Yesterday on Facebook, I asked a question that comes up for the middle-aged, unmarried man or woman who has a partner, a significant other, a lover, a sweetie, a honey, a "man, a "woman," a ball and chain, a companion.
What word to use for that said person that doesn't sound stupid.
When I was in the hospital and basically not truly all there, a nurse and I had the following conversation. He looked at Michael, who was standing next to my bed, and asked, "Who is that."
I blinked. "That's Michael."
"No," the nurse said. "Who is he?"
"Michael," I said again, certain that I was still under the influence of dilaudid.
The nurse--obviously used to dealing with drugged out people missing body parts--said patiently, "No, who is he to you?"
"Oh," I said. "He's my boyfriend."
And there I was, a forty-seven-year old woman with a boyfriend. The good news was that I fell asleep right after that and didn't have to contemplate the word for a while.
But for a few years now, I've had issues with boyfriend as it makes me feel so, well, young, and not in the good sense of young. Immature. Unformed. Slightly nutty, really, the old lady with her boyfriend.
It's not that I'm wanting to get married so that I can use the word husband, which has its own trials and tribulations in the culture. It's just the would boy-friend.
Michael is not a boy. And he's not just my friend. The word does not work.
In high school, I loved to say the word, using it whenever I chanced to actually have a boyfriend.
"Oh," I'd say. "My boyfriend is taking me out tonight."
Or, "My boyfriend and I are going to the movies."
Anything, anything, to get that would out into the air. I was wanted by this one boy (and he was a boy, literally, by definition of age). We'd become a couple. We did things together. We used the words to create a box around our relationship. It meant something.
I moved from boyfriend to husband by the time I was 23, and used the word husband for 23 more years, even when we were separated. Husband indicates a marriage. Indicates--at least in most states where you have to be of age--adulthood. It indicates family and togetherness and home. It's a solid word, however patriarchal you might find it. It's a word that makes sense, even if the marriage falls apart.
Now, I'm back to having a boyfriend. Worse, I'm a girlfriend. Not a girl (lord, ask my mirror about that) and not just a friend. We've been demoted to childhood status by the names we call each other. And my Facebook friends couldn't come up with anything that made sense to me, but we were all trying to use the existing lexicon.
For all us middle-aged and older folk who date, who love, who form relationships, I call out for a word that works. You can't use anything old. It won't work. Work on it. I know I will be.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org