“Do you have a Barnes & Noble membership, boss?”
I have noticed lately that baristas, waitstaff, and on Monday, a clerk at a Barnes & Noble in Santa Monica, have all been addressing me in terms of endearment like bro, man, and dude. Apparently, I am not yet a “sir.” Which makes me feel good, at 32, almost 33. I wear open-toed footwear all year until temperatures make it impossible, dress mostly in T-shirts and jeans, and have semi-long hair that grows out with no strategy, held out of my face by sunglasses. Pretty much your standard outdoor/climber/skier/mountain guy, minus style.
Also, I start many sentences with the word “dude.” Maybe you do too.
Does this make you a dude? Bro?
I mean, I am not this dude:
I went to college. Twice. I have a master’s degree. I am no renaissance man, but I am not that uncultured. I have read books that weren’t assigned to me for a class, sometimes big, several-inches-thick books by Russian writers, even. I sometimes listen to jazz. I drink espresso. I properly pronounce things like “pho” and “caprese.” But that just leads to sentences like this coming out of my mouth:
- “Dude, you have got to try some of my paneer mahkani.”
- “Dude. Are you seriously telling me you have never read A People’s History of the United States?”
- “Dude, did you see The Tree of Life yet? Call me after you do. I want to hear your take on it.”
Last week, I did a search in my e-mail for the subject line “dude.”
That is, of course, just the past couple weeks.
I am conflicted. Do I sound like a … dumbass when I talk? Do I care if I sound like a dumbass when I talk? How could I replace “dude” in my daily conversation? It has become an androgynous catch-all term of endearment for me. I regularly begin text messages to male and female friends with the word “dude.” I usually answer phone calls by saying “dude.” In the past few weeks, I have caught myself calling my friends’ newborns “dude.” Alas.
So, you know. I guess one day, I might be too old to say it so often, or at all. It might just gradually work its way out of my vocabulary. But I think it’s more likely that it will be triggered by a series of baristas calling me “sir.” And when that day comes, I will wonder what changed.