babe.” Another friend and I decided, after much debate, that we were not girls and not women, but rather “chicks” – the kind that could hang with the guys and play darts and drink whiskey and be super laid back. Later in my 20’s the “babe” moniker fell by the wayside, but “chick” stuck around. I also managed to pick up the nickname Chester the Molester while working at a restaurant, but I wasn’t alone – there was also Pea Pod Todd and Nicki Pickle. After living in a few more states and tucking more adventures under my belt, a co-worker nicknamed me Chuck. The guy I was messing around with at the time refused to call me that because it was too masculine, as in “Oh, Chuck, that feels so good.” Nope, it didn’t work for him, the straightest man on the planet.

In my 30s, I got further away from the usage of “girl” to describe myself, but was okay with the word “chick” still. But now I’m 41, and I realized that I immediately lose my lady boner when a man refers to “cute girls” or implies that I am a girl. I also don’t get hot for any man who is open to dating a 21-year-old when he is in his mid-40’s – I mean, really, how is it possible to have anything in common, especially if the man claims to be looking for a long-term relationship?

Now that I have decided I am a woman, it means I can no longer crush on Hozier or Ed Sheeran, because that would just be creepy. Pretty soon I am going to wear a variety of fabrics and patterns all mashed together, yarn tied into bows in my hair and garish blush and lipstick. I will forgo the awful perfume that smells like cat pee and cigarette smoke because I’m allergic to perfumes, but just know that I would make it part of the final package if I could. The biggest thing is that I will stop caring. I won’t give a rip if someone calls me a bitch because I’ll say it right back. That’s what I look forward to the most about aging – kiss the filter goodbye!

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