I’d like to introduce you to my Romantic Companion

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The Winter/Holiday/Consumption Season is in full swing: ‘Tis the time to Partay. Whether you are going to the now-cliché, Clichéd and Tacky Christmas Sweater Party or the “We’re So Lefty But We Can Make Fun of Kwanzaa Anyways” Party, you’ll have to meet the “Significant Others” of your friends, family, and that co-worker whose name you can never remember. And, if your house-mates still haven’t let you get a dog, you might even have a Worse Half of your own in tow.

For somewhat obvious reasons, I find the whole “girlfriend”/”boyfriend” thing a little silly, but I also find the word “partner” annoying and confusing. When I’m introduced to someone’s “partner” I often don’t know if they mean “business partner” or “sexual partner”. I also find it a little sterile. I realize there are plenty of reasons to like the word “partner”– but I just can’t bring myself to say it. Its more a matter of taste than politics. I’ve consulted Thesaurus.com but my Confederate and I just can’t find a term we both agree on.

How do you introduce your Bedfellow? Other Sidekicks you’ve had? What was the best/funniest/most syllabic term for S.O. you’ve ever heard? If you wanted to make the worst impression possible, what term would you use?

109 comments for “I’d like to introduce you to my Romantic Companion

  1. EG
    December 10, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    Wait, am I missing something? What makes boyfriend/girlfriend silly?

  2. December 10, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    “Hi, this is Jim. Jim and I are ‘it’s complicated’ on Facebook.”

    That does the job, right?

  3. CatUK
    December 10, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    Worst impression possible? Shagpiece, just nasty.

  4. December 10, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    “Temptress.”

    It was her idea.

  5. Christina
    December 10, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    “I’d like to introduce you to My Complication”

  6. Mnemosyne
    December 10, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    Wait, am I missing something? What makes boyfriend/girlfriend silly?

    Being over 35. Not only did I feel weird referring to my boyfriend when I was that age, I feel a bit silly referring to my father-in-law’s “girlfriend.” Referring to my 85-year-old grandmother’s “boyfriend” was a little weird, too.

    I remember that someone once proposed we use the word “co-mate” to Miss Manners, but she looked it up and discovered it’s a mammal family related to the primates, so no go there.

  7. Patrice
    December 10, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    “So, this person who lives with me and what not….”

    awkward!

  8. December 10, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    I just call them stable boys

  9. Enne
    December 10, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    Boyfriend and girlfriend are silly in my eyes because it makes me feel like I’m a teenager when I use it. I’ve been living with my partner for longer than some of my coworkers have even known their spouses. Because of that, I prefer to use a word that implies something more serious than “boyfriend.”

    Despite the sterility, I like the word partner. It’s the closest non-gendered equivalent to “spouse” that doesn’t imply a non-existent marriage.

  10. EG
    December 10, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    Fair enough, Mnemosyne. It’s never bothered me that way. I’ve often referred to “my grandfather’s girlfriend” and (before they married “my mother’s boyfriend.” Perhaps it’s because I never had a date in high school…or even later. If I don’t get to use boyfriend/girlfriend about the people I’m sleeping with in my mid-20s and after, I’ll never get to use it at all!

  11. queerfemme
    December 10, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    I’m an out, queer, poly gal and I like “partner.” It’s short and non-gender-specific. In my experience, the only people who have ever been confused by the term are heterosexual couples who use the term to emphasize their commitment to egalitarian relationships. No one has ever confused my S.O. parter for my business partner. Maybe because we wear matching wedding rings and hold hands? Usually you don’t do that with your business partner. Context matters. But YMMV.

    Since I’m in a poly relationship (triad), I sometimes refer to my partner as “my better third.” Brings a smile of recognition or confused stares, depending on the audience.

  12. December 10, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    I think “partner” is a hard term for the opposite reason that “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” is — it sounds very serious and adult. If I’m calling someone my “partner” — and it is a term that I like — it seems to imply a serious and long-term relationship, as in “life partner.” There isn’t a good gender-ambiguous term (that I know of) that allows for the frivolity and casualness of “boyfriend.”

  13. sylvie
    December 10, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    in norwegian they have this all worked out. you use the word sambo, which is literally “living-with”. My (norwegian) SO and I have been living together for three years now, and calling him my boyfriend just doesn’t get across that we are more serious and longterm than that, but haven’t had a wedding (and I hate the term fiancee, for which there are no real alternatives).

    So – sambo.

  14. December 10, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    So – sambo.

    …yeah, not gonna go over so well in the U.S.

  15. deoridhe
    December 10, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    A friend of mine used sigoth, for significant other. I’ve always been fond of that one.

  16. December 10, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    If you wanted to make the worst impression possible, what term would you use?

    fuckbuddy.

    Regarding partner, I once witnessed this exchange:
    Female Stranger: Oh, do you go to Dartmouth?
    Friend of mine: Yes…
    Stranger: I was just wondering because my partner works closely with the music program there
    Friend: Oh? What does she do?
    Stranger: HE works with Ted Levin.

    My friend was embarrassed, to say the least, but it’s interesting that a lot of people hear partner and think gay.

    I actually really like “girlfriend” and “boyfriend,” and I think it’s adorable (and a little subversive) when older people use it. I know an 50-60something-year-old heteroqueer couple who use it to refer to each other, and it makes me smile every time, because it indicates how non-stale their relationship is.

