When I call you lovely

So many words about words. Thoughts about their impact. Their direction.

Does feminised jargon like SHEO inspire or infantilise? Is mainsplaining fair when condescendingly explaining the obvious isn’t an exclusively male domain? Are we bringing women down when we call each other gorgeous or are we building each other up? 

I think of Rupi Kaur’s apology:

i want to apologize to all the women i have called beautiful
before i’ve called them intelligent or brave
i am sorry i made it sound as though
something as simple as what you’re born with
is all you have to be proud of
when you have broken mountains with your wit
from now on i will say things like
you are resilient, or you are extraordinary
not because i don’t think you’re beautiful
but because i need you to know
you are more than that

That’s the problem with words. They are given one way and taken another. And the gap in between can stretch for miles.

That gap makes me wonder about my love of “lovely”. I used it to address my friends constantly. Hello lovely. Thanks lovely. See you soon lovely.

The lovely in that greeting means “you are a joy”. It means “I feel lucky to have you in my life.” It means “you are so wonderful to be around.” It means “I enjoy our friendship”. When I address the wonderful people within this community as lovely, it means “I really appreciate you being here – it means a lot to me”.

I wonder if that’s what’s read and heard. Or whether it comes across as shallow and dismissive.

I don’t call the stranger behind the counter, lovely. It’s not an empty word, easily passed around. It’s not “dear”.

I don’t call my husband lovely. Even though he is quite lovely. It’s a term divorced of any romantic leaning.

It’s a sobriquet full of friendly affection.

But maybe I should be saying Hello Brilliant. Thanks Courageous. See you soon Extraordinary.

But it doesn’t work. It’s awkward.

Positive words aren’t necessarily interrupted positively.

One of my lovely friends and I were listening to a podcast. Mia Freedman said that women hesitate to describe themsleves or other women as ambitious. That it is always delivered with side eye and the implication that ambition comes with a host of machilivian tendencies. My friend and I immediately assured each other that ambitious only meant good things in our minds.

Because we get each other. And I think all those I address as “lovely” get it.

The gap between intention and understanding closes when you know each other. You get a know a person and their nuances. Certain words that would ordinarily rankle, soften when given context. My friends know that if I call them beautiful it’s so much more than skin deep. They know that I refer to their minds, their hearts and the wonder they bring into the world.

So I’ll continue calling those I love, lovely. Because they are.

Do you have any words that you use all the time and worry about how they might be construed?


Linking up with Kylie Purtell – Capturing Life and IBOT

24 thoughts on “When I call you lovely

  1. Nicole @ The Builder's Wife says:

    Love this, a view I hadn’t thought of. I certainly mean lovely things when I refer to someone as lovely or beautiful, never meant to be anything but a positive. I had not thought about calling them what they really are, extraordinary or brilliant, it just doesn’t quite work. So I too will continue the way I always have, full of good intention. Thanks for making me think 🙂
    Nicole @ The Builder’s Wife recently posted…Banging My Head On A Brick Wall – Women In ConstructionMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      I think it’s always possible to compliment people in that way, but using those adjectives as terms of affection still seems strange.

  2. Amy @ HandbagMafia says:

    I feel this way about the word darling. To me, it holds no other meaning than “you are special and precious to me” so I use it but sparingly. Never to strangers.
    I do think mansplaining is a thing. Yes, women can be comdescending too, but it is so frequently the male domain. Have a look on Twitter to see so many women detail their experience. Why, just last week, a man with very limited experience of MLM told me, after reading my post on MLM, that what I described wasn’t MLM and when to great lengths to explain “pure MLM” to me as if I had done zero research. He was wrong and he was describing a Ponzi scheme but I called mansplaining. He immediately assumed he was right and I was wrong, he began telling me so, assuming I had done no research yet not bothering to fact check himself and he tried to negate my lived experience because it wasn’t his. When he asked if his opinion would have been more valid if he was a woman, I reminded him that it’s likely his POV would be vastly different because his lived experience of MLM – constant pushes to buy, party invites etc would be the same as mine and he would t have felt the need to dispute it. Anyhow, sorry for the novel- I enjoyed this post and think you’re lovely xx
    Amy @ HandbagMafia recently posted…The Best Treatment for Period PainMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      I definitely think more men do it. But I have seen women do it. And I have (rather hilariously) seen men who do it to everyone – male and female – that always goes down well. I don’t know how you deal with the folk that feel the need to comment like that on your clearly well-researched, well-articulated posts. It would drive me spare.

  3. Renee Wilson says:

    I use lovely a lot and I also use darling. I probably use darling even more than lovely. It is a term of endearment for those friends and family close to me. They know I use it affectionately and lovingly and it means that they are dear to me. I’m also sure I tell those friends of mine when they’re doing amazing things how amazing, smart, courageous etc that they are. #teamIBOT
    Renee Wilson recently posted…This is 40My Profile

  4. Bella says:

    I call my husband beautiful. It certainly doesn’t mean I think he looks feminine. And it doesn’t just mean he’s physically attractive (although he is!), it’s about his character and his inner strength. I definitely think words like beautiful and lovely go deeper than just outward appearance.

  5. Vanessa says:

    I prefer to trust that people I talk to regularly, friends, family or colleagues, know me well enough to either know my intent, or to ask if they feel uncomfortable or unsure.
    Vanessa recently posted…#ArchiveLove 27My Profile

    • Robyna says:

      Very true. Although I think sometimes we are too scared to stand up for ourselves – even with our nearest and dearest.

  6. Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid says:

    I’ve grown up with words like darling, lovely and they’ve only been used as a term of affection. My nana used to even call me doll or dolly, and it’s all my time favourite endearment. I often use darling and lovely with the women in my life that I know well. For me those terms of endearment embody a plethora of positive adjectives – and I hope that the people on the receiving end know me well enough to appreciate the good feelings and sentiment behind them.
    Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid recently posted…7 Aisles to Love in the British SupermarketMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      Oh Dolly, that’s very sweet. I would like it if a woman I liked called me that, but not if a man called me that. Funny isn’t it?

  7. Sandra Kelly says:

    Personally, I’d prefer the words that reflect how that person feels when I’m around them. “Hello Lovely” said with a beaming smile means so much more to me than someone trying to fluff up my perceived lack of self esteem. GREAT post Robyna. Xx

    • Robyna says:

      That’s true isn’t it? There is the intention that you can glean by knowing someone and the intention that you can glean from the attitude in which it’s given. Although the latter is harder to ascertain online.

  8. Kara says:

    I use lovely too. I’ll also use a cheery “hello my love!” for certain people. I dislike darl, darling, etc.

  9. Bel says:

    I call my friends ‘beautiful’ and for me it has nothing to do with their outward appearance and everything to do with their soul, their kindness, caring and nurturing nature. I’m lucky to know some very beautiful women, they know what I mean and that’s all that matters x

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