It's the goddess's birthday today, and my beloved Jove has called me my favorite endearment, "Darling", at least six times already. I love it. Such a wonderful, grownup term, "darling" is, kind of 1930s--something Fred Astaire would say to Ginger Rogers, or Laurence Olivier to anyone lucky enough to be on stage with him. I can't imagine anyone else saying it with such ease.
So you want to know: When does a man first call you "darling"? Usually, in bed. The guy who up till then called you by your given name, now holds you close and says, "Baby," or "Honey," or, in my case, "Darling." Then, mysteriously, wondrously, it sticks. He phones and says, "Hey, Sweetheart, it's me….." and you know that your own name no longer sounds intimate enough, possessive enough. It's become too formal; too public.
But the name only a lover has the right to utter is not to be introduced too soon. Never force it. Premature coziness can make an otherwise lovely person suddenly skittish and scared; like discussing wedding plans can. Better to keep calling him "Robert" for a year or two and sound too formal than to introduce a "Honey" that makes him feel he's being swarmed by the whole hive. The syllables of the endearment must run off your tongue with ease, organically, as they say; and it must feel like the right one, not a global term like the "sweetie" you say to your girlfriends; nor, if you’re a guy, a "babe" that a construction worker might say to all women passersby. Remember that any pet name you use is only as adorable as you are to him--and vice versa. If you hate the term "Tootsie" and you suddenly hear it, he's in danger of being hated, too.
Endearments are utterly, totally, irrevocably personal. Not to be used lightly.
So you've settled on one? Keep it to yourself. Sexual endearments ("Love Dart" comes to mind) are only darling to the two of you; keep your friends out of it. Ditto cutesy endearments ("Honeybunch"? "Lambiekins"?). Ditto suggestive ones ("Pussy willow"). Ditto ones that requre explanation ("Toe girl." Like, do you really want to know?)
An endearment used thoughtlessly can actually endanger your affair. Don't try to stake a claim with ANY endearment too soon. It signals bad taste as surely as it can signal welcomed intimacy. It shows that you've entered the secret, wonderful world of couples. And, like all good things, it can wait. Let it do so until you actually have entered that world--and not a moment sooner.