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DEAR NIKKI: Smoochin' and Surfin'

Advice Column

Dear Nikki,

My boyfriend constantly uses pet names when we’re together, and he always insists on kissing me in public. He’s so great, but this overload of affection is really getting to me. What should I do to let him know it’s getting on my nerves?

—Sick of the Suffocation

Well, shnookums, let’s address the pet name issue first. To be blunt: I find them insufferable. It should be said, however, that there’s a big difference between a fond greeting and maudlin appellations.

Here’s one way to figure out where you draw the line: let’s play the name game. If your complaint is that he occasionally greets you with a “Hello, Adorable” or a “How are you, Beautiful?” I would grin and bear it. You might just have issues taking a compliment, and that’s your fault, not his.

A more frequent “Hi, Angel,” however, might begin to cross the line of acceptability. I mean, who really wants to be an angel anyway? I would also say that regular usage of the jockish and chauvinistic “Babe” is grounds for a gasp, especially if he is comparing you to the cinematic pig. And even the charmingly anachronistic “Dear,” justifies a (quick) eyeroll.

Although these names are all annoying, your problem hasn’t reached dangerous levels until he uses one of the following: Bambi, Poochie, Boo Boo, Bun Buns, Cutie Patootie, or Sugar Muffin. The biggest gaffe of all, of course, would be if he took heed of the President’s daughters’ revelation at this year’s Republican Convention that their parents call each other “Bushy.” Although this name may endearingly refer to their famous last name, I would go out on a limb and say it’s not the most flattering adjective your boyfriend could use.

If he does cross that sacred boundary line of decency, one potential remedy is to shoot the names right back at him. But they must be properly chosen so as to peeve him sufficiently. If he is the bookish type, try calling him “Hunk” or perhaps “Tarzan.” If he prides himself on his gruff and buff exterior, try “Twinkle Toes.”

If your pet name reciprocity is not effective, simply let him know how you feel. You want to be able to communicate (and not in baby talk) your concerns to your babbling beau. He may be a little embarrassed, but he’ll ultimately appreciate the fact that you don’t cringe every time he addresses you. Maybe he’ll even learn an important lesson: a woman should be respected.

Second issue: the notorious “public display of affection,” commonly referred to as PDA. Though we can’t hold a candle to Western Europeans, there is sufficient public canoodling in Cambridge to force even us lapsed Puritans to go running in the opposite direction.

One important thing to consider is why you’re so uncomfortable with public kissing. If it’s merely that you value your privacy, fine. But is it because you’re embarrassed? Or that it’s a public display of commitment (PDC) and you’re not cool with that?

If you think he’s really just taking the “publicity” too far, better to let him know. Though the occasional public lip-locking is okay, it is not okay for him to simply tout his “prize,” as if to say, “Hey!!! I’m making out with someone!!!” If this describes your boyfriend, talk to him. Say, perhaps, “Tarzan, I’m not swinging for open-air smooching.”

Ton petit chou,

Nikki, who prefers foreign pet names