Thursday, July 03, 2008

after the merge

Recently I heard someone was moving to another country because his "partner" got a job there. It took me a moment to realize "partner" meant boyfriend/significant other/whatever and refers to a "domestic partner" or "life partner," because it's a really lame way to describe a relationship.

A partner is the guy who co-owns your steel factory or has made it to the top of the law firm. It has to be one of the least romantic words in the human language. It should not be used to describe someone you're moving to another country with.

Yes, I know it's a popular word among gay people because it's nice and generic and won't offend the relatives. It's the equivalent of how in old movies if a girl got pregnant they would say she was "in trouble," and if you were a kid you would get really confused as to what the trouble was.

But when there's an out gay guy whose move is being discussed between two people who don't have a problem with it, "partner" seems like a horrible choice of words.

The problem of what to call people you're involved with is a strangely thorny one. I personally am happy with boyfriend/girlfriend, but my ex-girlfriend used to complain that she was no longer a girl, and my mother corrects anyone who calls her boyfriend her boyfriend, preferring "man friend" or just an ambiguous "my friend."

I am okay with being a boyfriend, but then, I gladly suffer from Peter Pan Syndrome.

If you don't like the boy/girl thing, and admit that something like "manfriend" sounds pretty dumb, there are other options. "Significant other" used to be popular, but while it is slightly more specific than "partner" it is about as lame. You can get even lamer by using "lover." "Lover" most often turns up in comedies nowadays as a way to indicate a character is a pretentious ass.

POSSLQ, for Persons of the Opposite Sex Sharing Quarters, was briefly popular, but that doesn't help gay people, since I can't think of any way to pronounce PSSSLQ.

Beau isn't too bad a word, but there is no female equivalent (arguably the female equivalent is belle, but no one uses that for girlfriend).

Sweetie and sweetheart sound rather saccharin, but they are gender and age neutral. Still, they're problematic when you've just had a fight. You don't want to say, "This is my damn sweetie, who never knows when to shut the hell up."

There are also handy phrases like old man, old lady, main squeeze, ball and chain, gentleman caller and lady friend, but none seem ideal.

Personally, I think everyone who's been together longer than two years can be called a spouse. In my experience, once you've been dating a girl a couple of years everyone starts calling her your wife anyway. Gay people may not be able to get married in most states, but I don't believe you can be arrested for impersonating a married person. I'm not a doctor, but if I can convince my friends to call me Dr. Charles it's legal as long as I don't perform surgery. So I'd be all for saying the guy is moving to another country with his husband.

What is odd is that while no one seems to be able to come up with a satisfactory word or phrase for an important romantic relationship, there are two descriptions for the person you have uncommitted sex with: "fuck buddy" and, for the more gentile, "friend with benefits."

Why is that so much easier? How long did it take someone to think up "fuck buddy?" Can that person sit down and come up with a boyfriend/girlfriend/lover equivalent of some sort?

I don't know if anyone will ever find a solution that will satisfy everyone. Probably not. In the meantime, I just wish I could find myself a girlfriend, sweetie, main squeeze, old lady or fuck buddy of my own. Whatever she wants to be called will be fine with me.

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