Make It Stop: “Strange Men Won’t Stop Calling Me ‘Baby’!”

Make It Stop: "Strange Men Won't Stop Calling Me 'Baby'!"
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Make It Stop is a new weekly column in which Anna Goldfarb — the blogger behind Shmitten Kitten and Shlooby Kitten — tells you what’s up. Want a fresh take on a stinky dilemma? Email anna@shmittenkitten.com with the subject “Make It Stop.” She’ll make it all better, or at least make you laugh. Girl Scout’s honor.

First up, how to cope with strange men who call you “baby.”

It really bothers me when random guys that I don’t know — like bartenders, guys in the elevator, traffic cops — call me “baby” or “honey” or “beautiful.” Like, I’m buying a drink from you, I’m not your baby! They mean it as a compliment, but it’s not how I want to be addressed. (And whatever happened to a simple “ma’am” or “miss”?) What should I say about this to make it stop?

I would imagine men get mixed signals on calling women these names so I understand why this has endured. Some women may not mind being addressed like this (who doesn’t like knowing someone thinks she is beautiful?), but to others it’s about as annoying as seeing Justin Bieber’s mustache.

For me, this comes down to intention. Does he say these things to make you feel like an insider or a target? Does he say it with a genuine, friendly smile or a hint of menace? What’s the power dynamic involved? Is he in a position of authority over you? Does he talk to everyone like this or do you feel singled out? All of these can factor into how I feel about this kind of talk.

But, I assume you know all this and are writing about someone who isn’t a friendly face and is instead a complete stranger. In that case, I would suggest that you parrot the words back to him devoid of emotion whenever he says it.

Him: “Here ya go, honey.”
You: “Thanks, honey.”

Him: “Order’s up, sweetheart.”
You: “Thanks, sweetheart.”

Him: “That’ll be $20, darlin’.”
You: “Here you go, darlin’.”

You are Vicki from “Small Wonder” or Johnny Number 5 from “Short Circuit”or Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” whichever robot reference floats your boat. By repeating these words back to him, you reclaim some of your power back. You’re saying, I’m a honey? Well, you’re a honey. We’re both honeys. Now give me my coffee and leave me the fuck alone.

If it’s someone you see around a lot and want to correct his bad habit for good, say, “Can I be frank? I don’t love the “sweetie.” Mind if we just stick to “Miss” from now on?” It’s okay to voice your discomfort, but it helps if you tell him what you’d prefer instead as a courtesy.

How do I win the A/C wars in my office? It goes on, it goes off, it goes on, it goes off … I don’t understand why we all have to sweat at our desks just because some intern with zero percent body fat won’t put on a cardigan.

Office spaces are a basin of disappointment and frustration. There is no ideal air temperature. We all have different bodies so the way we perceive outside temperatures is different. Your perfect temperature is another person’s Hades and someone else’s tundra.

Know that you will never be happy with the office climate. The sooner you accept this, the better. Other things you will never be happy with: the Keurig coffee selection, the one-ply toilet paper in the office bathrooms, your co-worker’s scented hand cream from Bath & Body Works, the lack of plastic forks in the break room, the surplus of plastic knives in the break room, and that the clock on the wall is three minutes slow.

If you want complete control over your surroundings, you can work at home. But even then it’s not perfect. You have the neighbor’s lawnmower, or car alarms, or loud children outside your window, or whatever random fuckery that happens on our American streets every day.

Have you ever watched the TV show “Deadliest Catch” about crab fishermen in the Bering Sea? They battle gale-force winds on the open water. Here are some of the risks they face: fatigue, injury, going overboard and drowning. You can fix your problem with an iced coffee and a little baby powder in your panties and under your boobs (it keeps everything dry. Everything.)

Consider “dealing with fluctuation in air temperature” as part of your compensation. You tacitly agreed to it when you accepted employment with this company. You’ve also tacitly agreed to being polite to the security guards, attending company holiday parties, and writing a nice note on the birthday card everyone in the office signs for a co-worker’s birthday. It’s part of the package of having a job that requires you to interact with others on a daily basis.

Lastly, remind yourself that you work there so you can afford to go home and keep your house exactly at the temperature you see fit. That’s the deal. If you don’t like it, start your own company where every cubicle is individually climate controlled. Call it “Custom Temps For U.” Every meeting is a video conference because people can’t risk meeting under less-than-ideal temperatures.

Until that happens, it would behoove you to cultivate your inner zen master / Girl Scout and be prepared for all climate scenarios. You don’t have much control over the office thermostat, but you can control how you react to it. Slip on a light cardigan for brisk temps or power up a mini-fan for heat waves. Because unless you’re an independently wealthy Bubble Boy, your best bet is to be flexible.

Anna Goldfarb is the blogger behind Shmitten Kitten and the author of Clearly I Didn’t Think This Through: The Story Of One Tall Girl’s Impulsive, Ill-Conceived And Borderline Irresponsible Life Decisions. (She is, however, thinking through the responses to these questions very seriously.) Follow her on Twitter!

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