The habit reminds me of two stuffed dice hanging from a rearview mirror — or a waitress apron tied too tightly. We can’t lump all of the habitual pet-name-callers together, though.
Some of them use “honey” to express genuine affection, however indiscriminately. Others use it to bait an advance, or to express superiority or feigned familiarity. We can usually sense the difference.
The old man behind me in the grocery store warmed my heart before he called me “sweetheart.” The guy trying to sell me a newspaper subscription was looking for trust he hadn’t established. And the woman at the airport said “honey” in an I’ve-got-the-power tone when she told me I wasn’t going anywhere.
Lately, I find myself greeting the birds with “precious” as I jog. The air is still cool, the sun is rising, and I am fresh out of my morning prayer and meditation…everything is precious!
I feel the same (well, almost the same) connection with the birds and the squirrels as I feel with my very own sweetie. And I’m sure my words carry the exuberance and conviction of my heart. If the birds don’t know I’m sincere, the neighbors do.
So, what do I think about guys who call everybody “honey”? I think you have to look for what’s behind the words — just as you have to look for what’s behind the dice and the apron, just as you have to look for what’s behind the car, the house, the title.
The problem with a habit is that sometimes it’s tough to know what’s behind it. People forget how and why they started it. They lose their awareness of the words, or the action, and merely go through the motions. Then, what was behind the habit is buried.
Ideally, the pet names we use reflect actual sentiments. As we hear the words about to be formed, we can feel and monitor what’s in our hearts. We can feed what’s “good” and try to understand what’s “bad” in order to heal it.
If the guy really calls everybody “honey,” maybe he’s not making conscious choices. Maybe he’s not making a distinction between people — maybe he loves everybody, or nobody. Maybe he assumes that others find his words flattering. Maybe he picked up a habit.
And it’s always telling to see how somebody responds when a habit is questioned — not condemned, mind you. One way to find out what’s behind the “honey” is simply to ask…and wait, not so much for words, but for attitude.
The attitude behind the “honey” is precisely what you’re looking for. Where does it come from? What does it attempt to convey? Does it convey that or something else? Is it used consciously? Is it looking for something in return?
When you know all that, you will also know what you think of the guy — and what you want to call him.
More importantly, perhaps you will be more aware of your own words and what they say about you. Are you politically correct? Sexist? Are you, along with your words, disempowered by habit? Or do you know what’s in your heart and consciously choose words that express it accurately?
The pet names you assign to others — or at least the attitude behind them — will likely come back to you. What do you want to hear?