All the Ladies

So, in the renewed spirit of gender equality with the recent progresses made by the #metoo movement, I’m trying to figure out the most appropriate thing to say when addressing a group of women.

See, last week I was getting a haircut; the staff on shift was all women. My stylist laid a hot towel on my neck and instantly I caught myself before I blurted out, “Oh, I forgot you guys did that.” Instead, I edited myself to be more true, but what actually came out was “Oh, I forgot you folks did that.” She guffawed at my use of the word “folks” because who the hell actually uses that word non-ironically?

So my question: is it okay to use “gals” instead of “guys”? My problem is that “Guys” is masculine and not gender-neutral. “Gals” is condescending. “Y’all” or “Folks” or “You” is too provincial. Is it okay to use “ladies” or “gals” or “women” when addressing a group of women? Is that a safe thing to do? Or should I just buck up and say what I feel is right anyway and take my lumps?

I know the romance/latin languages use the masculine pronouns and conjugations even in gender-neutral or mixed-gender contexts. Is that still appropriate here in English? I just don’t feel right walking up to a counter and greeting the women there with “Hey guys, what’s up?” You know? What gives?

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