There was a timeand not that long agowhen 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 myumfriend, 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 Theres Nothing That I Wouldnt 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 thats actually been around for a while but usually doesnt manifest itself in a womans life till she hits middle age and finds herself single again (or still single the first time around): What do you call a boyfriend whos 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 doesnt exactly run trippingly off the tongue.
My sweetie sounded too coy. My S.O. was inaccuratewe werent 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 Elizabethanand 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 Ive heard yetif heard is the right word, since it presented itself in an emailcame 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 its an imperfect solution is that, while it certainly denotes a man youre attached to or involved with, it can also refer to an S.O. or even husband. Its 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 whos long past boyhood. Till then, my honey may just have to do.
Of course, you can solve the whole problem by moving in with him. Then theres no problem with terminology. Hes 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 didnt approve of unmarried cohabitation. Now we blithely introduce our S.O.s to our children (and our parents, if theyre still around) without a hint of cringing.About the author: Cynthia MacGregor is a writer and editor who lives in South Florida.What do you think we should call boy friends who are no longer boys? Comment here.
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