I can still clearly remember being in middle and high school and thinking how awesome it would be to have someone special in my life that I could call “boyfriend.” And how I would find sly ways to drop that label whenever possible so everyone would know how super-special I clearly was.
“Oh, sorry, I can’t come to your party this weekend; I already have plans with my boyfriend.”
“Actually, I’m saving this seat for my boyfriend.”
“Look at what my boyfriend gave me for my birthday!”
“If you don’t stop staring at my boobs, my boyfriend will totally kick your ass!”
But now, in my 30s and in a position to actually throw that term around, I avoid it like the plague. Because it makes me sound (and feel) like the aforementioned idiotic teenager I once was. And because it implies a temporary arrangement. And because I don’t want to affix the same title to the man I’m in a cohabitating exclusive relationship with as what my coworker’s 15-year-old calls the boy she’s made out with twice in the same week.
It’s kind of mind-boggling that we, as a society, have yet to come up with better terms for heterosexual adults in committed non-married relationships than “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.” “Significant other” sounds pretentious and lame. “Partner” implies a same-sex relationship. “Special friend” indicates a fuck buddy. “My better half” isn’t always accurate. “Mate” doesn’t work because this isn’t Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. “Soul mate” is just…no. And other varieties of the already problematic “boyfriend/girlfriend” sound just a juvenile and moronic: “my boo,” “my baby,” “my sweetie,” “my love,” etc. We managed to get “awesomesauce” into the Oxford Dictionaries; we must be able to come up with a more adult version of “boyfriend/girlfriend”!
My workaround has been to simply refer to Remus by name in conversations with new people and assume they’ll use context clues to figure out who he is in relation to me.
“Remus and I went to the movies this weekend and some lady coughed all over us, so I’m not feeling great today.”
“I went to that restaurant with Remus once. It was pretty good, if you think gummy pasta and watery sauce is worth $30.”
“I just dropped a bunch of money buying new furniture for the place Remus and I just moved into.”
Of course I’ll still run into the occasional person who can’t do basic math and will ask, “Who’s Remus?” and I’ll begrudgingly mumble, “He’s my…boyfriend…” And then I’ll want to slam a door and turn my music up way loud because OMG, teenage angst.
When he forwarded me an email chain from work where he was soliciting for vendors for a project I was working on, I discovered that Remus’ solution was to refer to me as “my lady.” To which I asked if he was British in the 1800s.
“No, but it’s way better than ‘girlfriend,’ right?”
While true, I was still less than enthused, primarily because if I used the inverse “my man” in reference to him, I would sound like some desperate woman who doesn’t know how to be alone.
“My man has a good job! My man knows how to take care of me! My man kills all the spiders!”
No thank you.
“Well, what do you want me to call you? You’re not my wife, you’re not yet my fiancé, and you hate ‘girlfriend’ or any iteration of that. So what’s left?”
And then I had a stroke (of brilliance). I was his pre-fiancé, ergo, preancé!
But much like Regina George in Mean Girls, he shut me down. “Preancé is not a thing. I am not calling you my preancé.”
So I’ve conceded to let him continue using “my lady,” and I continue to hate-use “boyfriend,” while looking forward to the day I can retire that label.
Oh, and also because it will be the day that we decide to take our relationship to the next level of permanence due to our ongoing mutual love, respect, and commitment toward each other and whatnot…but, you know…priorities…