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What’s in a name?

August 21, 2015 Barbara Ballinger & Margaret Crane

We’ve been facing a dilemma of late. How do we refer to the men we date when out in public and we want to introduce them?

US: Oh hi, Mrs. Wagner, this is my boyfriend, Bob. (At which point, she looks at us incredulously because he’s not a boy – in his 60s in Barbara’s case, or in his 70s, as in Margaret’s. And he’s certainly more than a friend.)

It was so easy when we were younger… but wasn’t everything? Long before we turned 50, he was a boyfriend and before that a date.Now that we are skipping down the path of senior citizenship or have arrived, the term sounds so teenager-ish, like trying to wear our skirts too short or our hair too long.

And then there are our mothers who tend to refer to the guy in our life as “your friend,” which removes any trace of sexual intimacy. OK, Mom, that’s fine; we understand where you’re coming from, and it’s okay. Why not just call him by name (if you can remember it?) How’s Bob or Joe or George? It’s so much easier.

One of our relatives who will remain anonymous prefers “significant other,” which to us is a euphemism and skirts the issue of what he really is. How significant is he? Aren’t all our loved ones significant others? One of the guys in our lives has suggested the words “life partner,” which is OK, but sounds so long lasting. What if we want to cut things short? Like tomorrow, it’s au revoir, ciao, or it’s been wonderful, but….

Barbara prefers “beau,” since it sounds so sweet, charming and Southern-ish and was suggested by a Southern guy she dated for several years. Margaret thinks it’s a bit silly and geographically limiting, better for Scarlett O’Hara when she’s referring to Rhett Butler, who once was her husband until he made his dramatic departure.

Then there’s always “hey you,” or “sweetie,” or “honey.” Well, try these terms in polite conversation, and see if they fit.

US: Oh, hi Mrs. Wagner. This is “Hey you,” or “My sweetie,” or “My honey.”

Mrs. Wagner replies: Now, isn’t that cute.

US: No. It’s ridiculous because we don’t really know what else to call him, but thanks for the compliment.

Of course, we can simply come up with cutsie monikers like “fixup” (Barbara was fixed up by close friends so she likes that term) or “OHSB, “ “old high school boyfriend,” which is what Margaret’s guy was when they reconnected at a very trendy spot, an Apple store. But all of this requires a long-winded back story that we might not want to tell every time we run into someone new. They probably could care less

Why not make up our own word? This is my “dneirfyob” or boyfriend backwards, partner or “rentrap,” date or “etad”…egad! This gets even more complicated. However, we could Tweet it out and hope it goes viral and see what everyone thinks in our sharing economy

Finally, there’s always the option of using body language and avoiding any designated moniker at all.

US: Oh, hi Mrs. Wagner. Meet Bob …and give him a big hug.

This is really exhausting, isn’t it? Bottom line: we say just keep it simple, pick a name that works for you and him, and ignore everyone else!




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