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It seems very nice and endearing to refer to your significant other by some pet name. You know, like “sweetie”, or “baby”, or “my dear”, which is a good one if you live in England 200 years ago.

But then it becomes an issue if you’re someone like me. And by “like me”, I mean scatter brained and perpetually distracted. I generally call my wife “babe”. In fact, at this point, it feels weird to call her by her actual name. I think I’ve probably done that four times in my life. The last time I did, it scared me. It felt cold and distant, almost procedural. My wife, on the other hand, uses my name, as opposed to a pet name, at the exact rate that I screw up. So if I ever hear her say “Matt”, I know it’s about to be followed with a “stop leaving your clothes on the floor” or something. It’s actually become a handy warning system. As soon as she yells “Matt…” from the other room, I just shout back “Yeah, I know, I’m about to take care of it.” Then the next step is to figure out what exactly I’m taking care of.

But the problem arises when the pet name becomes a reflex. I’m so used to following my greetings, goodbyes, and various other random phrases with “babe”, that it’s becoming hazardous in public. So, to the dude at the gas station, that “thanks babe” was totally inadvertent, I assure you. I was just thanking you for ringing up my purchase, the “babe” fell out unintentionally, as a matter of habit. I have a wife to whom I am often grateful, so I say the phrase “thanks babe” quite a bit. “Thanks” has become a trigger for “babe.” Don’t make this weird, dude. Mistakes happen.

I guess this means I have to stop thanking people. That guy looked down right disturbed, which I guess is preferable to him reacting in an intrigued way. In any event, I need to find a new gas station. Either that, or I’ll start calling my wife something that would be acceptable if it slips into conversation with a non-spouse. Maybe my new pet name for her will be “bro” or “chief”. She’ll love that.

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