What's in a name?

The other day at MPOW a colleague referred to the man she's in a relationship with as her "significant other". This colleague is a week younger than I, and it got me thinking: what term do you use when you're over 30 and "boyfriend" starts to sound a little like you're clinging on to your rapidly disappearing youth?

My paternal grandfather died in 1973 and his wife (aka my grandmother) died nearly 30 years later; during that interval she had two "gentleman friends", a term I don't believe anyone outside the Greatest Generation could use with a straight face. "Partner" sounds either as though this is a homosexual relationship or a legal/medical
relationship (a friend of mine had a life partner and a medical partner with the same name). "Lover" is a bit, well, TMI and implies that sex is the central focus of the relationship. "Companion"? Are we in Jane Eyre or some Trollope novel?

If it's a romantic relationship, POSSLQ is out (but thanks to the Census Bureau for a great acronym!). Equally, "roommate" doesn't cover that type of relationship and "fiance" might be pushing things. "Soul mate" sounds a little too Age of Aquarius.

So I'm stumped. Ideas?


Wendy said...

I'm all for subtlty. I think you can endow the simple designation "friend" with enough implied meaning to make the relationship plain.

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with boyfriend when you're over 30? To me it doesn't sound as if you're clinging to your youth. Far older people use it. In French they used to say "mon ami." Nothing wrong with that either. RLC

Jandy said...

This is a difficult one. I've finally settled on "the woman he's dating" for my brother's special someone. Like you, I think boyfriend or girlfriend sounds too young. I have to admit I like "gentleman friend" but it is passe, as you say.

Alice in Infoland said...

Interesting: I was just at an Elderhostel (now called RoadScholar) where several different people described their companion as their "friend" -- with clearly-implied quotation marks around that word. So I guess that is now the accepted terminology for the over-70 crowd.

Pavla Romelia said...

What is wrong with boyfriend if we are talking about the 30-40 crowd?
I believe its completely fine.

Its also how you say it, and to whom you are saying it to.

Significant Other is way to sterile.. and is "friend" is just horrible. Imagine someone you were dating referred to you as his "friend". I personally would be insulted.

At the end of the day you can call whoever you’re with, whatever you like, as long as you say it with love it doesn't really matter.

I personally am 30, and refer to my husband as "my boy" (said in the sweetest voice ever)