Don’t call me “Dear” unless you’re buying dinner.

I really mean this. Here’s why.

You don’t know me.

You may not call me “Dear,” “Sweetie” or any other endearment unless you know me, and I like and respect you; I know that you like and respect me; or, as I tell total strangers, you’re about to buy me an extravagant lobster-with-champagne dinner.

You may not call me “Dear” simply because I am present, or you want my signature on something, or I’m standing near the elevator button, or because you don’t know my name. You may not call me “Dear” when you disagree with me. Ever.

A poll-taker called me “Dear” recently, and I explained about the lobster dinner thing. He gave me an extravagant wave and said, “Well, obviously, honey, that’s not happening.” Immediately, however, he had the good grace to look me in the eye, take two steps back, nod and say, “But I see your point … ” Well, we both had points. I happen to support his, and now he understands mine, too.

Some women disagree with me, and tell me they like being called “Dear” or “Honey” by strangers, but that’s the point of a good discussion, no? Post your thoughts below and let’s get this rolling. We might as well toss “Ma’am” into this as well.

I will now look forward to the avalanche of emails from friends, all bearing the salutation “Dear ‘Dear'”; because I know them, I like and respect them; and I can see it coming.

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 8:29 am  Comments (13)  
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13 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Dear Dear,

    It was Ma’am that drove me over the edge until I started doing Civil War reenacting. Somehow when you put a man in a uniform he develops MANNERS. It have got so I what used to make me feel old (being called Ma’am) I now like.

    Call me any of the other things you mentioned and you had, indeed better be buying lobster and bubbly.

    Best regards,


  2. I HATE being called Dear or Honey or Hon by a stranger. I would rather be called Ma’am.
    Iv notice that older ( like 88 into their 90’s)people both men and women tend to call me Hon. Which for some reason doesnt bother me when its coming from someone that age.


  3. There does seem to be a consensus about this.

    I must add that I believe women who call other women “dear” are generally using it as a vile lowball weapon. I always think they ought to know better.

    Ah … but of course, they do.

  4. I work at a University and a student (who I do not know) greeted me with “Hey sweetie!.” and closed with “Thanks Doll!” It was horribly inappropriate to my mind; where did a teenage boy get it in his head he could speak to a woman that way, let alone in a professional setting? Shame on his parents.

    • Brianna, how awful! A calm, professional response is required in this case. If I may recommend this one as a realistic alternative to the flippant “are you buying dinner”: A simple pause, with a cool and polite, “Excuse me. Did you just call me ‘Sweetie’?”

      I dare say that by the time a man has reached college age, it is less shame on his parents and more on the boys who egg each other on in such conduct. But from a broader perspective, it could simply be that he’s just trying out being a grownup, and doesn’t know yet that this is not how you do it.

      So, back to the response: The trick to this approach is not to appear either icy or irritated; just cool and in control. If you can bring a twinkle to your eye, you’ve won. And if you can manage it, don’t answer the question – add, “Yes, but … did you just call me ‘Sweetie‘?” – until you see that Mr. Smooth has acknowledged it. No need to humiliate him, either, as that violates the same prinicple.

      You can have loads of fun practicing this by yourself in the style of your favorite Bond Girl. Trust me on that one. And it will work.

      Please stop by again, Brianna, and check in with your fellow Un-dears.

      All the best,


  5. Very funny Anne! Whenever I hear Ma’am, I think of this bit by comic Jann Karem from waaay before I became a ma’am (around the 1:50 mark)…

  6. When men address women they don’t know as “dear,” they are talking down to the women, as if they were little girls. It’s demeaning. How would they like being called “Sonny Boy?”

  7. Thank God to read this. How I’d love to thump all the blokes who call me Dear. Usually they’re uneducated gumphs, but often shop assistants. How to lose business!

    • Thanks, Charactful. I sometimes try calling them “Sweetie” right back, and they sometimes get the point.

      But my standard response always makes them think twice, and has often generated a light-hearted conversation. I asked one man (who said he called every woman “dear” and they didn’t seem to mind) whether he’d ever noticed a conversation going very well and then suddenly turning icy. The curtains lifted … he said, “That’s why …?” and now calls me by name every time.

      The key is humor, and it can work. Carry on!

  8. From time to time I call a women Dear! However 99% of the time I know the person whether that be personal or as a business associate. I don’t use it as a sexist, flirtatious approach. It used as endearment, good to see you or a warm hello! I’m 57 and perhaps old school. A colleague (male) told me it was inappropriate but the majority of women that I have asked…….like it! Please reply to my comment so I learn. Perhaps there is no right or wrong answer.

  9. What I am in California is that younger people think that “dear” is an acceptable term to call a senior. I was a miss, then a mam’ and now I’m a dear. Not acceptable! I just ask what they called me, and then ask if they call everyone “dear” or just certain people?. I tell them my observation and hopefully that sinks in. I think that maybe older people -pre baby boomer- called them “dear” and maybe the association was strong enough to stick in their mind. Older woman= dear. This is not a Southern thing, and it’s not about an old person calling someone dear.

  10. I have come upon this page because, yet AGAIN last night while out, a young man(20’s), about my son’s age, called me dear as he was coming up to challenge me on the pool table. Being called dear by anyone who is not dear to me really pushes my buttons. I have been searching for a response that is different and perhaps more gentle and humerus than what is going through my head. I think part of the reason some men don’t think women mind it, is because some women just havn’t found a “good” way to say otherwise. You know….the pick your battles thing. So far, I’m partial to the ….sunny-boy answer. The way I took care of this last night……..I beat him in pool……over and over and over and over again!! LOL

    • I found my answer!! My go to response now when I’m called dear will be to respond by calling em’ lamb-chop!!

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