  17. Bether
    December 10, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    I and others of my friends often say, “My sweetie.” It’s gender-neutral, implies seriousness without saying anything about your marriage status, and it avoids being revealing (“my live-in lover”) while simultaneously not leaving the listener in any doubt as to the nature of your relationship. Also, it’s kind of cute without being revolting.

  18. December 10, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    I still like “partner,” though I don’t use it as much as I used to. It seems less heteronormative. People have assumed a different sexual orientation, but I don’t see a need to specifically correct them (they’ll figure it out at some point or ask if they really care that much.

    I worked in a semi-rural area for a year (internship) and “partner” got so many confused looks from people who simply didn’t have time to listen to my reasoning that I started using “husband.” I’m currently trying to break myself of that habit now that I’m back in the “city” and don’t really have to explain.

    The least (I know not a question) amount of syllables I’ve used?
    “. . . um. . . “

  19. Christina
    December 10, 2007 at 7:55 pm

    In general, the first introduction is “this is my husband, Tyson.” from then on out, it’s just Tyson…they already know his relation to me because I said it once and I don’t feel the need to keep reiterating that we are married.

    I and others of my friends often say, “My sweetie.” It’s gender-neutral, implies seriousness without saying anything about your marriage status, and it avoids being revealing (”my live-in lover”) while simultaneously not leaving the listener in any doubt as to the nature of your relationship. Also, it’s kind of cute without being revolting.

    I also use the term “sweetheart” especially when talking to friends in serious relationships – for example – “what are you and your sweetheart up to tonight?”

    otherwise, it’s just names. It’s why people have ’em. :-)

  20. Betsy
    December 10, 2007 at 7:58 pm

    So – sambo.

    Shoots tea out nose.

    Um – uh – Sylvie, do you know what that means in the US context? (I’m trying to picture the expressions on my advisors’ faces if I introduced my partner as my “sambo.”)

    I generally use boyfriend and partner interchangeably, since we’ve been living together for 2 years now and will be for the foreseeable future. However, I also like “sweetie.” When I’m joking, I’ll introduce him as my “arm candy.”

  21. EG
    December 10, 2007 at 7:58 pm

    Heh. I’ve been known to use “beloved” in the same way–“And this is your beloved, then?”

    If I’m feeling yente-ish and I know the person in question is seeing a man, I’ll sometimes ask after his/her “fella.”

  22. Mnemosyne
    December 10, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    When I’m joking, I’ll introduce him as my “arm candy.”

    Since he’s two years younger, I sometimes refer to G. as my “boy toy.” It’s so retro-80s!

  23. December 10, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    For non-US residents: Back before it was the US State Department, it was called “The War Department”…the name was later deemed very uncool, so it was changed.

    My grandfather called my grandmother “The War Department”…I can’t help it, I thought it was hilarious. She never seemed to mind.

    Just thought I would mention that… at this time of year, I miss them both so much.

  24. Liz
    December 10, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    Depending on the situation, I’ve used boyfriend, partner, and cohabitator. Sometimes “the Boy” online. And yeah, like Christina said, names are ideal. :)

  25. AMG
    December 10, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    I am 44 and bf is 46. We live together and hate referring to him as my “boyfriend”. Sounds more like “we dont want to commit to marriage”. So, I refer to him as my ‘pimp’ or ‘suga daddy’ to people I know.. I know I know.. you peeps will hate it..but to me its meant to be sarcastic and funny since their are no other real terms to use and I like the reaction of embarrasment I get from him… yes I am sadistic.. I guess the same terms I use would also make a bad first impression.. The funniest I have ever heard was someone introducing their S.O. as their oldest child.

  26. randomliberal
    December 10, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    Not to pick nits or anything, Daisy (because i would never do that), but the former War Department is now Defense, not State.

    I tend to go with “girlfriend,” although SO always works, too, when i’m talking about her with people who haven’t met her yet.

    I agree with Will that “fuckbuddy” is about as bad an impression as you could possibly leave, especially with family.

  27. Broce
    December 10, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    And no one’s yet mentioned that stalwart of the seventies, POSSLQ (Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters).

    The last “person” I had…it *was* complicated. I just to just introduce him as “This is my….this is…..this is Bob.”

  28. December 10, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    Ohh, sorry… :P (Whenever I tell that War Dept story, I get that detail wrong!)

  29. Cecily
    December 10, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    I used to go with “partner”, but I found that, while I don’t mind straight people thinking I might be gay, gay people thinking I’m gay feels bad. It feels like I’m stealing solidarity from them. So I’ve reluctantly fallen back on ‘boyfriend’, which I don’t like, because of the A: gender and B: infantilizing stuff.

  30. December 10, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    My previous partner who was 18 years older than me was, and remains, “my little girl”. Partly for the irony, and partly because actually (ignoring the explicit sexual content of the relationship) she says that that describes quite well the comforted feeling she gets from me.

    Often I’ll call my S.O. “my slave” when introducing her to other people. Being into BDSM, I tend to mean it; the benefit it has is that most people not “in the know” will assume it’s a complete joke. It’s also nicely gender-neutral :-P

    One term I’ve heard that made me want to snigger was “this is my current romantic involvement, [name]”

  31. December 10, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    How about, “This is my extremely close friend”?

  32. mk
    December 10, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    I understand not liking boyfriend/girlfriend, but I would kill to hear my father refer to my girlfriend in mixed company. (As it is, I have a “friend” who gets mentioned now and then.)

    In blog land, I like to refer to her as my sig fig. (Short for Significant Figure, which, yes, is a dumb chemistry joke.)

