“You’re single, right, Tawna?”
I choked on the word, or maybe it was the roasted cauliflower.
“I’m in a committed relationship, but not married,” I replied. “Maybe eventually. I mean I’m not opposed to marriage. I was married for thirteen years, but that ended a couple years ago and—”
I stopped talking as twelve pairs of eyeballs fixed on me and I realized I’d offered a ridiculously complicated response to a simple yes or no question.
But is it really that simple?
You’ve all seen me refer to my gentleman friend. I use the phrase not because I’m protecting his privacy, but because I can’t stand the word boyfriend.
Boyfriend is the guy who pulls your pigtails under the monkey bars. Boyfriend is the guy whose name you scribble on your Trapper Keeper in third period algebra.
So gentleman friend is my chosen phrase, but it doesn’t solve everything. Filling out a routine form at the doctor’s office recently, my gentleman friend was asked to select his marital status from a list.
Married. Divorced. Single.
He picked divorced, prompting a curious response from the doctor who blinked at me and asked, “who’s this then?”
“I’m just some chick he picked up in the parking lot,” I replied. “I heard you were offering free rectal exams.”
I understand the confusion, but I’m not sure how to avoid it. Most casual conversations and routine paperwork don’t offer an easy way to describe a committed relationship in which both parties share an address, a life, and bodily fluids, but no wedding rings.
We were delighted by a recent insurance enrollment form that offered us the option to select domestic partners. Our excitement waned when the company assumed we were in a same-sex relationship.
Sometimes I just give up and lie. Writing an email yesterday to inquire about a snowshoe trip for my gentleman friend’s offspring, I referred to them as my stepson and stepdaughter. It seemed simpler that way, but I was startled when the reply referenced my son and my daughter.
I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. My gentleman friend is a copywriter, and crafts hundreds of blog posts for major international companies. Most are posted anonymously under corporate headers, but last week a company requested his real name and bio.
“I referred to you as my wife,” he said somewhat sheepishly. “It sounded more professional than saying I live with my kids and my girlfriend.”
“I appreciate the warning,” I said. “Though I would have preferred the term concubine.”
“I’ll remember that next time.”
Am I the only person flummoxed by the words and phrases used to categorize relationships? Please share!
I’ll be researching tax benefits for concubines.