I told a chap off in Pret today for calling me ‘darling’. I had to lean past him to get my coffee, and I think mostly in innocence he said, “Sorry, darling”. He was saying sorry for being in my way; a classically polite and quite British thing to do. But why did he have to call me darling? I stepped away and said, not angrily but firmly, “Don’t call me darling”. And that was that. I sat down. He and his friend sat down at a table near me, but I didn’t feel intimidated. I ate my porridge, did a bit of work, and stood up to leave. I bussed my table and just as I was stepping to the door I heard, ever so faintly, “Bye, darling”, and then some chortling.
There it is. He thought he was being funny, getting one over on me by imposing his will. He gets to call me darling. He gets to decide. If I don’t like it, he’ll do it as a parting shot to remind me of my place. But that acknowledges that my request for him not to do it was valid; he’s like a child, rebelling against an acknowledged and authoritative rule, not an adult debating two equal but opposite points of view.
I turned around, stared at them both, and gave him the finger. If I’d been feeling more larey, I’d have gone over and quizzed him about his behaviour:
“If you didn’t like it when I asked you not to call me darling, then you should have been a grown-up about it and addressed it with me there and then. Would you like to talk now about why you think you should be allowed to call strangers by a term of endearment? It seems like you didn’t want to talk, because you shouted out behind my back, to try to amuse your mate, but as I’m here and I’ve got the time, I thought I’d say some words to you that you didn’t want to hear. How do you like it?”