TURNING up in the office on a Monday with a bag on my shoulder, I was asked what should have been the simple question of where I had spent my weekend. I described how ‘the guy I’m dating’ lives in the country, that I went there on Saturday, we went cycling, so now I’ve got all this stuff…
I could simply have said, ‘I stayed at my b… boyf…’ — but I just can’t say it. What sort of a modern, independent woman uses the term ‘boyfriend’?
Boyfriend worked when I was a teenager, when having one was novel and sophisticated. But now, it is the opposite. ‘Boyfriend’ sounds like I’m co-dependent. There is something about the b-word and the g-word, when used with the possessive pronoun ‘my’ that is smug and exclusive. It says, ‘I belong to someone but thanks for taking an interest anyway.’
It reminds me of the girl I sat next to in my first office job. She had four-inch false nails she filed every five minutes and every sentence from her botoxed lips began with ‘me and my boyfriend…’ Every story involved her sitting in the passenger seat of his sports car, just being a girlfriend.
So what do I call ‘the guy I’m dating’? It’s been more than a year. By definition this means we don’t ‘date’. Now, we stay in because it’s cheaper and we’re no longer trying to impress each other. Partner sounds like I’ve either started a business or turned gay. Lover sounds like I read too much Jilly Cooper. And I would rather never have sex again than utter ‘other half’. That phrase amounts to a gross subversion of one’s sense of self if you ask me.
In a group chat recently, I noticed someone wrote: ‘I need to check with my OH.’ I nearly flushed my phone down the toilet in disgust. I am also told that a similarly derogatory acronym, SO, has been coined for ‘significant other’. Sick bucket please.
I know language evolution is slow but where are the words for a serious lover? You’re covered if you’ve got a fling, plaything, shag or f***buddy.
You’re also covered if you’re old-fashioned and turn them into a wife or husband. But English has failed those of us in modern relationships. We are committed but not joined at the hip; in a relationship but don’t like the possessive undertones of girlfriend or boyfriend.
Whether we are in love or not, we are individuals. We are not ‘halves’. We are not ‘others’ and no one should be labelled as a more or less significant anything. I guess I’ll just have to stick with ‘the guy I’m dating’…