I Hate Being Called His Girlfriend

by Michaela Mitchell
Originally Published: 
Black-haired woman wearing white clothes holding hands with a man older than her, wearing white shir...

I know we’re not supposed to care about labels anymore. We’re all unique snowflakes in the world—or at least that’s what I keep hearing.

No label should define us. We make our own path. Reject the labels. Reject the stereotypes. Damn the man! Yep, that’s the story.

So why do I hate, detest and loathe the term “girlfriend”?

I’m in my mid-30s. He’s in his mid-50s. There’s an 18-year difference between us, if anyone wants to do the math. We’ve both been married before. This isn’t our first time at the rodeo.

We’re grown-ass adults who haven’t decided to get married…yet. And when we refer to the other, the only good term to use is “girlfriend” and “boyfriend.” Which makes us both feel strange. No really, long discussions have been had at the dinner table about this one.

Who am I? A hormonal teenager with a curfew? A college student with a final next week?

He’s no pimple-faced horndog trying to get me in the backseat of his car, either. (He’s a grown man with a motorcycle, which is much better, wink-wink.)

I’m a grown-ass woman, and I’d like something else, please.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, we’ve tried other things.

The few times I’ve referred to John as my partner, I was mistaken for a lesbian. There’s nothing wrong with being a lesbian, but I’m not so that was awkward—especially when I corrected the assumption. Who feels strange now? There was a lot of “not that there’s anything wrong that” going on in that conversation, but I made sure they knew John’s totally a dude.

Significant other is a mouthful and feels cold and impersonal. “Yes, this is John, my significant other. Yes, of course I love him—with all my heart. He’s, you know, significant.” Too weird.

I’ve let repairmen and nosy neighbors think we’re married. Sure, yeah, I’m his wife except for the completely different last names and total lack of rings on our hands. Oh yeah, when the time comes, he’s so puttin’ a ring on it. (I may even dance like Bey when he does.)

Lady or gentleman friend sounds a little dirty, and even though I’m not opposed to dirty, it’s hardly appropriate for Christmas parties at the office or parent-teacher conferences.

He calls me “Baby Girl” from time to time (yeah, I giggle and blush, whatever), but referring to him as “Big Daddy” just to make it match would probably make my mother faint, my kids ask really uncomfortable questions, and his coworkers think inappropriate thoughts. Too much hassle and too Blanche Devereaux from Golden Girls, although she was my favorite and did have the most fun.

He’s no sugar daddy, and I’m no sugar baby. (Not sure what that is? Do a quick Google search—but make sure the kids are in another room, you know, to avoid those uncomfortable questions.)

It always comes back around to “girlfriend” and “boyfriend,” even though it makes me cringe.

We have two solutions open to us. Get over it, or get married.

Since we’re working on our own timetable and figuring out what works best for us, getting married just to have a different label would be stupid.

We could get over it, I guess. At least until the next time he introduces me as his girlfriend. I can’t promise there won’t be a primal scream heard ’round the world.

Someone needs to come up with a new label. Not just for me, but for all of us who are in the strange middle of life with ex-spouses, new loves and an unwillingness to get married just because.

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