  33. House of Mayhem
    December 10, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    Equipment Operator.

  34. Mary
    December 10, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    The first thing that comes into my mind when I hear “partner” is a same-sex relationship. It’s pretty confusing and potentially awkward if you’re expecting someone of the wrong gender unless they make it clear like, “My partner, Sally.” I use BF/GF for any age.

  35. Laura
    December 10, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    I have some lesbian friends who will just call each other “wife.” As in, “I’m Amy, and this is my wife Dawn.” I really admire that, because it leaves absolutely no ambiguity about the importance and permanence of the relationship, while including a subtle “fuck you” to the state for not recognizing them (in a way that no one can say is rude).

  36. December 10, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    Ahahaha. I use girlfriend sometimes, partner, Significant Other, “special friend,” and my all time favorite to use: My Lesbian Lover. I use this as often as possible. It’s how I refer to her in front of family that are still twitchy about me being gay. She loves it.

    Sometimes, I call her my Special Lady Friend. :D It’s my second favorite.

  37. December 10, 2007 at 9:56 pm

    A couple partners ago, I completely got out of the habit of introducing the person I’m in a relationship with as anything at all. If you think about it, why do you have to be specific in the first place? Let’s say your husband, boyfriend, live-in houseboy, romantic entanglement du jour, or occasional lover is named Bob. So you can introduce him to people by saying, “And this is Bob!” That way, they’ll know his name. They won’t necessarily know how the two of you are related, but from discussions I’ve had and all the stuff on this thread, you know what? Just saying “boyfriend” or even “husband” is not really all that descriptive anyway. These words are not that useful for one-size-fits-all descriptions of relationships. Increasingly, I know more and more people who are in relationships that are open in various ways. Men and women who are married to each other but who don’t sleep together because they’re both queer, and even more complicated permutations. You can’t explain all this stuff in one word, and you can’t explain exactly what someone means to you by calling her your girlfriend either. And is it really anyone’s business?

    I can only think of a few reasons why it would be very important to delineate this upon meeting people:

    a) because it’s social custom and people would just think you were WEIRD if they found out he’s your boyfriend and you didn’t tell them; (well screw them then)

    b) because you use it as a way of expressing affection, attachment, sweet possessiveness towards each other; (but surely not the only way, right?)

    c) because you don’t want people thinking they can get their grubby little fingers all over your boyfriend or girlfriend; (not such a great reason… plus these days people I know are still liable to ask if you’re monogamous anyway, which is not someone anyone says up front)

    Any others? I feel like I know more and more couples, even married ones, who just introduce each other by name. I dated someone for a while where we’d both introduce each other as a friend, which was also true. It never really caused any problems. I think this became more common in circles where I hang out too, because of the higher incidence of people who aren’t gendered male or female, so you simply can’t use words like girlfriend or boyfriend for them, and the alternatives are all fairly clunky. So you just don’t.

  38. Nat
    December 10, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    My wife and I sometimes go with ‘unindicted co-conspirator’, which is really more entertaining than helpful. Before we were married (we lived together for about four years before getting married), we’d get her father referring to us as “my daughter and her… uh.. er… friend“.

    A friend of mine alternates between ‘boyfriend’, ‘husband’, and ‘fusband’ for his partner — ‘fusband’ as short for ‘fake husband’ because they’re registered domestic partners in CA, and while that’s more than just living together, it’s still not marriage.

  39. December 10, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    Sambo = no (sorry, sylvie!)
    Sweetie = would be okay, except my Dad calls me that
    Boy/Girlfriend = eh, it’s okay, but I’m only 22 right now, and I’m thinking I’ll grow out of it
    Partner = seems too sterile, as many people have already mentioned
    Beloved = good, but only if you really mean it—what if you just started dating?
    “It’s complicated” on Facebook = HAHAHAHAHA SO TRUE
    The War Department = just awesome, WITH a sense of humor ^_^ (if that person’s feelings were hurt, it wouldn’t be too fun)

    My current complication (lol) calls me “dear” (as in, “my dear”) and “darling,” which I think is sweet, but I’m a sucker for pet names, so go figure. I just call him… well, “Ben” (short for “Bennett”)…

    In the end, I tend to think it’s best to ask your S.O.’s preference and if it’s not too much trouble on your end, just go with that.

  40. Caroline
    December 10, 2007 at 10:26 pm

    All of my neighbors are totally convinced my boyfriend and I are married, despite the severe lack of rings on either of our hands, and refer to him as “your husband.” I am too chicken to correct them, especially the ones who are conservative Christians and would be shocked that we are living together without being married. So I’ll refer to him by name, and they’ll say “Oh, your husband?” and I’ll say “Er, yeah, [name].”

    Everyone else uses “boyfriend” and I use it too. We’re in our mid-twenties and don’t feel ridiculous using boyfriend/girlfriend, even though we’ve been a couple for almost 7 years now. I felt more ridiculous using it in high school, honestly (because high school is so much more “OMG you have a booooyyyyyfriend”, which I hated). My high school math teacher once asked me “So is this your young man?” upon seeing me with a boyfriend, which I thought was awesome.

    I like “partner” in general, although I don’t use it for my own relationship. It has the added benefit of being non-gender-specific, and in some cases that’s truly a feature. I always assume partner = S.O., and don’t assume gender, although that’s because I’ve heard it used in enough different situations that it seems a good general-use word for S.O.

