The Grown-Ass Woman’s Guide to: What to call your boyfriend or girlfriend

You’re a grown-ass woman and you’re happily dating a grown-ass man or woman. It’s nice. They cook for you sometimes and you’ve never felt more chill about your leg hair. But what do you call them?? As discussed, you are both deeply grown-ass, and therefore boyfriend/girlfriend feels a bit Degrassi. They’ve moved on from being “this guy I’m seeing” but they’re not quite “the love of my LIFE” and even if they were that is a bit much for an introduction to a work colleague spotted out in the wild. It can be a struggle, but don’t worry. Like your worst relative at a Christmas party, I have a TON of advice that you never asked for! Allons-y.

No way around it: this word grosses people out. I don’t really mind it but also think it’s weird to reduce a boyfriend or girlfriend’s role in your life to “the physical act of love.” (™Ross Gellar, 2002) You could just as easily call them one of the many other functions of a significant other: “This is Tom, my sexual roommate.” “This is Ellen, my scary movie accompaniment.” “This is Laura, she is the only one who gets to see me ugly-cry.” “This is Alex, he takes care of me when I’m too drunk and makes really good nachos after.” You get the idea; none of those are ideal and neither is “lover,” although one time I had the following conversation with a woman on rollerblades and it was perfect:  ME: “I like your rollerblades.” HER: “Thank you. They were gifted to me by a lover on New Year’s Eve.” Perfect.

“Smoochybaby Cuteyface”
Personal nicknames are great. What a nice way to show the world and your bf/gf that you get them and care about them and that they are special to you! Except for when you are using a personal nickname that is something like the above. Long, overly –complicated, babytalk-inspired = no, no, no. I’m not exactly sure what causes such large-scale social revulsion at really syrup-y selfies or wallposts or nicknames, but people are as uninterested in this kind of thing as they are in “lover,” so I’d probably hold off with the fuzzy wuzzies unless you are an Italian teenager in love for the first time, and even then.

This one is difficult, because on the one hand, babies are cute and great and we all love them. On the other, they are tiny, new-to-the-world, wee little children, and you can’t have a good conversation with a baby and you CERTAINLY cannot make out with one. So this nickname ends up being both infantilizing and kind of gross, and no one likes hearing it because it sounds whiney almost no matter what. “Babe” is safer, plus: “that’ll do” jokes.  Also consider: “honey.” Sweet! Literally so sweet. Mmmm. Honey.

This ~*deeply*~ romantic and creative option is not actually particularly widespread, and is really just what my boyfriend calls me. “Boobs.” As in, sweaterpuppies. As in, nip surrounders. As in, “My favourite part of you is boobs, Boobs. No offence to your brain or your heart or your EVIDENTLY BOTTOMLESS WELLS OF UNDERSTANDING AND GOOD HUMOUR.” Four more years! Four more years! (We have been dating for four years.)( Boobs4Prez.) ( . )( . )

“Friend” (said meaningfully yet uncomfortably)
This does not really apply to us, hip young ladies and presumably a few gay dudes that I am talking to. This is like, the Divorced Dads special and should not to be used by anyone, divorced or otherwise. Be honest with your kids, uncomfortable dads! They can probably handle it!

If this were a significant other naming pageant, “partner” would be Ultimate Grand Supreme. Maybe not in a high-glitz event, but those are terrifying and this nickname is about maturity anyways. The phrase “my partner” gets a bad rap, associated for most of us with that gender-ambiguous university professor named Pat where you were just constantly like BOYGIRLBOYGIRLDOESNTMATTERBUTIMCURIOUS and their partner was named “Lou” and you were just like I NEED TO KNOW but couldn’t, ever, and they were vegan. First of all, nothing wrong at all with a Pat/Lou vegan partners combo, and second of all, give it just a bit more thought than that. I like partner because it works regardless of orientation/gender, and because if you think about what a partner is, in business or gym class or writing or whatever, it’s someone you respect, help  and work with towards mutual and separate goals, and isn’t that the whole point? It can sound kind of clinical but I assure you it’s just the opposite: a mix of lover, friend, babe, and boobs in one. Plus: “howdy” jokes.

Get on board, partners!

Follow Monica on twitter: @monicaheisey


  1. CocoShea
    September 25, 2013

    shedoesthecity fun post, but I am a grown-ass woman who loves “boyfriend.” Can’t stand partner.

  2. monicaheisey
    September 25, 2013

    anniebroadbent thanks girl! also you just have to like, test it out a few times and it gets easier to say and less lame. promise.

  3. anniebroadbent
    September 25, 2013

    monicaheisey ok i’ll give it a go and let you know how i get on!

  4. Vanessa
    November 27, 2013

    Ugh! My boyfriend has a gender neutral named spelled like a girl! This is the hardest…

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