How to say "love"

The quickest route to work from my new house happens to go through the most famous street in York. As gorgeous as Shambles is, it has now become the street I hate the most. All the quaint cobbles, curling buildings and flashes of York’s 800 year history no longer remedy the fact that The Shambles is rammed with tourists.

The only time this street’s been empty

Tourists were sent from hell to remind us just how angry we can be made by other people. They find the most awkward places to stand to ensure they’re firmly in your way, they stop suddenly causing you to slam full pelt into the back of their head, and they sulk if you dare walk in front of their camera. In a word, they’re arseholes.

Now. I may be being slightly hypocritical. When I’m tourist-ing, I seem to forget all usual human social conventions. So I can sympathise with the millions of people milling around on The Shambles, innocently pissing off the locals. I’m one of them when I’m in their hometown, after all.

Despite this- the hoard on The Shambles still house a special number one slot on the “People I Hate Most” list. Maybe it’s because I’m in a rush to get to my shift. Maybe it’s because some of them are just so categorically stupid. Probably it’s because I have anger issues. Whatever. The point is, this wonderful, beautiful little corner of York has been ruined for me.

One of the ways I deal with these demons sporting backpacks when I’m rushing amongst them, is to use my inherent Northern charm. Once, this meant telling a guy insistent on not letting me pass to move out of the way, pretty please; but with my Mancunian accent, this polite instruction may have come across a touch more colourfully. Usually though, I’m in much less of a surging rage, and will instead twist through the crowds with a quick “sorry, love”.

“Love” is a funny term. It has complex rules governing its usage- something I assumed everyone knew  naturally. Apparently not. Perhaps it’s something inbuilt into Northerners, like always having a carrier bag on you in case you have to pop to ALDI. So I thought I’d clarify for the rest of you:

You can call the bus driver love, but you can’t call your boss love. You can call someone older than you love, but only if they seem the type to use the term themselves. You can’t call someone just a little younger than you love, but you can if they’re quite a bit younger. There’s no point calling posh people love. Don’t call someone in a lower position than you love if you don’t want to come off as patronising. If you call your mam love, brace yourself for a slap.

When a tourist in work called me love the other day, I was really offended. I was in an inferior role- his waitress- and he was quite clearly younger than me. I couldn’t help but feel like he was patronising me on purpose. It undermined how polite I’d been, and definitely reinforced that he saw me as someone serving him, not just someone doing a job.

Obviously, my offence was a lot more to do with the guy’s tone when he spoke to me, and the general sneering expression, but the fact that he used the word love to patronise surprised me. To me, it’s a term of endearment. It’s there to show that you care about the person (to some extent, I’m not sure the guy in McDonalds is genuinely fussed whether I enjoy my Happy Meal or not), and to make something more personable. The guy that accidentally bumps into you and curtly apologises might not mean it; and the guy that bumps into you and says “ah, sorry love” might not either, but I’d be more inclined to believe him.

Love is a pretty important term to me. It’s a quick way of showing affection, and it’s a handy extra for making something more polite. When you’re barging through a swarm of people armed with maps and SLRs, it’s my go-to tool for showing that us Northerners are friendly, but could you get out of my bloody way please. If this snooty guy is abusing the term- my term- then I need to make people more aware of how it’s supposed to be used. Consider this blog Lesson One.

Farrah Kelly

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