"She calls me baby..."

listopetnames.gifWhen did I become the woman who calls people "baby?" Talking to roomie about pet names the other day, I couldn't remember. But the conversation brought all sorts of recollections and it turns out I have rather a lot of specific memories on the subject.

  • Growing up, my parents called each other "sweet" or "sweetheart" more often than their given names. Sometime along the way, I realized nobody else I knew did that and I longed to hear the mainstream, "sweetie." And one day I realized unique was nice too, and these days I recall it fondly as one more special thing about the people who gave me life.
  • My Aunt Betty always called her children, hubbie, us...everybody "Baby." I always found it endearing, particularly because in other ways she's a really no-nonsense kinda' woman and that seemed to reflect a certain softness that added depth to her personality.
  • Being reared in the (sometimes "deep") south, I was surrounded by, "honey," "darlin'," "sweetie," "sweetie pie," "dear," and more.
  • Certain love interests over the years have called me "baby" and I liked it...especially when they never had before.
  • The first time I heard my sister respond to hubby with, "Yes, my love?" I adored it. Can't explain why. I continue to really like that one.
  • Somewhere along the line, I started noticing friends who do and those who don't use pet names. Sometimes it seems indicative of the region in which they grew up, then somebody pulls out one that throws my theories for a loop.

Now I discover myself to be a woman who uses pet names liberally, but who has a lot of well-formed opinions on the subject. I have no damn idea how it happened. 'Cause nobody sure ever sat me down and shared The Rules of Pet Name Usage. Clearly it's just one more testament to my highly-evolved, observant, perceptive disposition. Turns out there are a fairly well-established set of parameters with a lot of intricacies. Consider:

Strangers 

  • A man of a certain age calling you "honey" might get a pass for being endearing, even kindly affectionate; and, you might tell yourself, if you're not sure, "He doesn't know any better...doesn't realize that's not acceptable anymore."
  • But most other age groups aren't given such accommodations. Nothing can make me bristle faster than a man I don't know taking that liberty...he either becomes lecherous, a creep, someone to run away from - fast, and all manner of other undesirable attributes are heaped upon his head.
  • Then I recall those who have brought out "dear," and turned themselves into "fatherly" in a nanosecond.
  • Women you don't know can get by with far more than men, but watch out because there's nothing more condescending than a snotty woman pulling out "my dear" or "honey" in that specific tone of voice. (You know the tone to which I'm referring...)

Friends & Family 

  • The occasional women friend, I'll call "honey" without thinking twice. I also hear myself pulling out "darlin'," (but always without the "g" ending.) Also "sweetie," on occasion, and only in a fairly specific context. And sometimes, my girlfriends get to be "baby," too.
  • With male friends, it can be trickier. Very, very familar, long-time ones get lumped with the women friends. Same rules. Then it turns out I'm more likely to call one of my good, male friends who'se married "baby" than one who isn't. Strange! But not really, if you consider it. Those guys are completely in safe territory. You can be comfortably affectionate without worrying about a thing. It's like they get to take on the familarity afforded to their wives, or something. Same rules apply to gay male friends.
  • But for the single peeps, it's different. If there's any question over whether I'm attracted to someone I'm not, I'd rarely use a pet name: Don't want to have people who are Nice Enough But Sorry I Don't See You That Way questioning their options, and I equally don't want someone who may or may not be potentially interesting In That Way to think of me as more eager than I actually am, or excessively interested or needy.
  • Parents  (and maybe Granddaddy, too, now that I think about it,) might get to be "darlin," or "honey" during certain kinds of conversations, but I think perhaps almost never "baby."
  • Siblings, turns out, have the same rules as friends.
  • And Children? Well, they can be recipients to any of these names. In fact, as has been evidenced by Mr. Pie, they get more than anybody else.

Some Final Thoughts on This Topic That Brought Out Far More Thought Than Anyone Could Have Predicted

  • When goofing off, or being funny, I've evoked "pookie," on occasion. But who can take "pookie" seriously?
  • There are also pet names that just don't appeal to me. Honey Pie? Never call a soul anything like that. Snookums? Uuugh!  

Wow. Who knew I had so many rules? What about you? Thoughts on pet names? Does the topic bring up as much for you as it did for me? Feel free to share...if you've actually made it all the way to this last line.

Meanwhile, hope your day is great. Darlin...