I’ve heard it said that more than any other word on the planet, a woman loves to hear the sound of her own name, but I won’t deny that hearing a tenderly uttered and perfectly timed “baby” or “honey” from the right person can sometimes send a little chill up the spine.
However, I’ve always found generic terms of endearment (TOEs) to be a bit insincere. If you’ve ever met a romantic interest who quickly started referring to you as “baby,” and then soon realized that he used the term for everyone and everything from the hair-net wearing grandmother at the interstate tollbooth to the voice that alerts him that his voicemail is full, then you likely feel the same way.
Finding out that a TOE you thought was reserved only for you rolls off his tongue like swag oozes from the pores of Barack Obama, is like realizing the birthday gift that your BFF gave you three years ago—the one you’ve placed in a special spot where you can gaze at it daily, the one that reminds you how close you two are, the one you consider priceless—came from the dollar store.
It’s not that it’s completely unappreciated now, but maybe it wasn’t quite as deep as you thought.
To be clear, I’m not completely against terms of endearment. My parents each had cute names for me when I was a child. One love interest used to refer to me as Miss Styles ‘cause he was a fan of my fashion sense. (That was before the recession hit.) I could appreciate these little nicknames that were bestowed upon me specifically by people who had picked out a particular characteristic or skill about me that was unique and therefore used to distinguish me from all others.
Most would likely find that sort of personalization preferable to being called “sweetheart,” “dear,” “baby” or some other generic moniker by a guy whose overuse of the terms makes one wonder, “Does he remember my name?” or “How many women did he just send this, ‘Good morning, babe’ text to?”
Of course, I know several stable, healthy couples who use those clichéd nicknames with genuine affection and respect, but he only uses the TOE for his wife, and she only uses it for her husband.
That could be the most important part of using a term of endearment. It works better when it’s reserved for one person. That’s what makes it special, and isn’t that the whole point?
When someone starts referring to you with a little pet name, the assumption is that there’s a level of intimacy. You two are so close that you’ve suspended the formality of government issued, birth certificate names. Instead, you express affection just when addressing one another. How cute!
That’s all lost when the TOEs are overused. That’s all lost when they’re used too soon. Basically, that’s lost when they’re meaningless.