I am not your dear

Working in public service means I see people of all kinds: tall, short, black, white, fat, skinny, quiet, loud, obnoxious, wonderful, intelligent, not-so-intelligent, drunk, high, high on life, downtrodden, hopeful, etc.

(For the record, drunk and/or high people are not allowed in the library and are asked to please come back later when they are sober.)

Many of these people call me things like “dear,” “sweetie,” and “hon.” Some have even learned my name and have taken to calling me “Kel.”

The only person who can call me “dear” or “sweetie” without pissing me off is my father. Close family members and friends are welcome to call me “Kel.” (See the quiz below to see if you qualify. If you don’t, no worries—there’s still time to ride roller coasters and do slightly illegal and/or dangerous things together!)*

Everyone else: No.

And especially not people I meet while I’m standing behind the public service desk at my job. I recognize that for some, it’s a generational thing. For some, it’s a habit. I’m willing to give people a bit of slack in this department, but not much.

Because I am NOT your dear. I am paid to be nice to you. I am paid to help you set up an email account and request books for you and troubleshoot your ebook problems. Or, I am a complete stranger you happened to bump into on the street.

We are not friends, buddies, pals, or whatever. I am not your daughter or your sister** or your girlfriend or your wife***. It is, therefore, inappropriate for you to call me (or any other customer service rep or stranger you meet by happenstance) by any term of endearment, and especially inappropriate if you are a man speaking to a woman.

“But I’m just being nice,” all the “nice” guys are collectively saying.

No. You are not being nice. You are being condescending and paternalistic. Even if you don’t intend to be condescending and paternalistic, you are. And it’s your responsibility to change your behavior.

Call me by my name, or don’t call me anything. Just say, “Thank you!”

Thank you is enough. Thank you goes a long way. “Dear” and “sweetie” do not. “Dear” and “sweetie” make me cranky. Of course, I risk retaliative action from you and those in my organization if you complain that I’ve been a horrible mean person to you by telling you not to call me “dear.”

Oh, if only it were as easy as saying, “Please don’t call me that,” or “I am not your dear, thank you, please use my name.” Every. Single. Time. I say that, I get “I was only being nice” or “That’s not very nice of you.” I’ve even had people complain to my boss that I treated them poorly by telling them not to call me dear.

Reality check: My niceness isn’t the issue. Your condescending paternalism is.

So, guys: Don’t call your service reps “dear,” “sweetie,” or “hon.” Just. Don’t. Do. It.

*You can determine if you pass this test by asking yourself the following questions. If you can answer yes to two or more, congratulations! You can call me whatever the hell you want, and I’ll still love you.

  1. Have we ever lived in the same house?
  2. Have we ridden roller coasters together?
  3. Have we gone to nerdy conventions together?
  4. Have we ever stayed up all night watching anime or making costumes together?
  5. Have I cried in front of you?
  6. Have you cried in front of me?
  7. Did we meet as tweens or teens and continue to be friends?
  8. Do you know two or more characters from the Star Wars expanded universe because of me?
  9. Do we have at least one inside joke? (Leave your favorite one in the comments so I laugh and everyone else feels left out!)
  10. Have we done something slightly dangerous or illegal together? (Don’t worry Mom, I survived, and never got caught!)

**Unless you are my actual brother, which you aren’t, because my brother would never ever call me “dear.” Seriously. Never. If he did it would mean he was taken over by pod people.

***Unless you are my actual husband, which again, you aren’t, because he would also never call me “dear,” because he knows how much I hate it, and, surprise! he respects me.

2015 by the numbers



  • 4 stories accepted for publication (2 that were published this year were accepted in 2014)
  • 10 submissions withdrawn because of acceptances elsewhere
  • 73 total submissions to literary journals and chapbook presses


  • 118 total books read of my goal of 125
  • 20 of those were audio books
  • 8 of those were poetry (2 fewer than my goal of 10)
  • 20 of those were on writing, creativity, or blogging


  • 1 house purchased (my first!)
  • 1 floor of said house completely renovated
  • 1 promotion at work

A recurring existential crisis

I have this recurring existential crisis wherein I feel like if I only try harder and do all the things (specifically all the things I’m NOT currently doing) success will fold open for me like an origami flower.

Mostly this just tires me out and gives me a migraine.

I know that’s what’s going to happen. I know I need to focus on sustainable progress, but I still get caught up in these mind games with myself, spin around in mental circles, and wind up with nothing but frustration.

That’s why I’ve written down my definition of literary success and the steps I’m taking to get there. I try to look at them once a week or so to remind myself that I am already doing exactly what I should be doing to become a successful writer (writing, revising, and submitting on a regular basis).

With my work life, though (you know, the work that actually pays the bills), this is much harder. Because one of my ultimate goals is to be able to support myself financially with my creative writing (i.e. I don’t really want to be a freelancer writing magazine articles), I tend to filter everything through “will this get me closer to full time fiction writer?”

And that’s mostly fine. I’m willing to sacrifice a bit of income now for achieving my dream. But this is where we get into a bit of a catch-22, and into that recurring existential crisis.

  • I need money to pay the bills so I can focus on writing.
  • So I work 40 hours a week for pay and benefits.
  • This limits the amount of time I have to write.

Without even going into the issues inherent in a literary landscape that does not offer appropriate monetary compensation to authors, I can never figure out if this is enough.

I keep asking myself: Should I pursue better-paying employment that would allow me to out source certain things like, say, painting my house, that would allow me even more time and space to write, plus extra income to attend residencies and conferences?

Or, even better-paying employment that would give those perks plus be more intellectually stimulating?

I love my current job. It’s interesting, fulfilling work and it has a great benefits package that I would be unable to function without (literally, because health issues, fun!). The only downside is the low pay. That’s not the worst downside a job could have, but it is significant.

Thanks to the great benefits package my husband gets as part of his awesome job at a university, I have an opportunity to get another master’s degree for 10 percent of the normal cost.

In the short term this would likely mean LESS time to write and LESS money to spend on things like writing contests (my thoughts on this will probably compose another post in the near future), because I can’t afford to give up my full time job and I do still have to pay that 10 percent. In the long term it could equate to better earning potential, which would eventually allow me to attend more writing conferences and submit to more contests, where there’s a higher potential payoff than non-contest submissions.

Giving up what little time I have to write now is not an idea that excites me. And that’s before I even get to the question of which degree to pursue (that’s another post for another day).

And so my head spins round and round. Am I doing enough? What is the right decision? No one can make it for me. I suspect that I am on the right path, but I’m not sure which way on the path I should go.

While my brain spins itself in circles, I’ll keep plugging away at my daily writing practice, because I have no doubts about that.