I've never dated anyone long enough to get to the phase where we start whispering sweet nothings to each other and all that gushy stuff. Even though I have this idea that such things might be kind of nice, I have another idea that it might take me a long time (in the event of going beyond, say, a second date) to be able to dish out or receive such comments with a straight face. This is probably because my personal experience of such terms and phrases has always come in the context of trading commodities.
When I lived in England, the shopkeepers in the off-licenses where I bought my Underground daypasses would call me "love," or sometimes "duck." Which was okay if it was a maternal-looking older woman, but not so okay if it was a rather dodgy-looking older man. Or a dodgy-looking younger man, either.
Nowadays, it's usually "hon," and I'm usually called that by females younger than I am, who are buying frappuccinos from me. I really hate the term "hon." I don't care who says it--how old they are, what gender they are, whether or not I know them--to me it always sounds condescending. And I really can't stand condescension. (I'm also unsure whether or not I can spell it. Can I?) But it's worst when the females-younger-than-I-am call me it.
The newest development in this area, though, is that these variously-aged male customers who have been coming to our store for a while are apparently suddenly feeling at ease, and have been adopting pet names for me (and probably everyone else). These are not the old guys who throw the word "sweetheart" around gratuitously. Nor are they guys whose names I actually know, with whom I have some camaraderie. They're just random familiar faces.
I had scarcely been back from Chicagoland a day when the guy who gets an iced venti hazelnut coffee called me "honey." Not "hon." Honey. Huh? Then today, two different men called me "dear." I think you'll agree that "dear" has different connotations than the much more casual and oft-used "darling." I'm feeling really confused. And a little bit, I might say, "sketched out."