I have a boyfriend.
I really hate telling people that.
It’s not that I’m not completely happy in my relationship. I would yell about my love from rooftops if I were less accident-prone or put “Brandon + Taylor” on a huge blimp if I weren’t a financially-dependent college student on a budget. I’m not one bit shy about talking about my other half, as you’ve probably seen on this blog.
The thing I hate about telling people I have a “boyfriend” is the word “boyfriend.”
I was reminded of how much I dislike that word the other day when I was reading a blog post about “the stages of a relationship.” According to the author, the “boyfriend/girlfriend” stage is a fanciful stage, where you text each other cute things and give each other googly eyes 24/7 and don’t talk about serious things like your future and the fact that he’s Catholic and you’re not and it will never work out.
This is how I feel most people think about the word “boyfriend.” And this is why I don’t like using it.
“Husband” and “wife” are special words reserved only for those who have committed themselves to each other in a very serious and even legally binding way. But “boyfriend” or “girlfriend?” Those words can be used by literally anyone.
I take my relationship seriously. It’s much more serious than overtly mushy Facebook posts and pet names, and it’s a lot deeper than sharing the same favorite Chinese food (sesame chicken, obvi) or liking the same songs. I find it a little upsetting that I have to give my relationship the same title that fifth graders give to that boy they swing on the swings with, or that middle schoolers give to the girl they awkwardly share popcorn with at the movies.
When it comes to our love lives, this random twelve-year-old and his “girlfriend” and my boyfriend and I have nothing in common. Telling people I have a boyfriend feels to me like they’re not getting the whole picture. The word doesn’t really encapsulate commitment or depth or the length of time we’ve spent together.
In having this mental vent sesh the other day about the word, I began pondering what else I’d say. What would I rather call us? How do you describe a relationship that’s really serious but not marriage? Here are some of my ideas. As you can see, my brainstorming session didn’t really yield much.
- “Serious boy/girlfriend”: This is more accurate, but sounds much too much like you’re trying to prove something. “Hi, this is Amy, my super serious girlfriend. We’ve only been together for two weeks but we are basically inseparable and our love will never die.”
- “Significant other”: This sounds like you’re filling out a tax form. “This is Brandon, my significant other. I’d like to claim two deductions and my social security number is as follows.”
- “Soulmate”: This is the perfect way to make that office Christmas party super awkward. “This is my soulmate, David. Our auras have melted together and our favorite activity is talking to each other telepathically.” (I do believe in soul mates, but the word is a little heavy for daily use)
- “Special friend”: This is usually what older people call their new S.O. when they introduce them to the family. “Grandpa, who’s this lady?” “This is my special friend, Georgette.” No, just no, for so many reasons.
Relationships are hard to define in a word. There are dating relationships that are more full of love and commitment than marriages, and there are probably 12-year-olds somewhere in the world who are just as in love as I am. It’s hard to wrap up your feelings for another person and place them in a title.
For now, I’ll settle for “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.” If people want to assume that our relationship is akin to that of two middle schoolers, so be it, because there’s no way I’m calling Brandon any of the things listed above, even if he is my most specialest friend.
What are your thoughts on relationship titles? Does yours fit?