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.