While I was attending community college I worked at a restaurant part-time, rotating between hostessing and waitressing. FYI, I’m not a good waitress. I’ll just admit that right now, thank you very much. Being a good server is a skill that I never quite acquired. I was good with the people for the most part and had fun schmoozing, but it was hard for me to keep everything straight. So be nice to your servers, people!
Anyways, one day I was waitressing and I was excited to see a new table of two senior citizen women. Old people kind of love me. I go out there all peppy like the 18-year-old I was and say, “Hello girls, welcome to Tia Rosa’s! I’m Katie and I’ll be your server, blah blah blah.” A few minutes later I come back with their drinks and say something like, “Here you go, now do you girls need a few more minutes to look over your menu?”
Their response was less enthusiastic.
“Excuse me, please do not call us ‘girls.’ You may call us ‘ma’am’ or something more respectful; we are not little girls. We do need another minute.”
Horrified, I mumbled an apology and walked away with my tail between my legs.
Let’s just say I’ve never said that to anyone else. Oddly enough, I’m pretty sure that was the first time I’d ever said that. I’ve never really used that term with people, I simply happened to that day with some customers who really didn’t appreciate it.
That was ten years ago and I rarely think about it, so why am I bringing this up?
I know female doctors who are constantly called “nurse” and male nurses who are always called “doctor.” Some people get really annoyed when you call them Mrs. and they aren’t married. When someone asks if my husband is babysitting, I refrain from my biggest eye roll because it’s parenting–I don’t pay him to spend time with our child. I’ve had people come into my office and ask where the boss is and when I told them it was me, they asked where the person was who could make a decision. I know male teachers who are constantly asked if they’re planning on moving up into administration–you know, because men can’t be good teachers and want to teach for their careers…
Why are these things annoying? Because Aretha taught us all about a little thing called respect. Or maybe it was the Bible. Either way–the answer is still respect! I admire those women who chastised me. Though I was embarrassed, I totally got it too. They were right–it wasn’t respectful. I get irritated when someone refers to me as a “baby” in regards to being in a new situation. Thaaaanks, that’s sure to boost my self-confidence. It’s not so much about titles, but about respecting the work people have done to get where they are.
Obviously we’re going to make mistakes and offend people sometimes. That’s life and it’s okay, but as I’ve thought about respect lately I have wanted to show it more. You can call people by their correct titles, thank those who protect our country when you see them, be nice to the customer service people who are trying to help you, or try to not yell at the maintenance guys who are just doing their jobs by trimming all the trees outside your apartment for six hours and wake your baby from 4 different naps.
I’m a little bitter about that last one today
The way I’m personally trying to show more respect is to simply get to know people. The more you know about someone, the more compassion you have for them, and the more respect you show them. You can’t/don’t want to get to know everyone’s life story, but you can learn a thing or two about people you interact with. This blog mostly discusses things related to school and work, but its goal is to help women with whatever will help them be successful. I can’t think of a situation where being a kind, respectful person wouldn’t help you be successful.
Plus, it makes you happy and you get to know great people.