A friend of mine works as a store clerk. She says she often hears terms of endearment from customers. They call her My Love, Dear, Sweetheart, and Darling.
I felt amazed hearing that list of names. No student has ever called me any of those names.
One did call me King John. I liked that. A work colleague once called me American Jesus. That struck me as peculiar.
My friend told me that the main demographic for customers who call her those pleasant names is middle-age to older men and women. I fit right in.
Yet I never call a clerk a term of endearment. I thought hard about why that is.
I decided that I lack the social confidence and the affection for clerks. In personality terms, I may be too low on extroversion and agreeableness. Also, I may be too manly.
I decided to turn my life around in this narrow behavioural niche and use a term of endearment with a clerk. I wanted to start with a clerk I knew.
So, the next time I saw my clerk friend working, I said, "Cara Mia!" That is Italian for "my beloved."
Let's hear the other shoppers top that.
I chose "Cara Mia" because Gomez calls Morticia that in the Addams Family movies.
I had told the clerk beforehand that I would greet her thusly, so she would not be shocked.
But I feared that some Italian-speaking matron in line behind me would overhear me and box my ears. My fears were unwarranted. This time.
I do not know whether male clerks also receive terms of endearment. I bet they are called "Love" now and then, if they are not grouchy galoots.
I want to pay more attention to what other male customers say to clerks, so I can learn the Aussie behavioural script for my customer role.
I could occasionally squeeze out a "mate" with a clerk, if that is the usual.
I had never heard the expression "Terms of Endearment" until I watched the Academy Award-winning movie by that name.
The film focuses on the relationship between a mother, played by Shirley MacLaine, and a daughter, played by Debra Winger.
Watching touching scenes in the movie, I developed a fond association with the expression.
Maybe I will use terms of endearment more often now with strangers.
You might too. Anything is possible, lovely readers.
John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Psychology, University of New England.