Hey all, in case you missed it, here’s last sunday’s column:
I feel strange having boyfriends. Not the physical act of having a boyfriend, that I rather enjoy. What with all the sex and the fixing of electronics and everything. What I mean is that I feel strange telling people that I have a boyfriend. It’s that word. Boyfriend.
To me, a boyfriend is something you have between the ages of five and thirty five-ish. When you’re five you hold hands with a boy one day and so he is your boyfriend. Then the next day a different boy gives you half his Melrose sandwich, so you hold hands with him for a bit, and then he becomes your boyfriend, until you hold hands with someone else… you get the picture.
Then when you’re a teenager, you and your boyfriends lock lips and graunch for five years straight, barely coming up to eat, breathe, text, do your hair and be rude to your parents.
When you’re in your twenties, boyfriends become a little more serious and you play at being grown up together. You get jobs, drink cocktails, throw dinner parties, have hangovers together on Sunday mornings and generally act a little more mature, sometimes.
But then somehow after that it just doesn’t seem right to have a boyfriend anymore.
Have you ever come across an older person, say between the ages of thirty five and a hundred and five and they introduce the person standing next to them as their boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s just weird. It always feels like they should have grown out of that by then and moved onto more mature life situations and more mature terms, like marriage or divorce. ‘Gran,’ you shout loudly, so she can hear, ‘That’s not your boyfriend, that’s the TV set!’
Best friends is another term that doesn’t seem suitable for adults anymore. Unless you’re a fan of Paris Hilton, and then you have BFFs (Best friends forever – or in Paris’ case, if not forever at least until they piss you off). I happen to have a best friend, but I cringe saying the words out loud and try to avoid it. For some reason both ‘best friend’ and ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ feel like such childish terms to use.
But that’s the beauty of the English language, isn’t it. We have dozens of ways of putting things. Literally thousands of other words we could use. For example we could say ‘partner’ when describing our significant other.
But that presents a whole pile of problems of its own, because the word partner comes with its own baggage and connotations. A few years ago my then newly pregnant Art Director (my business partner) and I were on a television commercial shoot and I just happened to innocently mention to one of the clients that my partner was pregnant. The client looked at me with wide eyes.
‘That’s very brave of you,’ she said. ‘Oh, I didn’t really do anything.’ I said, shrugging my shoulders. ‘So how did you and your girlfriend decide which of you would carry the baby?’ she asked, still wide eyed.
And then the penny dropped. When I told her my ‘partner’ was pregnant she instantly assumed I was gay and that my lover and I were having a baby. It was a difficult knot to untie.
So, the term partner is no good either. It just has too many different meanings to be useful. That leaves us with the term ‘significant other’, which to me sounds a little clinical and also evasive, is it a man, is it a woman?
One term I don’t mind using is ‘my guy’. As in, ‘Hey everybody, this is my guy, Daniel Craig…’ It works, it feels modern and it gets the job done.
But perhaps we should consider actually calling it what it is. Hey, meet X, he’s my ‘Lightbulb Changer’. Or, Mom, dad, this is Y, he’s my ‘Spider-picker-upper-in-the-middle-of-the-nighter’. Or this is Zed, he’s my ‘Sex Friend’. At least it’s honest, and nobody would have any doubt that the person standing next to you is in fact your lover, partner, significant other, boyfriend, mate or person willing to share his Melrose sandwich with you.