Today a student stopped by my office to get my signature on a form and as she was leaving, she said, "Thanks, sweetie!"
Let me point out that I had never seen this student before and I spent no more than 60 seconds with her today. I didn't do anything particularly sweet--just signed on the dotted line. But still she called me "sweetie."
Suddenly time slipped a few decades and I thought I was back in Florida waiting tables and trying to maintain some semblance of dignity while total strangers called me sweetie, honey, sugar, and darlin'. Just because some thirsty guy comes in with a dollar for a cup of coffee I'm supposed to be his sweetie? Please.
Now I sit in the big corner office with the words "Department Chair" on the door and the only person who calls me "Sweetie" is my spouse. I don't miss being everyone's sweetie and I'd rather not fill that role again anytime soon; in particular, I'm not interested in being "Sweetie" to my students. But at the time she said it, I found myself as speechless as an actor who stumbles onto the wrong stage: I'm all prepared to deliver Hamlet's soliloquy, but all of a sudden I'm in the spotlight but the show is Grease.
So I just sat there with my mouth open while she walked away. Next time I might have the presence of mind to say "You're welcome," but do I dare call a student "Darlin'"?