Thursday, April 21, 2011

Who are You Calling Little?!?!

So not D related, but I just had to rant about this a little bit.

One of my "buttons," as my husband would call it, is when people don't take me seriously.  Sometimes this is clearly intentional stuff like being openly disregarded (do this, and you'll see what I look like when I'm irate!), but I'm also pretty sensitive to language and subtext.  I know full well that people don't have to be intentionally mean to have a negative effect on a person, a situation, or even a society.

As a result, I just absolutely couldn't stomach someone I barely know referring to me as "a little mama" in the workplace.

I totally let it slide the first time, telling myself that this person was trying to be sweet and friendly.  But then she kept saying it, and every single time I envisioned myself as a toddler playing with a baby doll.  "Little mama" just doesn't fit the image of myself that I try to believe in: a strong, smart, responsible 31 year old woman who made a significant life decision with her husband, and who is now going through a lot of work to bring a healthy human being into this world, whom I will then help guide through life.

I'm positive she meant well, and she probably doesn't quite picture me as that toddler with a baby doll, but every time she called me "little mama," it just didn't seem possible that she felt any respect for me.

I realized that I needed to find a polite way to get her to stop calling me "little mama."  It's not appropriate in a work environment, it's not appropriate with someone you barely know, and... it's really not that cute or clever anyway.  My husband and my parents have the most leeway with me when it comes to terms of endearment, and I'd have shut that one down pretty quickly!

I didn't want to have to go to her office and say, "Hey, by the way, I'd appreciate if you didn't call me little mama anymore," but I wasn't entirely sure how else to do it.  Until I just did it.

Her: Oh, here, I'll let the little mama past.
Me: *smiling* You know, I'm really not that little.
Her: Yes you are! (Believe me when I say she was not endearing herself to me with this comment!)
Me: Well, and I'm a 31 year old woman.
Her: *awkward pause & stare* You are not 31!

I suspected, during the awkward pause, that she was realizing that I felt like she was talking down to me.  However, I also knew the mention of my age would open up a mode of escape for her: a change of topic.  It seems like almost all women over 40 assume I'm much younger than I am (most women younger than that and most men either guess my age pretty accurately or just never comment on it), and I do look fairly young.  I'm well aware that, at this stage in life, this is a disadvantage for me in the workplace.  (I'm also aware that, in the future, it might become an advantage.)  Add to this the fact that I am only 5'2", and I'm at a double disadvantage when it comes to making a serious impression in the workplace.

By the way, when she said "yes you are!" to my comment that I wasn't that little, I almost wigged out on her ala Edward from Full Metal Alchemist:

But in all this, my mind was incurably boggled!  First of all, how did she ever think this cutsie term of endearment would be appropriate with a professional peer she barely knows?  Even if I'm younger than her?  Even if I were much younger?  Second, why did she make yet another comment related to my stature after I said I wasn't "that little?"  She's on the taller side of average for a woman, but surely she's aware that some short people are self-conscious about their height (if you don't "get" that, watch the above video again! :p ).  At that point, I felt like she was being genuinely rude, even if she didn't intend to insult me.  It was like pointing out someone's big nose, wide hips, or other physical feature that is the opposite of what society idealizes.  (So, thanks lady.)

Really, are people so clueless?

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