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My mother called me Darling. “Darling, what time did you get home?” and “That’s so funny, darling!” and “Oh, darling, you’re so silly!” And when she called me on the phone, she would say, “Hello, darling! Are you making dinner yet, darling? Oh, why not, darling?” And when the conversation was over, she always ended with “Goodbye, darling, I love you.” There was no deviation on that salutation. Maybe what really annoyed me is that she called everyone darling, but mostly I used to feel that it sounded affected. She had a special talent, aside from actually being an accomplished actress, where she would suddenly change her persona from that of painfully crying to answering the phone and saying “Hello? Who is this? I’m so happy to hear from you, darling! Yes, darling, this is a perfect time to talk!”

There was one particular incident that has stayed with me. My mother and I were out to dinner with a friend of mine from college whom I hadn’t seen in a few years. All through dinner she was trying to prevail upon my friend, Patricia, to side with her about what career path would be best for me to take. It was an extremely uncomfortable two hours, after which I told her that I thought she must be angry with me. “Oh darling, that’s ridiculous,” she said. I explained how I felt that perhaps she had hijacked my friend at dinner because she was upset with me about something I did to make her unhappy. “Oh no, darling. Why would I ever be angry with you? You’re my darling daughter. I only love you. Let’s go outside on the balcony and watch the sunset.” Later I learned this type of behavior is called passive aggression and that my mother was very good at it.

I’ve never been comfortable assigning loved ones and friends affectionate names. And whenever I looked at my boyfriends and thought I would try a term of endearment such as baby or honey, I would cringe at the thought, and all that would come out would be “I love you, too” or “It’s time to go” or “What movie should we see?” It’s interesting that it doesn’t bother me when I hear my friends use tender words, but when I have attempted to use one, I can’t. I often wonder if my mother’s overindulgence of the word darling is my obstacle.

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Writer and copyeditor. “What doesn’t kill us gives us something new to write about” ~ J. Wright

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