01/17/2012 06:43 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Recycling Your Ex's Nickname: Taboo or Totally Acceptable?

The thing is, some of us have dated our fair share of men and women. Depending on the length of the relationship (and the person's affinity for nicknames), it's possible to accumulate quite a hefty collection of pet names. More often than not, our ex-girlfriends or ex-flings will never encounter one another or interact on anything below surface level. So I ask the question: is it OK to recycle pet names and phrases? I mean, the odds of an ex discovering you've dipped into your once-shared repertoire are very slim. And even if she were to hear of it, is it really that bad?

When my partner utters my three favorite words, either "I love you" or "You're so hot," depending on my mood, I do not kid myself into thinking I am the first girl to ever draw those words from her lips. But what about when she starts calling me "Boo," or "Babe," or "Sweet Cheeks"? (For the record, I have never been called "Sweet Cheeks" before, but now I am starting to wonder why not... I mean, my cheeks are pretty darn sweet, if you ask me.) Part of me is cool with any nickname thrown my way by a beautiful woman, and part of me pauses for a second to wonder just how many "boos" have come before me -- and whether I should care.

My ex-girlfriend and I spent over three years together, and in that time we assimilated quite a cache of pet names for one another. Some of them are downright silly and ridiculous, and some were fitting at the time, while others have been absorbed completely, never to be shed. We also have a phrase we use in lieu of saying "give me a kiss." That phrase, as random as it sounds, is "give me a piece of pizza."

First, the origin. She and I went to the movies with our gay boyfriends a lot when we lived in San Francisco. My buddy Jerry and I loved scary movies, while my ex Jenny and Jerry's boyfriend Ry preferred lighter fare, like rom-coms or Disney flicks. The four of us would meet at the theater, then pair off accordingly, a convenient and fun arrangement for all. This one time, as we were parting ways on level two of my favorite San Francisco theater, Jenny turned to me and said, "Can I have a piece of pizza?" Now, apparently she must have been looking at me lovingly or longingly in that moment, because Jerry thought that was a kinky phrase we used rather than just asking for a kiss. Instead, I rifled through my large purse until I found a piece of pizza I'd wrapped in foil and packed for the movies. When I handed it to her, along with the requisite paper towel I'd also stashed, Jerry started cracking up.

"I did not expect you to actually bust out a literal piece of pizza!" he said. "But I did think it was a weird way to ask for a kiss!" Both Ry and Jerry were very amused by this mix-up. From that point on, we substituted "give me a kiss" with "give me a piece of pizza." Yes, it's silly, but admit it, it's also kind of cute.

That was over five years ago, and we broke up over three years ago. Just last month she asked me if I ever use "pizza" instead of "kiss" with other people. I answered "no," truthfully, and then I wondered if she would have been mad if I'd said "yes." However, if she'd asked me if I'd used other nicknames or unique turns of phrase I'd once employed with her, I would not have been able to offer a definitive "no." Certain words or phrases, nicknames or songs, even, are inevitably going to be used and reused. I am a writer, after all, so poetry wants to drip from these lips all the time when I'm in love. Sometimes I come up with some good one-liners, or some quality monikers, and it seems wrong to pack them away in the drawer with old love letters. The reality is that the majority of the time I do not even realize I am using a phrase I once used on someone else. It's called "being in the moment," right? I'm not usually thinking of past lovers, and I'm certainly not thinking what a past lover would think if they knew I was whispering familiar words into someone else's ear. Each word or song will have a different feel or meaning, depending on the person sharing your bed. Some songs are so good, so sexy, so poignant that it seems a downright shame to retire them in the event of one relationship's demise. I say we should be less selfish and more laissez-faire when it comes to songs and pet names. Unless you call me by your ex's first name, I'm not going to hold it against you for practicing a little re-use and recycle.