  41. EG
    December 10, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    Holly, I think there’s a level of social consideration involved. I myself am not poly and would not want to pursue somebody who was attached in any way. So it’s nice to know whether that guy/girl you’re with is a friend or a lover or what, not because you should be possessive, but because it tells me something important about whether or not I want to be interested in someone. I also think that if you’re introducing someone in a social setting, rather than a professional one, understanding the social dynamics of the group is important for social ease and reasonably relaxed interaction.

    I mean, I don’t think it’s the end of the world if and when people just introduce each other by name, it’s often not hard to tell if people are sleeping together. But it’s pretty common social practice, when introducing people, to include a word or two about their relationship to you, no matter what that relationship is: “Jennifer, this is my cousin Gina–we grew up together,” “Gina, this is my friend Jennifer–we’re in a writing group together.” “This is my younger sister, Vivienne.” “Aunt Patty, this is Aunt Berenice, my father’s sister.” I don’t think it’s a social convention that’s intrinsically useless or oppressive.

  42. susan
    December 10, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    i always liked that part in the movie best in show where one guy introduces his partner as his ‘euphemism’: “this is my euphemism, steven”.

    not everyone could pull it off but it was pretty clever and subversive.

  43. December 10, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    Fun thread and all, always entertaining to bandy about labels, but sweet Jesus why is there a domestic violence tag on it??

  44. Bitter Scribe
    December 10, 2007 at 10:42 pm

    I just say “my friend.” People get the picture.

  45. December 10, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    I sometimes say “my foreverpartner,” other times say “The Man With Whom I Am Currently Engaged in a Sexual, Intellectual, and Domestic Partnership” (TMWWIACEIASIADP, for short!), but usually just use his name.

  46. damia
    December 10, 2007 at 10:45 pm
  47. sunburned counsel
    December 10, 2007 at 10:52 pm

    My father has called us DLP for a long time- Domestic Life Partners. He likes it because it is gender-neutral and ridiculous.
    My DLP and I mostly use “my sweetie”, but use spouse or husband/wife when I just want to get in and out without having to deal with extra crap.
    The worst? Mentioned in the post. Mr. Counsel introduced me to his parents, when we were at university and had absolutely no intention of being with each other long-term, as “My Bedfellow”. After all these years together, and a wedding, it is more then a little hilarious to think about from our perspective. Not to get too deep about it, but it did suck with his very traditional, very “society” parents. I think for many years they saw me as the college fuckbuddy, rather then the marriable type. Lord knows you can’t be both. They bought into the virgin/whore dichotomy hook-line-and-sinker. Makes for fun holidays.

  48. PaleAndNerdy
    December 10, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    Haha thanks damia, I was just going to post that!

    Well I’m in my early 20s and my boyfriend and I have been together for 4 years. But we’ll probably go another 5 or so before we end up getting married. “Boyfriend” works for now, but when that gets old I plan on referring to him as my hetero life partner.

  49. Caja
    December 10, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    Well, in casual conversations, I tend to say “boyfriend” or “SO.” But I’m not so fond of “boyfriend” any more, and it doesn’t seem to quite fit the nature of the relationship (4+ years, now cohabiting) – for lighter relationships, sure, but this one has a little more weight to it. Like, if we were the marrying kind, we’d probably be making those kind of plans (but we’re not, so “fiance” and the spousal terms are Right Out). But then I’m not sure “partner” is quite right either, at least until I get a little less committment-phobic. (And I /hate/ “sweetie” as a way to refer to an SO, as in “this is my sweetie, Foo.” “Sweetie, would you hand me the butter” is okay. The other just makes my pancreas howl with pain.)

    I haven’t yet had the nerve to refer to him as “my boytoy,” although I do /think/ of him that way a lot :)

    Holly – I really really like what you said there. A lot. I may drop the silly terms altogether now and refer to my guy by his name.

    If I wanted to introduce an SO/umfriend/whatever in a way to shock people, I think I would have to go with “fucktoy.” Which I couldn’t do without giggling, and that would ruin the whole effect.

  50. PaleAndNerdy
    December 10, 2007 at 11:00 pm

    Uuf, just read over my comment and I want to avoid any hints of homophobia or hatred. For those who don’t know, its a Jay and Silent Bob joke.

  51. Caja
    December 10, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    Oh, my dad: my dad refers to my SO as my “buddy.”

    “So . . . how’s your buddy doing?”

    I . . . words fail.

    (I am in my 30s. I have been married. My parents know I am poly; I have mentioned all of my SOs/boyfriends/playmates to them. My dad is just. Odd.)

  52. December 10, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    Before we were married (we lived together for about four years before getting married), we’d get her father referring to us as “my daughter and her… uh.. er… friend“.

    Not to continue revealing my obsessive love for Miss Manners, but her vote for introducing one’s non-legal relationship was “Uhmmer” because so many parents say things like, “And this is my daughter’s …. um … um …”

  53. Linnaeus
    December 11, 2007 at 12:04 am

    Right now, my SO is known as “the pillow”. Previously, I had a “girlfriend”, but I’ve begun to rethink that, as it doesn’t seem quite appropriate for adults.

    I have a rule regarding what I’m called when in a relationship: no baked goods. Which means I am not to be referred to as “cupcake”, etc.

