Finding a suitable name to describe the man in my life is proving almost as difficult as finding a name I approve of to refer to certain parts of my anatomy.
The word “boyfriend” makes me feel as though I have time travelled back to being sixteen again, with all the enthusiastic ineptitude/dry humping that teen relationships evoke. This couldn’t be further from our reality: he is divorced with two children, I have a daughter, and we are both on the wrong side of thirty. The French equivalent “mon petit ami” is even worse. My little friend? I don’t think so. It sounds like something that lives in one’s trousers. “Mon copain”, on the other hand, is a bit too matey and casual for my liking. It can be used to mean any male friend, not just Mr Right.
I encountered a similar problem with Mr Frog, exacerbated by the fact that we had chosen to have a baby out of wedlock. I often found myself referring to him in conversation as “Tadpole’s dad” (“son papa”), which eerily foreshadowed the events which were to follow, as it carries with it, to my mind, an implication of separation. Her father. Not my anything.
Often, if an acquaintance or a stranger made the assumption that Mr Frog was actually “mon mari”, I chose to go with the flow and let them go on thinking we were married. It just seemed easier that way. Although I do recall a heated exchange with my mother once on that subject. She was lamenting the fact that she didn’t know how to refer to Mr Frog when talking to her friends. Exasperated, I retorted that I was hardly about to get hitched just to make her life easier by putting her out of her semantic misery.
“Partner”, which I find somehow cold and clinical in English, aside from any same sex relationship undertones, doesn’t really have a French equivalent. Living together, or co-habiting, is known as “concubinage” in French, a choice of vocabulary which I personally feel uncomfortable with, conjuring up as it does images of courtesans, kept women and secondary wives.
Feeling thoroughly let down by both French and English, I tended to refer to Mr Frog quite simply by his Christian name, relying on context to fill in any blanks people might have.
I intend to do the same with my new man, at least until we get around to tying the knot. But this doesn’t seem fitting on the internet, so you’ll just have to make do with “my Lover” for now. With a capital “L”.
Now that particular thorny subject has been put to bed, all that remains is to resolve the anatomical question.
Answers in my box, please.