On a recent holiday, I have been referred to as ‘babe’ by a male hairdresser just before the trip, ‘girl’ by a man giving directions to his daughter, and ‘darling’ by a male bartender – all perfectly endearing and patronising terms. And all entirely inappropriate.
‘Babe’, other than classifying me as a human infant, is “an affectionate form of address, typically for someone with whom one has a sexual or romantic relationship” (OD 2012). ‘Girl’ allows me a slightly more advanced age – up to 16 I would say – but just as little agency. And while ‘darling’ might be a more ‘timeless’ term, its definition as: “an affectionate form of address to a beloved person” (OD 2012) grants me next to no authority.
Okay, so I do like colourful jumpers but does that automatically qualify me as a child at best, but mainly a plaything without any agency? Or is it actually nothing to do with my choice of colourful outerwear? My (male) partner, for example, dabbles in the odd bright green pullover but is as yet to be labelled (a) ‘baby’, ‘boy’ or ‘cupcake’ – at least by other males.
In the end, it was a comment by a male customer in the ‘darling’ bar that really made my proverbial (holi)day. When ordering a local ale I was complimented on my good choice: ‘Lovely pint that’, he said, ‘it’ll put hairs on your chest’. I might be thirty years old and still not considered a woman but that’s one thing I’ll for sure never (want to) be. A man.