There’s a lady at work that keeps calling me “mama.” And it’s starting to freak me out.
I’ve never been a big fan of colloquial terms of endearment anyway, especially coming from people I don’t know very well. Come to think of it, I don’t usually like them coming from my family, either: my sister has called me “babe” most of my life, and it still rubs me the wrong way (sorry, sis!). I cringe when strangers call me “honey,” “sweetheart,” or my favorite, “sugar.” I have a theory (if you haven’t discovered this already, I am full of theories for every occasion; maybe it’s a Gemini thing) that this stems at least indirectly from my childhood hatred of nicknames.
My mother, blessed her heart, named me Amanda for the sole purpose of calling me Mandy—yes, I am named after the Barry Manilow song. Alas, my mother was soon to discover that if she’d wanted to call me Mandy, she should have just named me that in the first place. Except for a very brief period in third grade (in which I also tried to be left-handed; it was a strange time in my life), I have loathed being called Mandy every day I have walked this earth. It is and has always been the quickest way to piss me off. My name is Amanda. “Manda” is a slightly lazy but acceptable alternative. But “Mandy”—let me put it this way: there have been a grand total of THREE people in my life whom I would allow to call me Mandy without an expression of homicidal thoughts immediately following. And one of those is DEAD. She died of cancer, but still. If you call me Mandy and you are not my mother or maternal grandmother or my mother’s friend Miss Wynell come back from the grave, prepare to face the consequences.
Unfortunately, Mandy *shudder* was not the only loathsome nickname I had to deal with growing up. My family hardly ever calls each other by our actual names, and I fall into that as much as anyone else. My sister is Tasha or Tash (short for Natasha). My brother is Bubba, or Toady (instead of Jody) on special occasions. My nephew is Leo (instead of Leonardo, but he’s not even two and that’s a mouthful). Those are all perfectly acceptable (except maybe Toady, but that’s a long story), and my siblings endure and seem even to enjoy being called by them.
I, however, got stuck with a full array of sickening, cutesy crap that still sends shivers down my spine: Manda-Panda (which later morphed into a full, sing-song ditty “Mandy-Pandy-Cotton-Candy”). Toodie. Tater. Nat-Jo-Manda (when my mom would accidentally “call role” while scolding me). I think I’ve blocked the rest from memory, but there were many, many more. And I hated all of them.
I was that child, the one who insists on everyone calling her by name. I gave up on it with the family toward the end of elementary school, though I still protested Mandy with wild abandon. My family stubbornly saw these cute little nicknames as a sign of affection, and in my mostly extroverted family, affection that is not displayed cannot really exist. Therefore, it was always to be expressed in the most open manner possible…much to the disappointment of the sole introverted child who doesn’t really like to be touched. But I digress.
I think that insistence to be known by my own name carried over into my dealings with just about everyone. I was always highly irked by strangers who would dare call me “honey” or “sweetheart” during their brief dealings with me. It was like just because I was young they could call me whatever the hell they wanted; my name was of no importance. And I, obstinate little kid that I was, would give them my best Lilly Aldrin “You are dead to me” look.
I would think, My name is Amanda, dang it! And if you would take one second out of your oh-so-important grown up life to find that out, I’d stop giving you the stink eye. I was however, entirely too shy and respectful of my elders to actually say such things, so I got a lot of practice at giving said stink eye.
In my adult life, I have mellowed considerably on this topic. I’ve gotten to the point where “miss” or “ma’am” are acceptable when dealing with other professional folk, especially those whom I will probably never see again. I am getting worse and worse at remembering other people’s names, but at least I have the gusto to apologize and ask them for it again. Thus I understand and am more willing to forgive when others forget my name.
But to this day I am annoyed by people who address me in work emails by my last name. (My first name is RIGHT THERE, for god’s sake! What, do you NOT see the freaking comma!?)
And terms of endearment still make me really uncomfortable.
Died-in-the-wool Gemini that I am, there are always exceptions; significant others, close friends. I have allowed my brother and sister-in-law to teach my half-Hispanic nephew to call me tía since it’ll be easier for him to say. But in my book, coworkers and professional acquaintances do not fall under these exceptions.
My job tries always to promote a friendly, welcoming vibe. People here are very cordial; you walk into 95% of our offices and you will be met with a smile. While this makes for a great atmosphere, it does mean that I am from time to time forced to encounter people who take this friendliness a little too far into the familiar.
I have been called “kiddo,” “sweetie,” and “mama”…today. Kiddo and sweetie I can deal with, but MAMA? Really? As far as I know, I have given birth to no one. It’s like when guys want you to call them “daddy” or a guy calls me “baby;” it’s just weird. I am not a baby. You, sir, are not my father. I am nobody’s mother, and being referred to in this manner really, REALLY doesn’t sit well with me.
The problem is I don’t know how to express this to the coworker in question without coming across as rude, over-sensitive, unfriendly, or any combination of the three. How do I tell this woman, who is just trying to be nice to me, that I don’t appreciate her misplaced endearment? My non-confrontational introverted self wants to just leave it; let her call me whatever she wants and just try to get used to it. But my inner obstinate child with the superb stink eye is not happy with that option.