Is there anything more squirmingly awkward than being in a relationship and having to, like, define who that person is to you? Using actual words? Words are the worst, especially when they are supposed to have meaning behind them. The New York Times has decided to tackle the problem of “what to call two people who act as if they are married but are not.” After all, the Times points out, “now that we’ve come to some consensus on same-sex marriage, let’s move on to the next puzzle.” Which makes perfect sense really. One civil-rights issue solved, on to the next one!
The Times talks to many couples living in that liminal state of life partnership that has not been legally sanctioned. As with most relationships, the most difficult thing in these couples’ lives is that they have a hard time figuring out what to call each other. That’s why people get married, isn’t it? So that they can just call each other husband and wife and then they never have any other problems ever again.
One woman, “master wordsmith Ann Kjellberg, 50, editor of the journal Little Star and the literary executor of the poet Joseph Brodsky,” had a really difficult time figuring out what to call her partner and told the Times that she “went through a phase of just calling him Eric, even to people who didn’t know who that was.” Eric. That’s terrible. You’d think that a master wordsmith could come up with something better than “Eric”, but you’d be wrong.
And as bad as “Eric” is, other couples came up with even worse names for each other, sometimes even resorting to words from other languages. Talk about desperate. “Janna Cordeiro, 43, a nonprofit and public health consultant in San Francisco, settled on calling Sebastian Toomey, her mate of 23 years, ‘mi hombre’ — my man.(Pronunciation: deep and forceful, with rolled r, as in a Western.)” Which, sure, that seems like a sensible thing to do. And some people craft handy little portmanteaus (or is it portmanteaux? or does it even matter? it doesn’t), like “Anne Tierney, 32, a bodyworker in West Palm Beach, Fla., went for ‘fusband,’ which, she explains, is a catchall for ‘fake husband, future husband.’” No word on what a “body worker” is though. Other people “winkingly” use terms like “baby daddy” or “wifey” because, apparently, other people are idiots.
I guess that maybe this is a real problem, one that needs to be addressed and remedied so that we can all agree never to use the word “lover” again, or at least not in earnest. Or maybe it is not a real problem. Maybe there are no real problems in a world where people who call each other “hombre” in earnest can actually find someone who will live with them and look at them naked. How can there be problems in a world where that is possible? We might have fixed everything. Everything might seem terrible, but, really, everything is going to be ok.
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