U.S. adults have “boyfriends” and “girlfriends”–Do other cultures also infantilize the unmarried? November 28, 2012Posted by Onely in Dating, Food for Thought, single and happy, Your Responses Requested!.
Tags: adult boyfriend, adult girlfriend, cultural expectations for dating, cultural expectations for the single woman, relationship signifiers, singles blog
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