The process used to be boyfriend, fiancé, husband. It was much simpler in some ways – sometimes families arranged the match (both good and bad) and you were encouraged to uphold your vows by society. But nowadays it seems to be boyfriend (s), fiancé, husband, rebound, toyboy, partner. Marriage just doesn’t seem to mean forever anymore.
At 26, I feel a little foolish and uncomfortable at the notion of introducing my ‘boyfriend’ (position currently vacant) to my parents. I just feel too old to have a BF. The idea of doing so after my impending birthday feels even more silly. To each their own, but it just doesn’t work for me. Perhaps because I envisaged men being mature by this age and me being a tad more settled (but not settled down?).
I get rather irritated when people refer to their loves as ‘my other half’. Fair enough if that truly makes you happy, but I want to scream at them that they are amazing by themselves. I am not perfect, but I am a whole person in my own right and the idea of completion through coupling is something I have had many a heated debate with my darling grandmother about. I surmise that this is connected to both biology and society – the former as we have a hole which ‘needs’ filling; the latter because for so long a woman’s status has been lower than a man’s. A single man is a bachelor, a single woman (and God forbid she is reasonably attractive) is a threat, a predator, out to steal another woman’s betrothed. Insecurity and fear of infidelity aside, why would you want a man who can’t keep it in his pants? If he does it to her he’ll do it to you.
Partner just feels too clinical and cold to me, like a business associate or a counterweight. So another option, and one I find myself drawn to, is lover. It doesn’t feel especially English either, it’s a little different from the norm, with a tinge of the exotic. I like the idea of a lover – especially one with an accent (not necessarily outside the UK, but no more received Home Counties). It has connotations of a bygone era, with passion and love at the centre of everything. Classy, elegant and discreet, with promise and anticipation. A warm and exciting romance. Lover was suggested to me by my 30-something colleague, who isn’t English. The fact it was raised as a term postcoitally made it even more appropriate. Not that I have any desire to take him as my lover – far as I was concerned it was an itch which needed scratching, and scratch it we did. But what goes on tour stays on tour and it won’t happen again. A lover is more intimate than a fuckbuddy; you do fabulous things together and enjoy blissful pillow talk, not silently trying to find your knickers in the dark to leave before he awakens. It’s a mature, pressure-free look at romance, as opposed to a rush to the maternity ward or up the aisle.
Alas, I suspect that this is a fantasy. To a man this would surely sound like a fuckbuddy who you have a couple of drinks out with on rare occasions. No no no! I’m thinking more along the lines of Aleksander Petrovsky in SATC (what is wrong with me that I prefer him to Big or Aidan?) So, to other options. Cougars are amazing – sexy, confident, and get what they want. Just think J-Lo and Madonna.
I’d happily be a cougar – except boys in their early 20s are likely to be even more immature than the ‘men’ in their 30s I have met recently. But is it possible, and I genuinely am wondering here, if we call them boyfriend – can we expect any more maturity than that?
Of course, there’s the whole emotional minefield to navigate before you even get to the point of defining what you are. But that’s another article.