Guys and Gals

I entered the cafe. The two female baristas called out greetings to me. I responded, “Hi, guys.”

Then I thought about it. When I retired from the U.S.A.F. in nineteen ninety-five, I didn’t call females guys. But I discovered the young females in my new civilian office were calling each other guys.

I asked one of them about it. She shrugged. “It’s not gender specific to me. Everyone is a guy.”

“A guy is a male,” I said.

She didn’t agree. I thought, is this going the way of many other words, like decimate and literally, losing their definitions and developing into something more generalized? Over the years, I slowly tested it, calling women guys. Some responded, “Excuse me, I’m not a guy.” It was a rarity that I did, though.

I asked the two baristas their thoughts about it. They’re the same age, in their early twenties, college students who work in the coffee shop. One said, “I don’t care. Anyone is a guy. It not about gender.”

The other said, “I’m very sensitive to it.” She also works at a group with a large elderly population. They’re acutely aware, and have made the point to her, “Would you call a group of people that include men, ladies?” I didn’t view that as a parallel; there’s not a general trend to call groups of people ladies. I’ve only encountered that as a derogatory expression to groups of men, essentially implying that the men are effeminate, which is then offensive to them. That was particularly true in the military, as you can imagine.

Out to you, writers. I’m curious about others’ experiences and responses to this issue. Does anyone have some they’d like to share?

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