It seems to be happening all of a sudden. Just within the past week or so. Every where I go, it’s hi sir, here you go sir, sure sir. Non-stop sir. It’s like I have a new sign pasted on my forehead saying “please call me sir.”
The other day I went into three places within a hour, a coffee shop, a bank, and a stationary store. In each one I got the sir. wtf. The common denominator in each place is that the workers were in their 20’s and 30’s. Before sir, it was just a hey, or dude, or some other innocuous salutation: buddy, chief, boss, pal. Even a smile and a head nod worked.
Just today, in the gym minding my own business I was in the middle of an exercise — single leg squat touchdowns. It’s a great exercise, to hate. You stand on one leg while the other leg is suspended out to the side and front. While holding a dumbbell in the hand on the same side as the leg you are standing, you gradually squat down, keeping your back straight, touching the outstretched hand to the toe of the grounded foot (i.e., left hand to right toe). As you squat down touching your toe, you bring the suspended foot next to the grounded foot, but keeping it suspended. In a continuous motion, you return to a standing position with the leg and hand on the same side returning to the extended position. Doing 15-20 repetitions on each side with enough dumbbell weight to get you breathing heavy at the end is an excellent balancing exercise in addition to bringing several muscle groups into action. Anyhow, while doing this exercise one of the trainers (there are a bunch of trainers in this relatively large gym) came up to me and said, “very good sir.” Now the trainers usually don’t interrupt people who are not paying them and certainly not while they are in the middle of their exercises. But I guess he was being nice. Being complimentary. But the sir? Very good sir? Where the hell is that coming from?
Sir (or ma’am) is mostly used to convey respect or deference to a position, rank, or status. We use sir or ma’am as a form of politeness, but we dish out this salutation mostly to those in authority. We hear it used in the military. Either required or voluntary, it’s a form of transmitting an unequal line of upward submission. If you have something to gain from someone in a power position, addressing that person as sir or ma’am could tip the scale in your favor.
But I’m in no power position. No one owes me any kind of deference, required or otherwise. So it must be because of the new (invisible to me) sign on my forehead. Every guy gets called sir once in a while, no matter how old. When we are young it’s more tongue-in-cheek. But just recently it’s sir everywhere I go and I don’t know what to do about it. Or whether there is anything to do. I can’t just say, don’t sir me dude.
Then again, sir may not be all that bad. The salutation has meant knighthood in England for centuries.
But I can’t fool myself. I’ve just got to come to terms that it’s a matter of age. It’s just baffling that it seems to be happening all of a sudden lately. No idea why. Do I all of a sudden appear older? Or maybe suddenly I’m appearing to look more like a sir (whatever a sir looks like)? Or there’s been an unexplained infusion of politeness seeping into the general population like a pandemic. Or it’s just the damn sign.
It can be a question at times as to the correct salutation, and for a man sir is safe. For a woman it can be a little trickier. Madam is the equivalent salutation for a woman but we rarely use this greeting in everyday verbal language. You’d never hear the barista say, hi madam. We say the slightly more informal version of the formal which is ma’am. Only in formal written communication to we revert to madam. Otherwise, it’s ma’am. Or of course if the girl is young we’d say miss.
It can get a little more complicated in Spanish. Señora or señorita? One would use señora for a married or “older” woman. Señorita for younger or unmarried. One would never say señorita to an older woman, married or single. But the trick is finding the invisible line between older and younger. Typically, you error on the side of being younger. It’s more complimentary. A female could be 28 and look 40 or just as easily be 40 and look 28. A 28 year old married woman, especially one with kids, would be señora. If she were single she’d be señorita. As in English, it would be like saying Miss or Mrs. But at least we have Ms as a catch-all for those in the middle.
After 40 or 50 and beyond, most people strive to appear younger. Most try to stave off the sir or ma’am phase. We do all kinds of crazy stuff. Some keep their hair dyed — from coloring certain hairs to all the hairs. But age just keep popping through, and quickly. Roots grow every day. I’m not that tall but tall enough. At 6 foot even it’s easy to see many head tops where roots have grown or crept out exposing just how long it’s been since they’ve taken to coloring their way to a dude or chick wanna be.
And more than a lot of people have paid more than moderate amounts of money to have someone fix their faces, mostly to change age perception. Perception is of paramount importance to us. Some even will say it keeps them more relevant. Or more marketable. But it boils down to vanity.
Not saying that vanity is a bad thing. It affect us all in one form or another and to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the power of our ever-present ego.
I had a friend and roommate in my 20’s, a good looking Richard Gere type. On our days off we’d go to a club with an outdoor pool to do some swimming. Well, I swan and he would float on his back. I asked him once why he always laid on his back and only sun tanned his front. He said in all seriousness, “Freddie, I don’t walk backwards.” If he wasn’t a sir then, I’m sure he’s one now.
A year ago I was focused on a divot in my neck. It bothered me. And the swollen left jaw bothered me. It just don’t look attractive, to me. But I’m to the point where I’ve forgotten about the look and the perception. It is what it is. But it may have contributed to turning me into a sir.
I guess it’s nothing. But it’s not a figment that it’s happening all the time lately. Almost everywhere I turn. Like the divot in my neck, I’ve got to ignore it. Even if I fixed my face and colored my hair in hopes of being transported back to pre-sir days, there is no guarantee that the sign on my forehead would be any less visible. Perhaps I should embrace sir. I could chalk it up to royalty. In fact, maybe as I’m out and about and don’t receive the sir salutation, I should be saying “don’t buddy me dude,” or “don’t dude me buddy,…it’s sir to you.”