It’s no secret I’m a feminist. I openly and proudly lay claim to that title. I tend to be quick to point out actions or words that are contradictory to gender equality; sometimes I’m nicer about it than other times. I also tend to be a little old-fashioned when it comes to the way I address adults. I still want to call my friends’ parents “Mr. and Mrs. X” even though I’m in my 30s and they’ve told me I can call them by their first names. But if they were Mr. and Mrs. X when I was 7, they’re still going to be Mr. and Mrs. X when I’m 37, and not “Bob and Judy.”
But there’s one demographic that I wrestle with addressing…what to call middle-aged women whom I still see in my mind as teenagers? I find myself referring to my friend Jennifer as “this girl I know.” In actuality, she’s a 38-year-old corporate lawyer, well educated and worldly. She's hardly a “girl” and certainly worthy of a higher social title than that. Even though I know she’s a professional grown woman, I still think of her and see the smartypants girl I met in 6th grade math class. It’s a term of endearment, and a compliment in that I don’t notice that she is aging. But I don’t want to offend. If a grown man were to call me a “girl” I’d have a fit. I know that I should bestow the same respect that I expect from others.
I used to roll my eyes when my mom referred to her contemporaries as “gals,” as in “me and the gals are heading over to the malt shop.” Corny, right? She’s in her 60s but her best friend from college is still her best gal. My grandmother was 78 and still referring to friends she had known since grammar school as her “school chums.” Antiquated, but quaint. And you can’t fault your Gran for that. I guess that every generation has their own version of this dilemma, whether they realize it or not.
So to my friends, if I refer to you as girl or chickie, please don’t freak out, I am not belittling you. It simply means you’re ageless to me, vibrant and beautiful.