I’ve only been engaged for two months, and the number of times people have felt the need to correct the way I refer to my significant other has truly surprised me. For the past four and a half years of our relationship, I have referred to him as “my boyfriend.” But, since he so generously gave me a beautiful ring to wear on my left hand, that is apparently no longer acceptable.
Nay, the Greek chorus of life is demanding the “fiancé.”
“He’s not your boyfriend. He’s your fiancé!”
Can I just, like…not? Of course, I can do whatever I want. So, I guess my questions is: Can other people just, like, not? I know it comes from a place of love and happiness for my new life milestone — and I really do appreciate the support — but when I say, “my boyfriend,” I’m not making a mistake. To me, the only thing more annoying than using the word "fiancé" is being told to use it. I haven't forgotten who my partner is or what I said “yes” to on May 21. It’s a deliberate choice I am making; please don’t feel the need to remind me of how the most important person in my life fits into that life. Believe me, one word doesn’t begin to cover his significance.
He’s my support system, sounding board, handyman, editor, dishwasher loader, personal graphic designer, voice of reason, reminder to unplug the hair dryer, protector against scary night noises, and a myriad of other important roles. There really isn’t a good word in the English language that accurately encompasses what this person means to me, but I’ve been using “boyfriend” for a while now, and it works. Back off.
“But, you only get to use this word for such a short amount of time. Enjoy it!”
What’s to enjoy here? I’m a self-proclaimed commitment-phobic serial monogamist. Getting comfortable saying “boyfriend” took considerable effort. By the time I warm up to "fiancé," I’m going to have to move on to “husband.”
Actually, "husband" isn’t totally awful. It’s not as good as “forever boyfriend,” but it’s workable.
To me, "husband" means something. It’s a sturdy word that represents a permanent, stable fixture in your life. Husband is meaningful. It’s salt of the earth. Husband is in it for the long haul. Husband will always admit you’re right, even when you’re totally not. Husband will refrain from getting a meal at a restaurant so that you can order way more food than you can eat. Husband will let you convince him to buy ridiculously soft souvenir sweatshirts, knowing full well that you will be the one wearing them around the house.
"Fiancé"? It’s fleeting. It’s a blip on the radar. It sounds pretentious, fancy, and not at all committed to the yuck and muck of the real intimacy that comes with a long-term relationship. Fiancé is more interested in appearances than substance. Fiancé wears linen. Fiancé only drinks clear liquid. Fiancé cares way too much about his car. Fiancé makes a grimace when your lipstick is smudged. Fiancé is posing as a grown-up.
“You’re affianced now!”
OMG, that’s a lot of pre-20th-century patriarchal malarky. The verb "fiance" is super dead in the language world, and yet we’re still clinging to its noun counterpart, "fiancé," for dear life. I like the idea of promises and trust, but I honestly don’t need a new word or turn of phrase to express what I’ve been practicing in my relationship for years.
Maybe it’s because we’ve been together for almost half of a decade, coupled with having lived together for over two years, but I really don’t feel any different than before the proposal. (Other than getting my first bout of stress haemorrhoids the week following the proposal after being emotionally overwhelmed, and generally being a little freaked out about eternal commitment, it’s pretty much business as usual.) If anything, I feel like I’m in limbo, waiting for the rest of my life to start, and that’s not altogether that comfortable. I'm most definitely not on the cloud nine of bridal magazines, with brut rosé and stars in my eyes. My boyfriend and I still get on each other’s nerves at least once a week.
“You’re off the market!”
Okay, but do people really know what they’re saying? I am not the catch of the day!
I know this very overused expression isn’t intended to do so, but it makes me feel like I’ve been removed from everyday life. I’m no longer a viable or desirable member of society. Now that I have plans to marry, I might as well trade in my car for a minivan and head to the outskirts of the city to be put out to pasture.
This is an antiquated saying that only perpetuates society’s desexualisation of and de-emphasis on married women. No need to double-take, guys; I’m no longer for sale. (Guys, please still double-take. It keeps me young.)
I’m still very much on the market for things other than romantic relationships, such as great job opportunities, invitations to cool parties, and spontaneous trips around the world. All my parts still work. And, also? Window-shopping never gets old!
“So what are you going to call him, if you don’t use 'fiancé'?”
At the end of the day, it’s not the word "fiancé" that bothers me. In fact, I don’t bat an eye when other people use it. Hell, I use it all the time when it’s not in reference to my relationship — without feeling weird. What gets under my skin is how other people and the wedding industry at large put a certain expectation upon me to use it, and then aren’t satisfied when I resist.
I’m going to keep calling him my boyfriend, significant other, roommate, dude friend, partner (because it’s 2016), or, when I'm feeling silly, my betrothed. Who knows? Maybe I’ll come around to using "fiancé" at some point during our engagement, as one friend recently prophesied. But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what I call him. Just trust me that I don’t need a label to know the role he plays in my life.