Honey, Sweetie, Dear, I love you. All are very nice things to hear someone say to you, and if you feel affection towards the person with whom you are speaking these are all very socially acceptable ways to let the other person know they are special to you. We all use terms of endearment with family, friends, loved ones, and pets. None of these recipients are at all shocked or offended to hear them said. Some of us say them so often that it becomes a habit to slip them into our conversations, and that’s where the trouble starts.
The worst situation is when you’re having a telephone conversation with a business associate of the opposite sex with whom you are friendly and you accidentally conclude it with, “Talk to you later honey,” or worse yet, “I love you.” How do you squirm your way gracefully out of that? “Ummm..uh, no, I didn’t mean it! I was thinking of my wife! I don’t love you! Uh, I like you, but not in that way. I mean uh..I love you as I love all other human beings, but I’m not IN love with you. Uh….click.” There’s just no good way out of that unless you get a surprisingly warm response to your faux pas.
I’m never sure how to react when someone uses one of these terms of endearment with me in an unexpected context. Often I’ll be in line at the supermarket and perhaps an older cashier will say, “Your change is $4.32. You have a nice day hun.” How do you respond? Should I shout out in righteous indignation, “I am not your hun. I have never been your hun. And I never will be your hun! You wish grandma. Why don’t you get your pruney, old ass back to the nursing home and hope they’re playing Cocoon again! Stella, you ain’t never gettin’ your groove back with this piece of man-meat. And yes, I did just buy EXTRA LARGE condoms but they are definitely not ribbed for YOUR pleasure! Security!Security!”
Or should I return the compliment in kind? I could say, “You have a nice day too honey. Or maybe a nice night. And honey? Hmmm…..there’s a nice idea. I prefer a little whipped cream now and then if you know what I mean. Mmmm… and baby, that little line running up the back or your orthopedic stockings just does it for me. Does it go all the way up? That subtle blue tint in your hair really brings out your eye shadow. Is it natural? Does the carpet match the drapes? (wink, wink)”