[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he elderly waitress called me baby-doll when she brought my plate of eggs. It made me smile.

I’ve always liked being called baby-doll.

But not by anyone. I only like being called such names by older women. If pet names come from the wrong mouth, it’s awkward. For instance: a few nights ago, our server kept calling me sugar-lickums. It didn’t set well with me, but I still left a good tip.

At least the boy was trying.

The thing is, there are rules when it comes to pet name usage. You can’t just throw names around. It’s rude. I learned about some of these rules from my father-in-law.

“It goes like this,” old Jim explained. “Boys are never permitted to use pet names, at any age. End of subject. It’s disrespectful. And girls cannot use them until after high school. At that age, girls are free to use any nickname – provided the namee is younger.”

“Namee?” I asked.

“The party receiving the nickname. See, if a waitress calls a thirty-three-year-old man baby-doll, and she’s twenty, it just ain’t right. She can’t use names on someone older.”

I stopped him. “So girls can only use names on boys younger than themselves?”

“Well, there is one exception.”

“What’s that?”

“Girls can call old men anything in the book. Be it darling, sugar-pie, baby-kins, doll-cakes, sweetie-pie-facecake, or sweet-whole-pear-in-his-own-heavy-syrup. And old men can use sweet-names in return.”

“But, that goes against everything you just said. I don’t understand.”

He winked. “When you’re an old man you will.”

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