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U.S. adults have “boyfriends” and “girlfriends”–Do other cultures also infantilize the unmarried? November 28, 2012

Posted by Onely in Dating, Food for Thought, single and happy, Your Responses Requested!.
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The U.S.’ widespread use of “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” is a decades-old cultural relic, from a time when we married barely out of boyhood or girlhood. But now more and more adults are waiting until their late twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, or beyond to marry (if at all). So what does it say about our society that we call the people we’re dating “boyfriends” and “girlfriends”?

It SAYS that our society views unmarried people as younger/less evolved/more childish than married ones.

To be sure, our habit of using boyfriend/girlfriend in perpetuity did not arise from a concerted or conspiratorial cultural effort to infantilize unmarrieds. But the passive persistence of the terms does represent how singles are viewed. (For all that alliteration, you may thank this glass of wine.)

A thirty-eight-year-old hetero female has a boyfriend? Come on.

Progressive thinkers (usually as an extension of Queer rhetoric) have played with new terms: Significant Other; Partner; Life Partner. . .  These terms allow people of all ages to achieve the rare art of sounding both stodgy and mysterious at the same time.

Copious Readers, Onely requests your responses:

Let us know how other languages and cultures beyond U.S. English express the concept of boyfriend/girlfriend. In my understanding of Chinese, the terms might be interpreted as male friend/female friend. It seems to me German does a similar thing:  my male friend/female friend (whereas a platonic relationship might be a friend of mine).

We look forward to your input. And stay tuned for an upcoming post, in which we vote for the Best New Relationship Signifier of the 21st Century!


Photo credit: Enrique Romero


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U.S. adults have “boyfriends” and “girlfriends”-Do other cultures also infantilize the unmarried? | Onely: Single and Happy

3. Hildegerd Haugen - September 22, 2015

What about male/female companion?

4. Ben P - September 25, 2015

Something I’ve thought about a lot recently but have no good suggestions.

I’m too old at this point to have a ‘girl’ friend or to be a boy friend.

Male/female friend might work. I’ll have to try it out in conversations and see how it feels.

Man/Woman Friend just sounds strange.

Partner get’s confused with business partner or implies that you’re in a homosexual relationship. (Not that that should matter in this day and age, but it does have immediate connotations.) It is also not as an endearing term. Not terribly crazy about the ‘life partner’ term either.

I like ‘sweety’, but not everyone likes that.

Someone suggest my ‘very good friend’. But, that could be a platonic friend from high school.

I kinda like ‘my main squeeze’, but I guess that implies you have other ‘squeezes”? It’s also a fairly casual term, so I wouldn’t use it with my business associates.

Perhaps we could make a new term? My Loving Partner? If committed perhaps my Home Partner? What about My True Love?

My Quasi-Wife? I kinda like that. Or does it sound too much like ‘my crazy wife’? Perhaps I’ll try that one as well.

There must be a good solution out there…. somewhere.

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