To the editor:

Why do waiters, waitresses and people in other service-related jobs elect to create a false intimacy with customers by using terms of endearment when they serve people of a certain age?

And what is that age? How do they determine it? What is it in our features that signals "Hon" or "Dear" instead of "Ma'am" or "Ms."? I feel as though my personal worth drops a notch every time I am addressed with those terms.

I was in a golf league, maybe 10 years ago when the management instituted a new policy. All the staff was told to use the term, "dear" when addressing women golfers of a certain age. It appeared that female golfers in their 50s and above were designated for this special treatment. When we arrived at the course, we were greeted with, "Hello dear ... are you playing with the league today? When we replied yes, it was, "OK, dear, that'll be $25." And, "Dear, would you like a cart?" It continued on after golf as we picked up menus and attempted to order dinner.

"What can we get for you today, dear?"

"Dear, how do you like your hamburger cooked?"

"Dear, could you move your purse so I can set this down?"

"Dear, how would you like to pay for this?"

When the endearments continued on into our next round of golf, a week later, we were able to corner one of the groundsmen and ask what was going on. He responded that the clubhouse was trying to be more people-friendly and had told the young workers to address all the "older" women as "dear." They were told that "women liked that."

I wonder who they asked? It certainly wasn't me. Since when is it polite or proper to call attention to a person's age? I've been trying to figure out a comeback when I'm addressed as "dear" or "hon," but so far, I've only gotten as far as gritting my teeth and complaining to my husband. Any good ideas?

Margaret St. Sauver