A girlfriend by any other name

It’s a bothersome point of semantical concern here in the modern age, and one that will, sooner or later, affect you. Maybe. Let’s say you’re a 43-year-old divorcee of either gender, and after months of excruciating, embarrassing and expensive searching, you’ve finally found a nice person to see, date and explore climactic facial expressions with on a semi-regular basis. If you two were juniors in high school, the terminology would be a snap: You would be going steady, and he/she would be your boyfriend/girlfriend. The question here is, with two people who have been out of high school for at least 25 years, aren’t there any, you know, grown-up terms to describe this important stage of human interaction?

Because, let’s face it, as soon as you show up at the party and say to someone, “I’d like you to meet my boyfriend Jughead,” or “my girlfriend Veronica,” you instantly think to yourself, “Golly, isn’t there a better way?”

Turns out to be a good question, even if it is trite. And really, there’s not much to choose from out there.

Lover—this one might sound good in your head, and it might even be one you’d like to use, but there’s something about it that’s just too much. It’s just so god-danged European, with its burning implication that “you folks are very lucky to see us in public tonight, since we usually spend every waking moment buck naked, writhing and gasping towards yet another soul-exploding double orgasm.”

Significant other, or SO—this term, to perhaps mild surprise, is holding up fairly well. It doesn’t imply the carnal boastfulness of “lover,” conveys a sense of steadiness and even commitment, and yet carries a slightly humble aura about the fact that you’re feeling fortunate about the whole turn of events. This could well be the most usable term in a weak field, with the abbreviated “ess-oh” being completely acceptable.

Companion—um, no. It sounds like you’re playing tetherball after lunch.

Partner—negative. Sounds like you’re together until your relationship and/or business venture goes into bankruptcy.

Baby—nope. Unless you’re a rock musician or an alcoholic, there’s no chance you’re gonna get away with “I’d like you to meet my baby, Ralph.”

Sweetheart/sweetie—on paper, this may not look all that good, but somehow, to the ear, it doesn’t come off half as square as you might think. Still quite usable, and preferable to darling/darlin’.

Old man/old lady—as in “This is my … ” Although a true classic from an outlandish period in American cultural history, this one really has no modern use unless you’re attending the next Rainbow Festival.

Bitch—gents, it’s tough to imagine any situation where this is acceptable. You’re better off going with bee-hotch, and even then, only in a very loud setting (rock show, NASCAR event).

Which leads one to conclude that, in the final analysis, there’s no way you can go wrong by just introducing your baby/lover/sweetie by name and name alone.