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Saturday, October 25, 2008

boyfriend

Ian and I have been together for nearly 3 years now, and have lived together for most of that time, and it's recently occurred to me that I don't like calling him my "boyfriend". To me, boyfriend and girlfriend are words used in relationships less committed than ours. I think that's the best way to put it. I was going to say relationships not as long as ours, or relationships younger than ours, but really I think time and age are irrelevant factors. It's all about commitment.

I told this to Ian the other night. "I recently realized that I don't like calling you my boyfriend," I said, and he said, "I know! I keep wanting to call you my Partner, or something, but that just sounds like we're gay."

And it's true. There's no adequate term for a straight, non-married, non-engaged, cohabiting, fully-committed romantic couple. "We could call each other Life-Partners," I said, "but that still sounds a little bit gay, and cheesy on top of that."

Ian then suggested we could try the term Lovers, and I cringed. "No term used in the company of others should bring our bedroom lives to the forefront of their minds. That's just inappropriate, whether hetero or homo," I said.

So I guess that rules out my using the term Sweet Piece of Man Flesh.

Seriously, though, we need to come up with a word to describe the type of relationship Ian and I have. Any ideas?

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13 comments:

sovknight said...

I think you have a conundrum. As far as I know, the official rank structure is thus:

Date
Boyfriend/Girlfriend
Fiancée
Husband/Wife
Divorce/Widow/Widower

I don't know that you can re-title the official chain of command. I think you are stuck with the current title, unless you're gunning for a promotion.
;)

tauns said...

I always refer to Ben as "My love". We are married so I could refer to him as my husband or spouse, or what not, but I know some unloving marriages and those marriages always seem to refer to the other spouse as "my husband" or "my wife". I have always found "my love" a great way of sharing that he is mine and I love him, and I personally don't think it brings in the whole bedroom scene...it is more than that in those words. Amazing how removing the "r" from the end and adding an "my" to the front can really change the whole context (well at least in my opinion)

Now as for always referring to Ian as, "My love" in all settings, I am not so sure if that would work for you. I decided to go to my good friend Thesarus and see what it had to say. My favorite was inamorata and inamorto.

You could always try calling Ian your inamorato (rather than boyfriend) and he could call you his inamorata (instead of girlfriend). The meaning for those is a man (or woman) with whom one is in love or has an intimate relationship; a man (or woman) who loves or is loved; male (or female) sweetheart or lover. I think that pretty much describes what you have explained your relationship to be with Ian.

It may take a few times of explaining to others why you don't just say boyfriend/girlfriend for those who ask...but it would show the more complex love and deep commitment that you share.

B.R. said...

I tend to say 'person.'
I find the term 'partner' quite apropos, too, especially if you are in a domestic union. Since gay-acting and -performing people, for the most part, do not have the opportunity to enter a contractual relationship like marriage, they had to find lexemes that included them. The margin is not a place of one's choosing, for the most part. However, straight-acting and -performing folk who don't marry also need the right language to describe themselves.

As to whether the word 'partner' might connote something other than a heterosexual relationship, well, I have nothing of substance to contribute here other than perhaps to suggest a mild case of onomastic insecurity? :)

Also, if one of you covers the other's insurance/benefits via employment, the term 'partner' is the contractual term used without regard to your person's anatomical sex or selected, identifying gender, et al.

I tend to think that in hypermodern times, ontological security has undergone a good shift....

Also, some people might be in a marriage and still choose to refer to their contractually bound individual as 'person.' It's generic to the rest of the world, yet person-AL to you.

Ben Sloan said...

How about your Other, or Significant Other?

I once had an old lady introduce me to her cohabiting boyfriend as her "Very Good Friend".

If you want to appear conservative and not-gay, then you could always just call him your man and have him call you his woman. Hahaha.

Sra said...

Sov: If by "unless you're gunning for a promotion," you mean I'm wanting to move up the chain to fiancee status, so I can eventually move on the wife status, and finally divorcee status, then I think you know me better than that.

Tauns: I like inamorato -- good one! No one will know what I'm talking about, but I guess when you're trying to move a new word into convention, that is to be expected. I may try that one out.

B.R.: To me, person is the most generic possible term you can use for somebody, and therefore it carries almost no meaning. I wish to convey that there is a loving relationship between us, so that won't do.

If by "onomastic insecurity" you mean I don't want people to wonder whether I'm in a homosexual relationship when I'm not, then yes, I have onomastic insecurity.

