There's a question that's been plaguing me for about a week now. It's a harmless question, but it carries a lot of weight for a twenty-four year old girl with a great new guy in her life.
"So, is he your boyfriend?"
My boss, who is divorced and over fifty, has been dating the same woman for well over a year now. They are crazy about one another, and I would even go so far as to say they are in love. They spend every weekend together, and most weeknights. The two of them have gone on vacation and they've begun to discuss living together. They're clearly a couple, yet, when it comes to introductions, it's tricky. "This is Christine," my boss will say, gesturing to his other half when introducing her to a crowd of strangers. Just Christine. "My lady friend and I..." he'll say to customers of ours when he refers to what he did with his weekend. Lady friend? "It's tough, Laurie," he says to me when I inquire about his word choice. "Once you pass a certain age, it's stupid to say girlfriend." I agree, it does sound awfully junior-high. And you can't say partner because people assume you're gay. And you can't say friend because it's a drastic understatement. So he's left with terms that fall short of what she really is. Companion? Lover? The Future Missus? It's either too much information or not nearly enough. "But what's the difference, really?" he says, when I force him to defend himself for leaving girlfriend out of an introduction. "We both know how we feel about each other. Neither of us is dating anybody else. What difference does it make if I call her my girlfriend or not?"
My current interest and I have been "dating" for a couple of weeks. And by "dating," I mean seeing each other on a daily basis. Going out to dinner, shopping, going out to the movies, staying in to watch movies at his house...Since our first date, we've been together. So, of course, when I'm asked what I did with my weekend or a random week night, I respond that I've been with him. And, in one form or another, the question follows: Is he my boyfriend?
I always say no; that I have yet to slap a title on our budding romance, that we are still in the dating phase. It stands to reason, since we've been together pretty much every second that neither of us were working, that neither of us is seeing anyone else. That makes it pretty much exclusive, I guess. But do I feel it prudent to refer to him as my boyfriend yet? No.
This weekend I donned the beautiful baby blue dress he got me and we braved our first true social function together: A wedding. This particular wedding was the ideal coming-out party because we both knew people in the wedding, as well as those in attendance. But, of course, because he works with the groom, he knew more people there than I did. And so I stood by his side as he talked shop, and perked up when he said, "...and this is Laurie." Just Laurie. He didn't assign me a title, but he claimed me with his arm around my waist, his palm on my back, his had wrapped around mine. He made me feel beautiful and told me I looked "ravishing," even though I dribbled grease from a scallop swaddled in bacon less than twenty minutes into the reception. I'll admit, part of me was listening, paying special attention, to his introduction of me based on a conversation I'd had with Pollo the day before the wedding.
"So, is he your boyfriend?" She asked, taking a bite of her chicken Caesar salad.
"Nah. We're just dating."
"But you're together every day, Chimi."
"I know. But it's not like we sat down and said 'Okay, I'm your girlfriend and you're my boyfriend.' It's just dating right now."
"So you're just dating?"
"Yeah, I guess." I shrugged and took a sip of water. "Besides, it doesn't matter anyway. We're together all the time, we enjoy each other's company. What I call him doesn't really factor into it. What more do I need?"
"Why don't you ask him?"
"Ask him what?"
"Ask him, 'hey, am I your girlfriend or what?'"
"Yeah, nothing like a little pressure on the situation."
"Well, maybe it's just my Ecuadorian mind...But I would ask."
I paused, considered her advice. Suddenly, I felt like I was in grade school again. Do you like me? Check yes or no. Back then, it was important to know exactly where you stood, even though "going out" meant little more than shared snacks at recess and perhaps some discreet hand-holding. Being boyfriend and girlfriend was really for the benefit of being able to point at a boy on the swingset and say "Yeah, we're going out." It was simple. And it was long before the we understood the complications and intricacies of adult relationships; weekend trips, social gatherings, sex. Being in a relationship ties you to so much more now than it did when you rode the bus to school. So why use the same labels?
"I'm not going to ask," I ripped off a section of the wrapper from my straw and rolled it into a little ball. "I'm fine with the way things are. I mean, sure I'll want to be able to say my boyfriend eventually. But right now, just using his name is fine."
She thought for a second. "Yeah, don't listen to me, Chimi," she said sincerely. "I mean, what you guys should do is just enjoy this."
I shot her a confused look and flicked the ball of paper I'd been rolling between my fingers into the ashtray. "But you just told me to ask him."
"I know. But that's just me. And anyway, you're happy. And I think you should just be happy. Don't worry about all of us asking you if he's your boyfriend yet. It's the same as all those people telling you to be careful. You didn't want to hear that either."
And it's true. I was obsessed with whether or not to date him in the first place because of everyone's two cents being perpetually tossed at me. I hated it. And I got over it. And I don't want to obsess over titling us now.
He signed the card to the Bride and Groom with both of our names. We take coffee to one another at work. As soon as our time is free, we spend it on each other. Seriously, what more do I need?
For now, using his name is just fine.