In 2008 I was a student at Mesabi Range College in Virginia, Minnesota and I was training to be a Certified Nursing Assistant. I needed a job that was full time and paid well, and that was really the only option (relatively) easily available to me. Over the course of the class half-semester class, my biggest take away was how important it is to treat those living in long-term care facilities with dignity and respect. Many of the conditions that folx living in long-term care deal with are extremely undignified, but it is critical to their quality of life that they are respected.
Clear communication is a huge piece of that in the healthcare setting, but what our instructor really worked to drive home with us was that we needed to call people by their names. We were constantly reminded of how insulting it is to call grown adults “sweetie” “honey” or “darling.”
As a 19-year-old with no real world experience it had never occurred to me that this might be demeaning, but I took my professors advice to heart and worked really hard to call people by their preferred names.
As a slightly more seasoned adult, I have the experience that has shown me in a very real way how demeaning it is to be called those pet names by someone who you did not give permission to. Calling someone “honey” or “baby” is so intimate, it should denote a level of closeness you have permission for. I use those names with my children because in my world philosophy we choose our parents (not comforting for some, I know) and having made that choice, plus all the closeness you develop as you nurture each other means that you can call your children those names.
So really, don’t call me honey unless I’ve given you permission. You don’t take that respect, I give it. You don’t get to decide I’m your “pet.” I bestow that closeness. You don’t decide I’m unworthy of dignity because I am more dignified than you could possibly imagine.
A version of this post was originally posted on WomanWords.com and is republished here with permission from the author.
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