I've been reading your blog ever since my husband passed away three years ago. We were a close couple and many of the feelings you express I share. You are more fluid in your speech than I, yet, I find myself nodding as I read you that you may as well be talking with my mouth.
My dilemma is this - I have found a man who I very much enjoy being with in every sense of the word. We have an understanding that we will be exclusive. I have no desire to date anyone else. He fills my life where it not long ago was empty. So, what's the problem, you ask?
Silly, but I have a difficult time introducing him or referring to him as my "boyfriend." We laugh about it, but I know he is feeling hurt. We are both in our mid-sixties. I just wish there was another word.
Why am I resisting this? You write about M. Is he your boyfriend?
Dear Charlie's girlfriend, Penny,
I struggle with the same issue, Penny. I almost didn't post your letter because I'm not sure I can help you other than to reassure you that many widows stutter the word "bbbboyfriend." You and I are not that odd..well, in this sense, anyway. Let's dissect this together.
Is M my bbbboyfriend? Let's see...
Boyfriend by definiton: 1. A favored male companion. (check)
2. A male friend who a person is romantically or sexually involved. (check)
3. A man who is the lover of a girl or young woman. (as my father used to say,
"Hold the phone!")
The age thing stops us. We feel silly saying "boyfriend." It sounds juvenile. Strange that we consider giggling together until we can't breathe and sending each other idiotic text messages throughout the day to be mature and "age appropriate." I know. Human beings are complicated.
Somehow, when M calls me his "girlfriend" it fits and it's fine. Why is that? Older single women in "our third act" (Jane Fonda coined this phrase - 30 years for each act) need another word for our man friend. I favor "my guy" for an introduction.
"Linda, this is my guy, M."
"Meet M, my guy."
"Hi. I don't think you and M have ever met. He's my guy."
It works. And, when you're feeling extra loving you can throw in "special" - "He's my special guy." Great, except it kinda makes it sound like you have a trunk full of guys and you're especially sweet on this one.
There is, if you want to delve, Penny, a deeper reason we may shy away from "boyfriend," Could it be that if we have a boyfriend we have officially "moved on?"
We've become so adept at straddling our worlds. When we first became a widow we were no longer someone's wife. I remember for the first year and a half or so when someone would nonchalantly say, "Well, it's okay for you because you're single" I would recoil. After 33 years of marriage, it threw me to acknowledge this.
As I began to date I was fairly comfortable to be a single woman out and about. Then, I'd come home to the house we shared. Jimmy's photos stared at me. They reminded me of who I really am, our life together.
I'd fall two steps backwards feeling like I was playing the role of the available woman. It wasn't really me.
My husband's been gone for three and a half years and I've been with Mickey (I know - I spelled it out) for 8 months. He's probably been my boyfriend for the last 3. He's a widower. He understands that it involves a lot of emotional juggling to take both feet out of my other world to stand firmly with him.
And, as he and I make memories together the stakes that hold me to his world dig deeper. This is good.
Yet, we've got to recognize that the balance of past and present continues and will continue to be a hopscotch game.
There will never be a clean slate and why should there be? When we get to the third act, the first and second don't disappear, right? At the end of our lives all the players come out for a curtain call.
Right now we're in flux. We're in transition, Penny. We haven't spent enough time playing this part and maybe this is why some days it feels natural to say "boyfriend" and other days it's "bbbbboyfriend."