On Pet Names and (Not) Taking Things Slowly

Note: Folks, it is not lost on me that, while my “lessons from 2010” included the decisive conclusion that I cannot write about relationships while in them, it is January and I am already doing just that. Go figure. By way of explanation, I’ll share that D (the new guy) made the (entirely voluntary) decision to stop reading–which renders mostly moot the motivations behind said conclusion. Also, it’s 2011. Times change 🙂

As may have come across in my last post, in this current, very new relationship I haven’t exactly heeded that lesson I’ve repeatedly learned (and keep, repeatedly, learning) not to move too fast.

No one was quicker to make this observation than my mom–who, like all good concerned mothers, can always be relied upon to internalize whatever caution I don’t.

“It sounds like it’s too late for me to say this,” she intoned,” but I’m going to say it anyway: try and take things slowly.”

I did my best to patiently receive her advice, refraining from any commentary about how she might keep such anxieties to herself while, perhaps, making some effort to share in my enthusiasm.

Instead, I offered a small plea of self-defense.

“The thing is, Mom,” I told her, “if I’m not excited now, I’m not ever gonna get excited.”

Gamely, she laughed. Both of us know this may well be the case. But, true or not, such facts don’t change my impressive track record of rushing into things with an open heart that, sooner than later, gets crushed.

For knowing this history–for having, wittingly if often with great discomfort, read about it online–I must forgive my mother’s skepticism.

As for everyone else, I’m not sure how to go about extricating myself from the foxhole I share with the boy who cried wolf. All I can ask is that you humor me whilst I assure you that this time is different.

The thing–or rather, one thing–about this guy is that he is extremely unflakey: a characteristic that immediately distinguishes him from just about everyone else I’ve ever kissed.

So secure does he make me feel that my obligatory attempt to mention some nerves about the pace of our romance felt not awkward but forced. I didn’t need him to tell me that he doesn’t do things spontaneosly, that he doesn’t pursue people he’s not serious about, that I had no cause for worry. I knew all those things without him saying them.

For the most part then, I feel totally comfortable with how things are moving along.

The thing about a fast pace though, is that you tend to encounter issues that other, more prudent couples, might avoid–or at least stave off for a few months.

One of those has been the issue of pet names.

Before going to sleep a few days ago we bid each other goodnight.

“Goodnight, dear,” he said. The term alarmed me.

“Did you just call me ‘dear’?” I asked.

“Yep,” replied. “Sometimes I use that. Also, babe.”

“Oh,” I said–simultaneously warmed and shaken. As I then told him, my long term ex (J) and I called each other babe exclusively: in several years I don’t remember once calling him by his actual name. It still feels odd to address him that way. (Seeing as he lives in Minnesota and we hardly ever talk , a pressing dilemma this is not.)

I didn’t tell D that it’s therefore hard for me to hear the word “babe” and not think, immediately, of him. I didn’t tell him this for two reasons: one, it seemed implicit. Two, I didn’t want to discourage him from ever using it.

But when, a couple days later–signing off from a phone call–he did (“bye, babe”) I, again, felt startled.

“D called me babe,” I announced to S the next day, driving up to Santa Fe for a reading.

“Yeah?” she said. “And?”

The thing about S is that she’s generally opposed to both pet names and public displays of affection. Not ever, but not right away. (Unlike some of us, who find ourselves holding hands and saying “sweetie” in the first twenty-four hours.)

“It’s just that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to not associate it with J,” I said. “It seems impossible.”

“It’s not impossible,” she replied, her voice assured as ever. “It’s just a word. You’ll get over it.”

In this, I took great comfort. The thing is that I love “babe.” Of all the typical pet names couples use for each other, it strikes me as by far the sweetest and most appealing. (Also, the least obnoxious). I want to reclaim the word. And, as S promises, I have faith that eventually I will.

It might, though, take me a little bit of time. There are certain ways, it turns out, in which even I need to take things a little bit slow.

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8 Comments

Filed under Love Life

8 responses to “On Pet Names and (Not) Taking Things Slowly

  1. megan

    Yeah I also have the problem of taking things too fast, but I’d also have to echo your Mom that it is important to slow down if you can. I’ve been with some of the most unflakey guys imaginable, but when you take things super fast even the most solid of men can freak out even when they are totally into you. It’s like you might hit the 6month mark of the relationship at 4 weeks in. So, for me, I think it is important that I try to take things slow, but like you say, easier said than done.

    • Yeah, and more even than that is that it’s really hard to slow down once things have started off quick–in my experience at least. I appreciate your advice but honestly, though, I think this time is different! (One of us, you or me, is going to get to say “I told you so” here…here’s hoping it’s me :))

      • megan

        Agreed, it is incredibly hard to slow down once it has started off quick and fast. Oh the perils of being passionate! I hope it is you who gets to say I told you so too! 🙂 Good luck ! You’ll give the rest of us “too quick for our own good” some hope!

  2. ep

    E – I will have to ask S. myself what she thinks of the various pet-names that my own “babe” has thought up for me, as they have over the past two years ranged from: Plum Pudding (yeah, not kidding) to Bozworth (don’t ask). Talk about startling! But still, it’s endearing, and I am sure that they’re all originals–mostly because I don’t think a lot of girls would put up with being called various foods or names that sounds like English butlers!

    • I love it. Yet another reason why you and your “babe” make a singularly fantastic couple…

    • Suz

      Yo EP- I’m all about original pet names! My ex used to call me “Girl Face” and “The Empress of Fleas” I found both very endearing. What I’m against is forced PDA. If in the moment a hand is grabbed–okay. If I suddenly feel like I’m put on display, owned, leaned on, or attacked-I will absolutely freak out (on the inside of course.) This might have to do with the fact that I’m very WASPY, and affection happens at funerals or upon receiving a gift only (and even then, it’s kind of like “oh my body is acknowledging your body sideways while I cry.”) Whatever. Love me, love my inability to be affectionate in public without wanting to throw up and die.

  3. Hello Elizabeth. I am not stalking you. I just was reading your thing on the Blue Mesa Review site and linked over to your dating thing. Why, pray tell, am I wasting precious minutes I could be using to become the next New York Time Bestselling Author responding to your blog about dating? Well, because, as interesting as your dating observances are, on the advice of my web guru I am trying to build my web traffic by going around responding to the blogs of interesting people. And so, thus, you are on my list and you have become a vehicle for my self promotion. I hope you don’t mind. Since we are now in internet-bed together, perhaps you might use some of your idle time checking out my own blog on http://www.katiemehrer.com. Or not. Either way, happy trails! –Kate

    • Hi Kate, thanks for your comment. I sympathize with the struggles of self-promotion, and am glad to be a vehicle for yours! I will check out the blog, and I suspect at some point will run into you at some or other writerly event around these parts!

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