“I am not your sweetie or your cutie.”
The response came cold, swift, and fierce.
A man I had never met rejected my affections outright. He resented them.
Still, I persisted. Some days, social media is worth nothing more than a release of aggression, not unlike boxing gyms or the self-contained parlors specifically reserved for smashing dishes.
He was a Trump apologist, spewing all the usual filth about Biden’s canoodling with the Chinese, the specter of socialist horror, and the threats of $6 gas and the destruction of retirement funds.
Usually, I don’t bite on such unsatisfying morsels. As with stress eating, feeding myself on the fried rancid nuggets of untruth and disinformation on social media only leaves me feeling sick and full, never nourished nor sated. I ate this invitation like a double chocolate Milano. One more couldn’t hurt, even if it wouldn’t help.
“I voted for Biden. Say goodbye to racism, destruction of institutions, embarrassment among the international community, and the pimping out of the White House for narcissistic gain. Go, Biden/Harris!”
Within seconds, he answered.
“That’s a stupid response!”
With a textual wink and leer, I continued with the overture, not intending to lure him in as a sexual object, but to set him back on his heels.
“That’s all you got?? Hahahahaha! Okay. Lovin’ you, darlin’. Keep it up.”
It was by design. One mustachioed and bearded man calling another long-haired and mustachioed man “darlin’.”
I imagine most straight men don’t like to be called “darlin’” by other men. “Darlin’” is the exclusive domain of sassy waitresses in diners where flirtation is part of the service, and tips are awarded by how well one plays the role.
I am not looking for tips. I aim to make a point.
When engaged in word-to-word combat on social media, which admittedly is a most useless endeavor, I find it hard to resist showering my opponent with terms of endearment, not epithets. While sparring with today’s foe, I made sure to punctuate each of my arguments with “sweetie” or “cutie” or another sugar-coated barb, still working assiduously to convey my message with some degree of seriousness.
Darlin’. Cutie. Sweetie. Honey. Baby. Buttercup. Snowflake.
First, they are caught off guard. Men don’t usually talk to each other that way, unless it’s at the corner of 18th and Castro. Keeping one’s opponents unsteady and on the defensive is one of the first tenets of warfare. I don’t know if pleasantries and innuendo were part of Sun Tzu’s strategic ploys, but I’ll generously offer up my playbook if it would be helpful to future generals and commanders.
Second, I’d like to reclaim terms of endearment and flip hypocorisms for all of us. Why should scruffy men, redolent of cigarettes, petrol, and sweat, at the Waffle House have all the love? Why shouldn’t straight white Republican men have some of my affection, even if saucily delivered? We are a divided country. I would like to issue my dissent and protest with a pet name or two…if only to accentuate the sweetness of my voice.
Ultimately, when I use “darlin’”, “sweetie”, “cutie”, or “honey” in a politically-charged conversation with other men, it is a dare. I want them to rail against the insincerity and condescension. I would like them to know what it feels to be patted on the head while being shoved down with both hands. Let us remember moments when many of us — usually our sisters, mothers, aunts, friends, and lovers — were dismissed and ridiculed for speaking up and yelling at the top of our lungs, as if we were just restive and rambunctious children.
I dare you to call me a “faggot.” We both know that I’ve survived worse — and you would look like a coward.
58% of American white men voted for Trump. I presume many of them are straight. For the gay white men who voted for Trump, I would only say, “You are not darling, sweet, or cute. I am ashamed for you.”
For the other American white men who voted for Trump and continue to be the water-carriers for his racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, climate crisis denial, and vengeance against immigrants and refugees, I will call you “darlin’” and “sweetie” as a diversion from my baser impulses. You are more than just an idiot. Coarse name-calling is cheap. When I call you “sweetie” or “cutie” — with all of the insincerity and derision that those words hold — you might understand what it means to be treated as if you didn’t really matter.
Or, you might find that I’m actually capable of kindness.
After some back and forth, my adversary offered that I live under Biden’s rules and he would live under Trump’s rules, and we would see who prospered.
“That’s all well and good with me, sweetie,” I wrote. “The problem is that we live in the same country for now. I lived in the US with Trump in the White House for four years. I didn’t like it. I voted for someone else. What was that line in 2016: “Suck it up, buttercup”? As long as we are Americans, which we are the last time I checked, we are in this together. Okay, cutie?”
“I am not your sweetie or your cutie,” he responded tersely.
Lovin’ you, darlin’. This is where we are.