The World Bank
"I have been caricatured as a boyfriend who used his position of power to help his girlfriend," gripes Paul Wolfowitz.
Yes, that troubling, caricaturing word: boyfriend. How demeaning for the president of the World Bank to be reduced to the status of mere boyfriend!
Wolfowitz could marry Shaha Riza, though, and then she would be his wife, and he her husband. These are solid, grown-up, non-caricaturing titles that would free Wolfowitz from the burden of boyfriendhood and let him focus on what really matters, like how long he is going to keep his job. (It seems to be a matter of hours.)
But for me and my boyfriend Ereck, as for most gay folks, marrying is not really a meaningful option. Here in Wisconsin we can thank 57.5 percent of the voters for that. And so he and I struggle with just what titles to use. The sex columnist Dan Savage wrote about the problem in his 2000 book The Kid:
Two years into this relationship, I still called Terry my boyfriend, much to my mother's dismay.
"He's not your boyfriend!" my mother instructed me. "You're thirty-two years old! He's twenty-six! You're not boys!"
...Terry might not have been my boyfriend, but I felt silly calling him anything else. "Partner" made me feel as if we were cowboys or lawyers or the Clintons. It's just so...genderless.
As for me, I wear the title boyfriend with pride. I introduce my boyfriend as my boyfriend, and he does the same. It's a word that, unlike the genderless and thereby semi-closeted partner, identifies us unambiguously as a gay couple. Husband would, too, if the Wisconsin constitution let us be husbands, which it doesn't.
Is it caricaturing for men in their very early mid-30s, like us, to refer to each other as boys? Perhaps, but there is something vaguely political about the caricaturing that pleases me. It conveys that our relationship is indeed, compared to the relationships of married straight couples, in something of an immature state -- but not by any choice of ours, since we couldn't formalize our commitment before the state and God even if we wanted to.
If my using the word boyfriend reminds people of that, good.