Reclaiming the Sweetheart

A couple of days ago, my coworker slipped a piece of chocolate into my blazer pocket.

“Because you’re sweet,” she said.

I used to dislike everyone calling me sweet. I have always associated sweetness with being a pushover.

There were two other instances where I recall being called sweet.

“Does your boyfriend know that you’re very sweet?” Another coworker had asked years ago.

I was working in McDonald’s when, my coworker, an older Filipina approached me while I was mopping the floor by the soda station.

“I’m sorry?” I had asked somewhat surprised.

“You have a very sweet face,” she smiled.

In another instance, during the days when people would create Facebook pages to collate “beautiful campus faces,” my friend submitted my photo with a caption that said “the university’s sweetheart.”

I took it as a joke and asked my friend if she really thought I was sweet.  My boyfriend at the time had always complained about how uncaring I was.

Looking back, I realized that the things I did for him weren’t acknowledged because his expectations of what he wanted from me were not the kind I gave to him. He had associated sweetness with what his brother’s girlfriends did for their boyfriends. I had a different love language.  Therefore, I wasn’t sweet because I was unlike those women.

My friend reminded me how I had helped that boyfriend, photoshopping his photos for LinkedIn, and writing blurbs for his graduation book, and that those actions made me a sweetheart.

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In Canada, I started to feel as if sweetness made for such a bland identity. It always felt like it was just a simple, boring trait.

Sweet was someone too nice and being nice wouldn’t get you to places. When I was working in a store, our managers would tell us that we couldn’t get management positions because we were “too nice.” They needed someone who wasn’t “too nice.”

“Sweet” became someone who had no personality in a sea of sass and sophistication.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate the nuance and complexity of someone who is sweet. Now, I view sweetness as someone who is capable of giving and receiving love- someone who is caring, warm, kind, and thoughtful.

They say it takes a lot to be kind in this world. I think it also takes a lot to remain warm and sweet after all the bitterness I’ve received from people who didn’t deserve my light.


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