  54. little bird
    December 11, 2007 at 12:06 am

    Two girls I knew in college, when they started dating used “super friend” which I’ve personally become very fond it. Its silly and sweet at the same time :)

  55. Rebecca
    December 11, 2007 at 12:13 am

    A very good, platonic friend of mine always calls me his ‘evil twin’. It keeps people from assuming we are intimate, but it makes it clear we are also very close, which is like setting the cat among the canaries. On purpose, my friend is wicked that way. :)

    An older couple that used to come into my work called each other ‘old man’ and ‘old woman’ which always made me laugh. I don’t know what their names were, everyone called them ‘old man’ and ‘old woman’. One old gentlemen always referred to his deceased wife as his ‘intimate friend’. It was very charming and old fashioned and always made me wanna swoon. :)

    I have a (bad) sense of humor, so when I want to be snarky and mess with people’s heads, I tend to introduce (platonic) friends as ‘my very good friend who lives next door’, which some people catch and some do not. (I think I a mangling the phrase a bit, but there used to be a comedian who said she would never marry again, just ‘have a very good friend who lived next door’.)

    Most of the time, when I introduce people, though, I generally just give their names. No matter what label I hang on them, the important part of their identity is their name. People can create their own label then.

  56. pocket amazon
    December 11, 2007 at 1:04 am

    special manfriend or special ladyfriend are some of my favorites and they are so much more grown-up (and special)!

    really though i tend to use partner, accept when it’s way to complicated to explain what that means (umm rural relatives maybe?).

  57. December 11, 2007 at 1:10 am

    When a friends-with-benefits arrangement is in that ambiguous pre-relationship phase, my friends and I sometimes use regular. As in, he’s been making regular appearances [in my bed] and shows no signs of falling out of syndication anytime soon.

    I really, really, really wish labels didn’t matter, but my inability to use the word “boyfriend” in public to refer to my past two, uhh.. boyfriends led to some problematic not-on-the-same-page epiphanies late in the game. Yikes.

    Anyway, great thread. I think I’ll try Equpiment Operator out with my next regular.

  58. sophonisba
    December 11, 2007 at 1:11 am

    Often I’ll call my S.O. “my slave” when introducing her to other people. Being into BDSM, I tend to mean it; the benefit it has is that most people not “in the know” will assume it’s a complete joke.

    On the off chance you’re serious, no, that is not what people “not in the know” will assume. When you introduce a woman to a stranger as “my slave” (or “my bitch” or “my whore” or any other variation on “my property”), they may say “ha ha ha” but they will be thinking something else entirely. Something less generous.

    BDSM people who meet you may not think as badly of you, it is true. They will not wonder if you are as misogynistic as you sound; they will only suppose to you be inadequately socialized.

  59. December 11, 2007 at 1:18 am

    “Partner” always makes me think of howdy, pardner and large stetsons.

  60. December 11, 2007 at 1:33 am

    I tend to use “my boyfriend” or “my boy” or “the boy” or use his name. On official forms we’re domestic partners, which lends us no end of amusement. Sometimes I use “SO” or “partner” when I feel the need to be gender-neutral in an attempt to stave off the presumption that I’m straight.

  61. December 11, 2007 at 1:53 am

    Usually I say “husband” but every now and then I say he’s my favorite male companion or human-animal companion. And once in a great while I’ll say, “Introducing Ed Miller, NPA!”

  62. December 11, 2007 at 1:59 am

    Boyfriend, The Boy, or My Pet Libertarian.

  63. December 11, 2007 at 2:03 am

    WESTIEEEEEEEE!!!

    (and that’s a cute dog, too)

    (no, wouldn’t that be a good way to introduce the S.O.?)

  64. orlando
    December 11, 2007 at 4:42 am

    A friend of mine introduced her latest as “This is the boy that I’m kissing.”
    Adorable.

  65. December 11, 2007 at 6:08 am

    Okay I’m British and I have no idea what ‘sambo’ means in the US. Someone care to explain it to me?

    Rebecca – I think I am going to start referring to my best friend as my ‘evil twin’. As he happens to be my son’s favourite person, and there’s a common opinion that a man and a woman who are in public together must be in some sort of relationship, people always assume we’re together and he’s my son’s father, which gets pretty tedious. ‘Evil twin’ might stop those assumptions somewhat.

    As for my significant other, I use ‘boyfriend’ only because I haven’t found a sufficient word yet. I say “my other ‘alf” which is terribly British, or ‘partner’ which as others have noted is terribly sterile. I think I shall start referring to him as my co-conspirator.

  66. FridayLeap
    December 11, 2007 at 6:25 am

    Here in Ireland ‘sambo’ means sandwich…

  67. Rosehiptea
    December 11, 2007 at 6:37 am

    Being over 35. Not only did I feel weird referring to my boyfriend when I was that age, I feel a bit silly referring to my father-in-law’s “girlfriend.” Referring to my 85-year-old grandmother’s “boyfriend” was a little weird, too.

    I haven’t actually had to deal with this, but I had someone tell me I shouldn’t use the term “girlfriend” for myself since I’m 40. But my dad calls his girlfriend (who is in her 60s) exactly that, and neither of them seem to think it’s odd at all.

    I think I’d go with what Holly is saying and say “Here’s Bob.” I’m monogamous but I don’t tend to go assuming anyone is going to jump on my S.O., and they probably don’t care one way or the other if I express affectionate sweet possessiveness toward them in public. And if anyone really wants to know, they’ll ask, and then it’s their problem what term to use.

    In fact, maybe now I’ll just go with “Here’s Bob” whether their name is Bob or not. I like that.

  68. Clare
    December 11, 2007 at 6:39 am

    Isn’t sambo some kind of racial slur?

