Confession: the word "girlfriend" makes me squeamish. And has for over a year. It's not that I lack allegiance. I'm here, aren't I, in the middle of nowhere with my Le Creuset and 30 boxes of books? I no longer hit the road in Mrs. R when it looks like the Ranger just might lean in and declare his love. Nope. I'm in it. Both feet. Everything but the joint tax return.
It's just that after you've been a "wife" for so many years, waking up a "girlfriend" feels so, so demoted, so downsized, so "there's been a pardigm shift and we no longer have a top spot for you in the corporation." Girlfriends wear lettermen jackets and do laundry. Wives tell you to do your own damn laundry. Or torch all your French-cuff shirts in the fireplace after they discover those suspicious hotel charges....but I digress.
We've auditioned other names. Partner? Hmmm. Too mergers and acquisitions. Lover? Too much visual there, thank you. I can feel my mother blushing in her Catholic high-neck collar. Domestic Partner, Significant Other? Very Oregon Dyke Liberal, which many people take me for, but come on, I don't feel like carrying a flag.
How 'bout Bitch? "Yo, people, I want you to meet my bitch." But then wouldn't the puppy dog get jealous? "Hey, I thought I was the bitch?" Why is it married people own the rights to words like "wife" and "husband?" I feel like a wife, committed even when irritated. Can't I BE a wife without the paperwork?
What do I call the Ranger when introductions must be made? Glad you asked. Whipper-snapper. Young Buck. My little mid-life crisis (oddly, he only objects to the word "little"). Truthfully, I only call him those things pillow to pillow.
Actually, I introduce him as my "sweetheart" because that word reminds me of the frilly heart-shaped valentines I used to covet in fourth grade. Sweetheart means "be mine" and "luv you" and "cherry on top." A sentimental word, "sweetheart," but isn't love just that after a certain age, full of tenderness, nostalgia and a touch of sadness. Thank you, Nat King Cole, for hitting the nail on the head.