Ben: I guess Significant Other does work, but it's such a stiff term. I also thought about the Man and Woman terms, but rednecks in a bowling alley drinking Coors Light immediately came to mind ;)

Well, I frequently call Ian "Mr. E", so maybe I'll just call him my Mystery Man. Who knows?

Claire said...

Whatever happened to "Sweet Baboo?"

I'll agree that "person" is pretty generic (about one step higher than "multicellular organism," e.g. "This is Felicia, my multicellular organism and life-mate.").

As for "lover," it is acceptable ONLY if pronounced "Love-ah." Bonus points for a Vassar accent while doing so. You may also want to invest in some fringed vests and/or suggestively carved incense burners.

I've used "partner" before, but that always makes me feel like I'm in a lesbian cowboy movie. "Howdy, pardner! Let's saddle up and head over to Home Depot. Yeee-haw!"

Really, I guess I always fall back on the boring-but-useful "novia," which translates to, yes, "girlfriend." If I ever make it to the altar (which might necessitate a relocation out of Squaresville), I'll probably switch to "Partner" and just really enunciate that "T."

Ultimately, I think that there needs to be a modifier on "girlfriend/boyfriend" to convey the "upgrade." Maybe we could say "gwife" and "bhusband" (the latter pronounced "bus-band"), to convey the commitment while still preserving the other titles for marriage.

Or, maybe we could use portmanteaus?

"Monogamate?"

"Lifener?"

"Fianfriend?"

"Fubuddy?"

OK, not that last one.

Oh, and "Man" and "Lady" work out well, particularly with an ironic, knowing wink about the whole affair. However, it is not acceptable with the modifier "Old" in front. THAT says "bowling alley/chain wallet/harvest gold appliances" like nothing else.

Sra said...

Ah Claire, always saying things with which I agree. I like the portmanteaus, particularly Lifener and Monogamate, although the latter sounds a little scientific.

Claire said...

It DOES sound scientific, doesn't it? Although it sounds even more like a Ron Popeil invention.

Ooh, or a really persnickety dating service!

"Do you enjoy filling out lengthy questionnaires? What about subjecting others to profound scrutiny? Then why not try MonogoMate?"

amyeliz said...

Every time I hear the word, lover, I dissolve in a fit of the giggles.

I introduced my former boyfriend once, as my partner, which I don't think he appreciated.

How about soul mate?

Sra said...

Soul mate works alright. But it's a little cheesy. And also, to me it kind of implies that we are each other's "one". And I don't believe there is a one for anyone. If that makes any sense.

jess said...

i found myself in this predicament, too. even more troubling about the word "boyfriend" is that at the time, i was 30 years old. kids in high school and college have boyfriends; divorcees with children do NOT.

eventually, i just used his first name for everything. i let people assume he was my husband, as i got tired of explaining everything.

amyeliz said...

Every time I hear the word, lover, I dissolve in a fit of the giggles.

I introduced my former boyfriend once, as my partner, which I don't think he appreciated.

How about soul mate?

Claire said...

Whatever happened to "Sweet Baboo?"

I'll agree that "person" is pretty generic (about one step higher than "multicellular organism," e.g. "This is Felicia, my multicellular organism and life-mate.").

As for "lover," it is acceptable ONLY if pronounced "Love-ah." Bonus points for a Vassar accent while doing so. You may also want to invest in some fringed vests and/or suggestively carved incense burners.

I've used "partner" before, but that always makes me feel like I'm in a lesbian cowboy movie. "Howdy, pardner! Let's saddle up and head over to Home Depot. Yeee-haw!"

Really, I guess I always fall back on the boring-but-useful "novia," which translates to, yes, "girlfriend." If I ever make it to the altar (which might necessitate a relocation out of Squaresville), I'll probably switch to "Partner" and just really enunciate that "T."

Ultimately, I think that there needs to be a modifier on "girlfriend/boyfriend" to convey the "upgrade." Maybe we could say "gwife" and "bhusband" (the latter pronounced "bus-band"), to convey the commitment while still preserving the other titles for marriage.

Or, maybe we could use portmanteaus?

"Monogamate?"

"Lifener?"

"Fianfriend?"

"Fubuddy?"

OK, not that last one.

Oh, and "Man" and "Lady" work out well, particularly with an ironic, knowing wink about the whole affair. However, it is not acceptable with the modifier "Old" in front. THAT says "bowling alley/chain wallet/harvest gold appliances" like nothing else.

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