    I personally just say “boyfriend” or “partner” depending on who I am talking to. When other people introduce me to their SO, to be honest I never really think about what term they use, or the particulars of their relationship which may or may not be implied by how that person is introduced.

  69. December 11, 2007 at 6:49 am

    Okay I’m British and I have no idea what ’sambo’ means in the US. Someone care to explain it to me?

    It’s a racial slur, related to a book called “Little Black Sambo.”

  70. Laurel
    December 11, 2007 at 8:08 am

    I call him “my squeeze.” Etiquette demands and I prefer to save “my bitch” for private moments.

  71. December 11, 2007 at 10:16 am

    I know a guy who once introduced his wife as “my closest relative”.

  72. Trixie23
    December 11, 2007 at 10:17 am

    I thought “partner”, or “life partner” were both okay until a visit to the ER for a wrist injury. The woman taking information asked who came with me and I replied, “my partner”. She acted very confused and looked at my SO who is male smiled and nodded at her.

    She kept insisting that she had , “…never heard that before.” Um, I work in a dental office where we have Gay couples who share insurance, I was SURE she had, “heard of it before” , working in a large hospital. She wanted to write down, “friend”. That upset me and although we have lived together five years and I wear a large diamond on my left hand from him he is NOT my fiance either!

    I wish I had the nerve at the time to just say, “I’m his cum-rag”, just to see how much THAT would confuse her.

  73. Pansy P
    December 11, 2007 at 10:53 am

    I use “husband.” He really, really wanted me to introduce him as my Baby Daddy when we were in childbirth classes several months back.

    When we were still dating (about 7 years into the relationship), my stepmother decided that he should be upgraded from “boyfriend” and started referring to him as my “beau.” Which I thought was pretty funny.

  74. speedbudget
    December 11, 2007 at 11:06 am

    I usually refer to them as assistants. As in, “I’m interviewing a new assistant.” The tenure is usually a season. So I get to interview new assistants every 3 to 4 months.

  75. buggle
    December 11, 2007 at 11:12 am

    I grew up next door to this older couple, and they were kind of like a 3rd set of grandparents to me. They called each other “Dude.” Not in a “hey dude lets party!” kinda way, but in some other kind of dignified way. I always thought it was just adorable. He has been dead for years, but she still refers to him as “Dude” as in “Well, you know Dude always liked to visit Florida in the winter.” She’s 96 years old. I love hearing her say Dude.

    So cute.

  76. meggygurl
    December 11, 2007 at 11:47 am

    Well I’m in my early 20s and my boyfriend and I have been together for 4 years. But we’ll probably go another 5 or so before we end up getting married. “Boyfriend” works for now, but when that gets old I plan on referring to him as my hetero life partner.

    Me and one of my best friends went through a few years in college when we were both single, and spent all of our time together. We were totally acting like we were a couple, down to late night visits and 3 am phone calls. We called each other our “heterosexual life partners.” Nothing non-plutonic every went on (i’m a lesbian and she’s a very straight women) and we still call each other that every now and then. Cause we are OTP. :)

    Also, I

  77. meggygurl
    December 11, 2007 at 11:58 am

    I don’t know what happen… but it cut me off.

    Also, I love Jay and Silent Bob. They are true love. :D

  78. Morganna
    December 11, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    I call my sigoth my “puppy” or “my human golden retriever” because he’s very tall, very blond, and very affable.
    He also bounces.
    It makes anybody who knows us laugh, and confuses anyone else (we do that anyway-most people don’t get how we work as a couple.)
    Besides, it makes him laugh.

  79. Linnaeus
    December 11, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    It’s a racial slur, related to a book called “Little Black Sambo.”

    It’s interesting that “sambo” has the connotation it does in the U.S., given that the character of Little Black Sambo arose in the context of British colonialism.

  80. Cap'n Colleen
    December 11, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    I’m not good with labels, so I tend to skip them and just introduce people by name.

    I did hear a woman I worked with introduce her significant other as her “person”. I think she said, “This is Lynn, and for those of you who don’t know, she’s my person.”

    I thought it was pretty adorable.

  81. iena
    December 11, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    I refer to my fellow as Christr mostly, being a sort of broken shortened form of Christopher or maybe a lengthened Chris.
    We’ve known each other about five years and only recently started dating. Owing to our five years of awkwardness, the whole boy/girlfriend thing sounds terribly strange. We’ve been referring to each other as “rocket friend”.

  82. Marste
    December 11, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    I usually just give his name, with nothing in front of it. Although I must confess that I LOVE Nat’s “unindicted co-conspirator’.” I may steal that one for casual settings – and for my father’s die-hard conservative Catholic relatives. Hee.

  83. December 11, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    I used to say partner, but then I ran into the same problem someone upthread mentioned of feeling like I’m appropriating something from my gay friends. Boyfriend does feel frivolous, but then I just sort of decided that if someone thinks we’re not serious, well, so what? We know that we are, and it doesn’t actually change our relationship’s dynamic if someone else doesn’t. As far as pet names, I call him Puppy, or Mister. Now that I think about it, I’ve introduced him as my Mister before.

  84. Nic
    December 11, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    One that’s always cracked me up is the “UmFriend” as in, “This is Mark. He’s my…um…friend.”

    I call my guy my boyfriend, usually, though it does seem a little silly because he’s 46 years old. I call him my partner sometimes, but then people sometimes get twitchy because they assume I’m gay and talking about another woman, and that just pisses me off. (Not that they think I’m gay-I am bi. It pisses me off that people would have a problem with it.)
    Sometimes I call him my husband, though we’re not married. And sometimes I call him “my smartass”. But it’s not like I’d introduce him that way, ha ha! I usually go with “boyfriend”.

