When Lovely and I first got together, or were in the process of getting together (as you know, this took some time), good friends of mine would ask, “Where’s your friend? How’s your friend?” and they would mean her. I would answer and we would proceed with our evening. Usually, I was under some sort of stress because of something going on with her family or I was frustrated and confused about whether or not I should be dating her (we broke up, like, 5 times in the first three months). Having her called my friend wasn’t too problematic.
At one point, though, I said to one particular person who was making a little light fun of me and us, “Lovely. Her name is Lovely.” And possibly I said this a little sharply because he stopped dead and said, “I know.” And I said, “Yeah, okay.”
Some of my friends also called variants of ‘whatsername’ at the beginning, and then asked for the fourteenth time what her name was. It’s a common Pakistani name and hard to forget, but okay. With him also I eventually enunciated: LOVE-LEE. And then he remembered forever after.
Again, it was time of ambiguity, my ambiguity about the relationship, so while these were minor annoyances, I was okay.
But I’m finding that it is wretchedly common for people to use “friend” about someone they know is your partner/girlfriend. It betrays discomfort with ones sexuality and choices. So, for example, when I was getting this apartment, I told the landlord that my partner or my girlfriend (using both at several occasions) would be joining me a bit later, he would always say, “And when is your friend coming? Is your friend coming for sure?”
Is this an attempt at politeness? If I’ve used girlfriend and partner, are you confused that I’m talking about my female best friend or my business partner? Is it a subtle protest against your characterization of yourself as being in a homosexual union, suggesting, ‘Well, you can do what you want, of course, and I’ll take your money, drink with you, be your friend, but I’m not sure I condone this relationship of yours by calling it what you call it.’ Is it a misguided attempt to include all possible permutations of the relationship? Is it doubt about whether, when you heard both girlfriend and partner, when you knew that snogging and sex were involved in this relationship, when you know that one person left a marriage to be romantically with the other, you’re not sure yet what the acceptable term for the relationship is?
How about the one I use, asshole?
That is what I am annoyed about today.