The word ‘Boyfriend’ is stupid

by f

I thought about this on my own, but it seems that others have spoken about it.

Boyfriend and Girlfriend.

This morning, I read a piece about Oprah. In the caption, it mentioned that her “boyfriend” Steadman sat in the background, watching the festivities.


The man was at least fifty. How on Earth do we get off calling a fifty year old man a “boy” anything? I am uncomfortable calling W my “boyfriend”. He’s no boy. He’s an almost-thirty-year-old man!

It agitates me, but I can’t find a real alternative. “Significant Other” is too clinical — and “partner” sounds ridiculous unless one is forced to use it to hide sexual orientation.

What do you think?

This isn’t all I’m going to write about the odd ways we refer to our significant others, but I think it’s a good place to start. I want something that will spark a discussion.

10 Responses to “The word ‘Boyfriend’ is stupid”

  1. I have this issue all the time!! My ‘significant other’ is also 30 years old, and I feel ridiculous calling him my boyfriend.

    I constantly struggle when talking to people that aren’t aware of our legal status when I have to jump around words like “Boyfriend”, “Significant Other”, “Domestic Partner”, or “Baby Daddy”…. I’m totally kidding about the last one, but really, it’s a stupid issue.

    Even if I want to just fake it and call him my “fiancee” or “husband” it just sounds weird to have to label him at all. Most times I just tell people his name and then go with that.

    Glad you brought this up though, makes me feel like I’m not alone! ❤

    • I actually got the idea from you. 😛 You wrote something about this at that place where we both write. Now that we’ve got different forms of relationships — marriage, co-habitation, domestic partnerships, civil unions, and the more exotic covenant marriages, etc — how can we have one catch-all word for everything?

      Saying the word “boyfriend” does make me feel wrong. So I just use his name. And after I started doing that, I realized how little I’d said his name before that. We do put a huge price on labels.

  2. How about “my man” or “my woman”. If everyone used it it would become the new norm.

    • Hm. That’s a good suggestion! But, at the same time I don’t feel comfortable with those, either. Using “my” denotes ownership and I don’t think we should be promoting ownership of a person, even if it is just symbolic.

  3. To me, the ‘boy’ doesn’t so much indicate his age as it does the immaturity of the relationship. Oprah and Steadman have been together FOR-EVER. That there is a committed relationship. Calling it a boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic feels like an insult. It feels insulting to say a couple of committed gay people are ‘boyfriends’ or ‘girlfriend and girlfriend’ when the only thing keeping them from actually being married is the law.

    And you shouldn’t HAVE to be married. English is a huge language but we don’t have terminology for people who have been together for a long time and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Probably because it was SCANDALOUS for centuries–though it still happened!

    Maybe we should ask Dan Savage and his readers for suggestions.

    • Great suggestion, D! Ask Dan Savage! 🙂

      Although, just randomly, I would like to insert that there are many states who still have common-law marriage. Whereas if you live together (although this only applies to heterosexual couples) for a long time as you WOULD also live together if you were married, you are considered married by common law whether you had it done in writing or not. I believe the timeline for how long one must live together like that to be considered married by common law (and there are legal perks that come with that, if you split up!) depending on what state you live in. I’m certain that my state has common-law marriage laws. In those cases, unless you did not know you were married by common law, you would probably call each other common-law spouse. Or commonn-law husband or common-law wife, or just shorten it to wife or husband or spouse. Same thing, but without paper and ceremony.

      • Common-law marriage certainly fits a lot of these situations. But what if you still don’t feel comfortable calling each other ‘husband’ or ‘wife’?

        It is quite a quandary!

  4. I must agree, F! Although, at the same time, I have the same problem. I have not found an alternative that I like. I feel the same disconnect with the word, “girlfriend” as well. When my mother was dating my stepfather, and still to think about it after so long, it seemed weird to call her a girlfriend. Or him a boyfriend. But manfriend, guyfriend…these things don’t work either. Womanfriend sounds awkward, as well. And just calling them a friend is also misleading. I don’t know if we’ll ever find something suitable for this. :p

  5. D — I don’t know what you’d do in that case! I was just throwing the common-law marriage laws out there as an interesting bit of trivia that sort of fit with the overall post and comments. :p

    Hmm….some people like life-mate or life-partner. I forgot about those until just now. :p


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