  85. December 11, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    An ex of mine wanted to be known as “this guy I know.”

    I use the word wife exuberantly. No, neither the federal government nor my state government acknowledge that Ms. P is my wife. It bewilders conservatives (who’ve been known to sidle up to a friend of mine and ask when it got legalized around here) and flusters all the Good Feminists (in whose numbers I usually claim myself) because it’s such a heteronormative word. See? Fun.

  86. Kate
    December 11, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    I’ve been trying to figure out which phrase is best, actually. I work in a University, and “partner” seems to be the “correct” terminology that the profs use, but I feel funny using it. “Boyfriend” is ok and understandable for other people, but does feel young to me. I like referring to him as “my man,” because of the playfulness of it (despite the fact that I like him for him and not his sex/gender), and “partner in crime” because I feel like it adequately sums up our relationship and why I like him. I usually get a kick out of asking friends how their man/woman is, depending on who they’re dating (although I think my/their amusement at using man/woman comes from knowing my adamant queer/feminist approach).

  87. solongfarewell
    December 11, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    I usually use “Manfriend” or his name to refer to my boyfriend of four years. I like its old-fashioned feel. Usually, I’ll say “boyfriend” if I’m talking to someone I’ve just met, but on the emergency contact forms, etc., he’s my “partner,” which strikes a nicely serious tone. I wouldn’t ever call him my partner in conversation, though, because saying it makes me feel kind of pompous.

    I’ve considered calling him my LOVAH, like Cheri Oteri and Will Ferrell in that SNL skit where they play a “Joy of Sex”-style couple. I wish I could find a link to it on You Tube. Pure hilariousness.

  88. Raoul_j_Raoul
    December 11, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    I don’t care for partner because when I was growing up that was the word for your BFF. To me it still seems like a non-romantic term.

    Sweetie or sweetheart are good, gender-neutral terms.

    I’m married now and refer to my spouse as Spouse. Making introductions, I just give her name. People either already know or can figure out we are married pretty easily.

  89. Kristen from MA
    December 11, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    Susan Sarandon nailed it when accepted her Oscar: she thanked her ‘partner in crime,’ Tim Robbins. I like that a lot.

  90. Mnemosyne
    December 11, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    I use the word wife exuberantly. No, neither the federal government nor my state government acknowledge that Ms. P is my wife. It bewilders conservatives (who’ve been known to sidle up to a friend of mine and ask when it got legalized around here) and flusters all the Good Feminists (in whose numbers I usually claim myself) because it’s such a heteronormative word. See? Fun.

    And yet I have to say I find that adorable. I’m waiting eagerly for the day that my brother-in-law finally settles down and brings home a future husband for us all to meet.

  91. December 11, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    Usually I introduce Chef by his first name.

    If we’re being obnoxious, he introduces me as the ol’ ball and chain, and I introduce him as my future ex.

  92. lisa
    December 11, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    manfriend! and ladyfriend. Ladyfriend is way cuter than manfriend in my opinion, but I do use manfriend to describe mine. He uses girlfriend, but i’ll get over it.

    When i once used it, he had to ask me what the hell is a manfriend.

    I said I don’t know, it’s cute.

  93. December 11, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    On the off chance you’re serious, no, that is not what people “not in the know” will assume. When you introduce a woman to a stranger as “my slave” (or “my bitch” or “my whore” or any other variation on “my property”), they may say “ha ha ha” but they will be thinking something else entirely. Something less generous.

    Context is everything. What you can’t see over the internet is the knowing smile exchanged, the complete comfort in both our body language, all the non-verbal signals with which we let people in our company know that this is a shared joke, and that we are very happy together. And of course, I gauge the company before I open my mouth – will they get the joke or not? – and base my introduction on that assessment. If people are likely to think it is a joke in poor taste (or even think that it is a genuine expression of misogyny, despite all those signals) then obviously some other term of introduction is called for (I usually fall back on “girlfriend” for that purpose)

    Incidentally, would your response have been different if I’d said “he”? Would your response have been the same had I been a woman posting about calling partner, “my slave”? Would your response have been different had I said instead that I introduce my partner as “my Mistress”, or that my partner introduces me as “my Master”?

    BDSM people who meet you may not think as badly of you, it is true. They will not wonder if you are as misogynistic as you sound; they will only suppose to you be inadequately socialized.

    I don’t know how many BDSM people you know, or if you are one yourself, but enough well-socialised BDSMers take a similar tactic (or say they do) to dealing with the issue that I doubt your assessment is correct. Subtle displays of D/s or M/s dynamic in public are common, and in comfortable social gatherings where it seems likely to go over well, it is entirely appropriate to use the strongest term of affection for one another that we have, especially when introducing ourselves on an individual level (as opposed to addressing a whole group of people at once). As I already said, in some situations it is clearly not going to be appropriate.

    I am firmly of the belief that people will only start to realise that BDSM is the antithesis of misogyny when they are able to see what actually happens between a Dominant and hir submissive partner, and see the respect and love that Dominants have for their partner. So if they assume it’s a joke at first (or even if they assume something less charitable) I am happy to be judged by my behaviour afterwards and let people draw their own conclusions from that.

    In the context of this particular thread, however, talking about the times when I use a term like “girlfriend” or “partner” seemed to miss the point somewhat. Also, my feeling of the general atmosphere on Feministe is quite relaxed, although people do express their opinions forcefully at times. On a light-hearted thread like this one, I felt that most readers would appreciate that the context was entirely non-misogynistic; I was also confident that if anyone didn’t feel that way, then they would speak up and I could have my say, which I have now done.

  94. Nita
    December 11, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    If you’re close with the lover, why not just plain “friend”? People will figure out what kind of friend soon enough if you just act vaguely couply. And if you don’t want to heighten the sense of genderedness, it seems ideal… boyfriend/girlfriend is too heteronormative, and partner is a word that people painstakingly use to avoid heteronormative labels. In a way, it’s a wonderfully ambiguous word and you can invest it with whatever implications you want.

    I also like friend because it is a word with only good connotations (at least to me)…and it doesn’t have the intimate connotations of “lover” that I wouldn’t want to impose on casual acquaintances or uptight relatives.

  95. ellefromtheeast
    December 11, 2007 at 10:28 pm

    SnowdropExplodes, I have to say that I know from other BDSM threads that you seem to be a decent, thoughtful player. However, if I heard you introduce or refer to someone as your slave at any vanilla (aka, not explicitly BDSM) event, I would think, “What jerk is over there freaking the mundanes? Rotten leather etiquette.” Setting off other people’s triggers is just plain rude, and you can’t tell from someone’s demeanor what they have in their past.

  96. December 11, 2007 at 11:08 pm

    “I prefer the term ‘fuckpuppet'”

    –Brenda in Six Feet Under, upon being introduced to Nate’s brother David as Nate’s, um, uh…

  97. MissKate
    December 12, 2007 at 1:46 am

    Belledame, you took mine! God I love that term.

    I miss that show. Especially Brenda.

  98. Rosie
    December 12, 2007 at 2:35 am

    The NYT uses “companion,” which I think looks great in print.

  99. December 12, 2007 at 11:33 am

    I genuinely refer to him as “my man” or “my main man”. That’s my overall term for him because I find “partner” rather sterile, as you said and “boyfriend” seems rather juvenile. Plus it implies that we’re simply dating, when in reality we have a house together and all that jazz.

    Although I nearly died at D.N Nation’s “shagpiece”. I might use that instead.

  100. Emm
    December 12, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    i’ve always liked “gentleman caller”, deployed ironically, because it sounds so old fashioned. also, “special lady friend” for a woman is good. i’ve been referring to my newest as my “boy toy” though… but not to his face yet!

  101. other orange
    December 12, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    I used to call my husband my “man party” before we were married.

    And no, I don’t remember why.

  102. Caja
    December 12, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    Minion. I think that’s what I’m going to start using. (Though I do like “main man,” because I am poly, and he is my most significant other.)

    One of the sweetest/funniest terms I’ve ever heard was from a friend-of-a-friend, who referred to her husband as “a one night stand gone horribly wrong.”

  103. SKM
    December 12, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    My sweetheart and I have been living together for four years, we’ve been together for 5, and he happens to be much older than I, so “boyfriend” doesn’t seem to me to suit him for those reason.

    I do use “partner”, and when he’s not present I try to clarify with a pronoun, e.g. “he’s a painter”, etc. Using his name, e.g. “my partner Luis” has caused confusion because many Americans assume I am saying “Louise”, which is a misrepresentation obviously.

    He is Spanish, and he loves the term “domestic partner”. He thinks it has a very official, businesslike sound, which he finds both humorous and charming. The Spanish translation “socia/o domestica/o” (“domestic associate”) cracks him up. He loves it when I say to him, “Hola, socio!”

    When people in social situations get all anxious to know my/our status, I usually just tell them we’re “practicing marriage without a license”.

    oh, and I love “co-conspirator”! I may start using that. Mi socio will get a kick out of that one!

  104. Opabinia
    December 12, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    My partner and I were peoplefriends for several years before we engaged. Her mother referred to me as my partner’s “friend” for a few years, then used that wonderful word “beau”. Now that we’re engaged, she calls me a “boyfriend”. So when we become legally bonded, maybe I’ll be fiance?

    I’ve recently begun calling my partner “wife” since we’ve had lots of medical issues and I’ve had to request her records and make appointments for her and it prevents tons of time spent suspecting me of shady dealings.

  105. December 12, 2007 at 10:32 pm

    i either call him my partner, “the boyfriend”, or “my man-candy”

    he either calls me his girlfriend, or by my name, jessi.

    when i address him i call him either dan-face or boy-fiend-face. as in evil and fiendish. he calls me girl-fiend-face. we tend to talk to each other in a lot of made up words, its sorta like our own secret language. our dog also gets “face” attached to his name, as in pogo-face, or puppy-face. sometimes face becomes faces. dan, myself, and our roomate tend to add “face” to words as a term of endearment. i have no idea why.

  106. Emily
    December 13, 2007 at 10:48 am

    I have a friend who uses the term “consort” for her significant other. It’s not great, but it certainly does the job of turning convention and power roles embedded in language upside down.

  107. greenmouse
    December 13, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    My sister calls her internet!wife “cuntymuffin.” I don’t know how she came up with it, but I love it and wish I could use it.

  108. EG
    December 14, 2007 at 1:21 am

    OK, I’m watching Show Boat on TV, and just discovered the best term ever (if gender-appropriate):

    “The man yer daughter’s gallivantin’ around with.”

    Next time I’m dating a man, I’m going to call him “the man I’m gallivanting around with.

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