Thursday, April 10, 2008

Boyfriend Deserves Better

I’ve decided my boyfriend needs a title upgrade. I just can’t decide what his new label should be.

As a writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about words (i.e. obsessing over them). Since I started writing Young Adult fiction, I’m particularly preoccupied with slang, that underground wellspring of youth culture that flows beneath the surface of Standard American English. I’m all for neologisms—we should definitely create words when nothing in the dictionary quite fits. Basically, I’m a connoisseur of weird and wonderful language, the more out there the better.

Despite these qualifications, I can’t find the right moniker for one of the most important people in my life: my boyfriend. David and I have been living together, writing together, making music together for more than seven years, so I feel like he deserves something a little less juvenile than "boyfriend," which was fine in sixth grade but feels a little weird now that I've hit my mid-thirties.

Here are the options I’ve considered and why they just don’t do it for me:

Standard Terms:

1) Husband: Well, for starters, we’re not married, and a huge part of why we’re not married is our mutual dread of what pops into our brains when we hear the word husband (and its counterpart, wife). I’m not dissing the happily marrieds out there—seriously, if it works for you, go for it—but for us, these words are tied to June and Ward Cleaver associations that are pretty much our antonym of sexy.

2) Partner: Ambiguous, sexless, politically correct, dry and way too 90s. It leaves the listener wondering: who am I referring to, exactly? My business associate? My lesbian lover? My buddy who works the same beat with me? It fails to communicate effectively, and it doesn’t even remotely sound like someone I plan to have sex with.

Less Standard, but still…not it:

3) Sweetie: Yikes. This one’s just a little too cute. It elicits images of puppies and big pink butt bows, neither of which belong in my love life.

4) My Guy: Suffers from the same issues as sweetie, with the Motown hit just adding to its singsong cuteness.

5) Lover: Though I often call him this in private, I’m just not comfortable using it in other contexts. It has the opposite problem of Husband and Partner; while those are virtually sexless, Lover is all sex. If I whip this one out at a faculty meeting or during lunch with an editor, it’s just way too graphic, implanting kinky images whether or not the listener really wants those mental pictures in their psyche.

I’m ready to coin a term, but it has to be fairly self-explanatory; otherwise it will require translation, during which I will inevitably end up using one of the despised synonyms listed above. Come on, fellow word-freaks, help me create or discover a word that grants him the respect and linguistic precision he deserves!


terena said...

That's why I like "my boy." Short, sweet, and other than the fact that some people pause to wonder if I have a son rather than a daughter, it works. I mean, he is my boy. My one and only boy. All mine.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said... husband (and yes, we did cringe for some years after we were married at the terms) and I went through the "partner" stage but it made everyone look at us funny, as though maybe one of us was trans-gender, or that we meant business partners.

After 9+ years of marriage (and three before that), we often go back to calling each other "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" because it actually sounds more like the joyful, playful way we view our marriage. We eschew terms such as "ball and chain" and "old lady" that connote that marriage always equals boredom...

Little Willow said...

Another "generally used and accepted" term: Significant other

Another "corny" term: My heart
(Thank you, Screech on Saved by the Bell)

Kim Green said...

my man? did you already suggest that one? it's manly, has a dash of sex, retains its dignity, no whiff of lesbian partnership, not antiquated. i rather like it! however, the opposite ("my woman") is less appealing. slight caveman aspect...a bit bikerish (not in a good way, although if i can picture aaron eckhart saying it to julia roberts in what'sitmovie, i can live with it).

good topic.