Cathy Hamilton: Just one of the guys
December 10, 2009
Editor's note: This column originally appeared July 29, 2007 in the Journal-World in Lawrence, Kan.
"Hi, guys!" chirp two perky, young hostesses in unison as my husband and I walk through the door. "Table for two, guys?"
"Please," I answer and follow the taller one through the restaurant, trying not to gawk at her impossibly short shorts. I think to myself, "If I ever dreamed hot pants would make a comeback, I might have kept mine from the '70s. Um. Never mind."
(I tend to lose my grip on reality when I'm hungry.)
"OK, guys, your server will be with you in a minute," she announces. "Have a great dinner, guys!"
"Thanks, uh, guy?" I mutter under my breath, irked for reasons that aren't readily clear. As she walks away, my personal time machine launches me back to 1963.
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I was 8 years old and, by the standards of the day, a bona fide tomboy. I had no interest in dolls or pink.
There wasn't a tree I couldn't climb. My knees and elbows were in a constant state of scab, and I screamed in protest when mom insisted I put on a dress.
In my suburban neighborhood, where kickball was played in the street and games of Red Rover often drew blood, young males outnumbered females 4 to 1.
For girls like me who wanted some semblance of a social life, it was adapt or die.
I grew to love tiny plastic Army men, building forts and playing "Cops and Robbers" with toy Tommy Guns. And though I couldn't mimic real gunfire to save my soul (causing the boys to mock me ruthlessly), I never gave up trying.
I spent my entire childhood trying to be one of the guys.
Then, puberty hit.
After a period of stubborn denial ("Excuse me? My body's going to do WHAT?!?"), hormones took over, and I slowly got in touch with my feminine side. Guys were no longer a group to be emulated. Boys were to be crazy about.
There were cute guys and gross guys. Nice guys and creepy guys. Guys you liked and guys you "like-liked." I learned the harsh reality that the guys you "like-liked" probably wouldn't "like-like" you back if you were "one of the guys."
So I stopped trying.
No longer did I play basketball or Ditch 'Em or Capture the Flag with boys in the neighborhood. I watched from the sidelines, chatting with their sisters and girlfriends. I saved my competitive edge for a few organized sports at my all-girls high school and went to the boys' school Friday nights to watch football from the stands.
I wasn't miserable, by any stretch, but the guys did seem to be having more fun.
Back in the present, our waiter approaches carrying two waters with lemon.
"Hi, guys!" he says, in a much too familiar way. "How are you guys tonight?"
"Fine," I reply, getting annoyed again. I mean, how many times can they say that word before driving THEMSELVES crazy? And isn't there some other term they can use to greet patrons? Something a little less crass, a little more accurate?
I'm a WOMAN, after all, with makeup on and everything! (I know, I know. "Guys" can be a gender-neutral term. I've used it myself, as in, "Hey, you guys! Wait up!") But can't we think of a more appropriate way to address a heterosexual 50-something couple?
I try to come up with an alternative. Something the service industry can use to replace the word "guys" forever. It will be my legacy. The thing I can do to leave the world a better place. Like Al Gore's "Live Earth."
Let's see, there's "Hi, y'all." (Too Southern.) "Yo, peeps!" (Too trendy.) "Good evening, Madame and Monsieur." (Too French.) "Hey, folks"? (Too, well, folksy.) What about "Greetings, special customers"? Or "Welcome, best-looking 50-something couple I've ever seen"? (Better, but probably too much of a mouthful.)
We order cocktails, and the waiter says, "I'll be back with those drinks in a minute, guys."
I rack my brain for a better option, but I get nothing.
That's it! Let's go with nothing. Just a simple "hello" or "may I take your order?" works beautifully. No titles required.
The waiter returns, sets the beverages on the table, and produces his order pad. I brace myself.
"What's for dinner, guys?" he asks, brightly.
Where's a Tommy Gun when you really need one?