There was a time…and not that long ago…when the nomenclature problem revolved around what to call the guy you were living with but not married to. One wag suggested that, since people often would say, "This is my…um…friend," with an emphasis on the word "friend," such a person should be referred to as an "umfriend."
The government got into the act three decades ago with a term they coined to denote persons living under the same roof non-platonically but not married: POSSLQ. It stood for Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters. Planting his tongue firmly in his cheek, Charles Osgood put in his two cents in 1981 with a book titled There's Nothing That I Wouldn't Do If You Would Be My POSSLQ.
But that titular question has since been resolved with the advent of the term "significant other," or "S.O." for short. I live with a man. I introduce him to people, or refer to him in his absence, as "my S.O." Nobody gives me a blank stare on hearing the term.
No, the nomenclature problem today revolves around a problem that's actually been around for a while but usually doesn't manifest itself in a woman's life till she hits middle age and finds herself single again (or still single the first time around): What do you call a "boyfriend" who's no longer a boy?
I first ran up against this thorny question in my 40s, when I found myself dating a man some 20 years my senior. I found it awkward to refer to him, or introduce him, as my "boyfriend." In his 60s, he was hardly a "boy." For the four years the relationship lasted, I grappled with this pesky issue. Most of the time I settled the question by referring to him as my "gentlemanfriend," an old-fashioned term, although my chief objection to it was not that it made it sound as if I, like the term itself, were antiquated, but the fact that it doesn't exactly run trippingly off the tongue.
(How Texting Saved Our Marriage)
"My sweetie" sounded too coy. "My S.O." was inaccurate-we weren't cohabitating. "My other half" or "my better half" usually imply marriage. And I cringe when someone introduces her male interest to me as "my baby." Gag me with a spoon! "My beloved" sounds Elizabethan…and what if the relationship has not yet reached that point? You may be dating exclusively yet still not have declared your love for each other.
The best solution I've heard yet-if "heard" is the right word, since it presented itself in an email-came in the course of a business letter in which the woman referred to the man in her life as "my honey." But that, too, is an imperfect solution at best. For one thing, spoken quickly it can come across sounding like "my hubby," which is quite a different thing. Another reason it's an imperfect solution is that, while it certainly denotes a man you're "attached to" or "involved with," it can also refer to an S.O. or even husband. It's just not as definitive as "boyfriend."
Maybe the government, in its quest to revive the economy through stimulus, could commission a think tank to solve this particular problem. If we can put a space station in orbit, surely we can come up with a suitable term for a boyfriend who's long past boyhood.
(How to Understand Men - What Do They Really Mean When They Say...)
Till then, "my honey" may just have to do.
Of course, you can solve the whole problem by moving in with him. Then there's no problem with terminology. He's your significant other. Or S.O.
And to think the problem once upon a time was how to introduce our S.O.s to our parents, who didn't approve of unmarried cohabitation. Now we blithely introduce our S.O.s to our children (and our parents, if they're still around) without a hint of cringing.
What do you think we should call boy friends who are no longer boys?
About the Author: Cynthia MacGregor is a writer and editor who lives in South Florida.
Read more and discuss this article at Thirdage.com
You Might Also Like: