Finally, a good "Modern Love" column
May 24, 2013 4:39 PM   Subscribe

I don't understand why both can't be called "husband" if the term "wife" is so objectionable (why is the term "wife" so objectionable"?)

posted by Renoroc at 4:46 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Aw, that was really sweet.
posted by mathowie at 4:54 PM on May 24, 2013

While I'm happy for him, I half expect another "memoir" out of this.
posted by King Bee at 4:55 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't understand why both can't be called "husband" if the term "wife" is so objectionable (why is the term "wife" so objectionable"?)

Because if you call each other husband there isn't a column in the NYT, I guess.
posted by hoyland at 4:57 PM on May 24, 2013 [9 favorites]

So...calling your husband "husband" makes you his wife? That really doesn't make sense to me.
posted by asnider at 5:10 PM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

I don't understand why both can't be called "husband" if the term "wife" is so objectionable (why is the term "wife" so objectionable"?)
I, ok.

So, one of the things you get asked as a gay male couple is "which one's the, you know, girl?" or "which one of you is the wife?" Yes, they're literally asking who penetrates whom. They're also asking "who wields the traditional, patriarchal power in your relationship?" The root question that they're getting at is "are you a real man?"

These questions are of course tangled up in all sorts of weird assumptions that are difficult to briefly untangle in such a way that the asker of the question has any chance of understanding just how insulting and wrong their question was.

Then the author of the piece (which was sweet, by the way! Also I googled Mr Burroughs and he is attractive) is trying to convey what it was like to walk out of city hall and go "I have a husband" and then have a little voice at the back of his head say "only wives have husbands" because that is the culture we're all raised in, and then a second little voice goes "remember how all these people asked that shitty question?"

In summary, it's a piece about how being a man getting married to another man in American culture can be a weird, conflicted experience at the same time that it's a wonderful one.

Hope this helps.
posted by kavasa at 5:12 PM on May 24, 2013 [52 favorites]

♫ I catch a paper boy
But things don't really change
I'm standing in the wind
But I never wave bye-bye
But I try
I try... ♫
posted by officer_fred at 5:33 PM on May 24, 2013

There are pictures of the rings (gorgeous!) and one of Christopher on Augusten's Facebook page.

I wish them much happiness.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:34 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it was sweet.

But no, it's definitely 'husband' and 'husband.'

But it's not all that completely much better for different-sex couples. Me and the marital associate don't like either 'husband' or 'wife. And, as Burroughs notes: "partner"....shudder...

So we use 'marital associate'...or, rather, we soon as we work up the nerve to tell people what we've gone and done...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 5:36 PM on May 24, 2013 [7 favorites]

For me, saying “I am married now” is like saying “I am lucky now.” I stumbled and crashed my way into the literal arms of something I never quite believed in before: my soul mate. A man who frequently smells like cheeseburgers and makes me laugh hard every day and makes me want to be worthy of being his husband.

Jezus! And Sigh...
posted by helmutdog at 6:01 PM on May 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

That was quite touching, and it's interesting to read him in that voice; of his writing, I've only read Running with Scissors, (which I brought on vacation a few years ago for some light reading because I thought it would be FUNNY! but man, I really found it quite heavy and heartbreakingly sad.)
He's right though, it seems like there should be a new word. And "Partner" is only slightly less awful than "Lover."
posted by chococat at 6:21 PM on May 24, 2013

Awwww, that was a really sweet story.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:23 PM on May 24, 2013

The "good gays" referenced include someone I went to middle school with. Huh.
posted by little cow make small moo at 6:32 PM on May 24, 2013

Am I the only person who actually likes 'partner'? For use in my hypothetical relationship, that is.

But also my mother's relationship. Though perhaps only because 'my mother's partner' gets me fewer weird looks than 'the guy who lives with my mother'. They are not husband and wife, he is not my stepfather, etc. Trying to talk about his kids leads to even stranger looks, though.
posted by hoyland at 6:34 PM on May 24, 2013

MetaFilter got it right... call everybody "Spouse".
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:41 PM on May 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

Am I the only person who actually likes 'partner'? ...Though perhaps only because 'my mother's partner' gets me fewer weird looks than 'the guy who lives with my mother'.

Have you considered another possibility?

posted by Rangeboy at 7:53 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

He knows the parts of me that are wholly unsuitable for publication, and he still speaks to me.


And I like and use "partner." Or "accomplice."
posted by asperity at 9:12 PM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

That was beautiful and I loved the vows.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:18 PM on May 24, 2013

Hmmm... I rather like accomplice. Or Co-Conspirator, yeah I like those. Much better than partner. Partner always felt too corporate to me. Unindicted Co-Conspirator! If I ever end up married again, that's what we'll use. "Hi I'm EvilDoug and this is my unindicted co-conspirator Monica."
posted by evilDoug at 9:29 PM on May 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

Partner always felt too corporate to me

YES, or too clinical, or something.
Or sort of, "hey you knucklehead!" and then goodheartedly punch each other lightly in the shoulder and then get into matching twin beds in the same room, with those really tight tucked-in polyester hotel bedspreads.
posted by chococat at 9:47 PM on May 24, 2013

I love "partner," although I can easily pass as straight so I usually use "wife" to make it clear that I'm in a lesbian relationship. Easier doing it that way than having to formally come out. I really do love the term "partner," though; my wife an I are partners in life, in parenthood, in our career aspirations, and sometimes against the cruel world.
posted by arcticwoman at 10:25 PM on May 24, 2013 [10 favorites]

Well darn, it's kind of charming when you put it that way.
posted by chococat at 10:48 PM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I refer to my "partner" partly to remind myself that there are plenty of people who can't easily talk about their relationship or their lover, either because they don't want to out themselves, or they can't legally marry.
posted by dubold at 1:13 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

For one of my *ahem* college girlfriends, she is now married to her wife, and vice versa. This isn't that difficult.
posted by dhartung at 2:23 AM on May 25, 2013

What's the plural of Nemesis?
posted by fullerine at 4:17 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I still say "girlfriend". People make fun of me for it. But six years of habit is hard to break.
posted by kyrademon at 5:13 AM on May 25, 2013

“Boyfriend” has become the perfectly acceptable term for an unmarried adult man in a relationship. It’s cute, even as it grossly exits the wrinkly mouth of a middle-aged bald guy.

I don't know, I dislike "boyfriend," as a 30-year-old woman in a relationship with a 38-year-old man. He's not a boy. "Companion" makes it sound like we're a million years old, and "beau" I like, but carries a whiff of engagement.

When I was married we had no problem being wife and wife, but perhaps it's different for two men?
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:40 AM on May 25, 2013

When my fiance and I had made it to the pre-engaged state, in which we knew we'd be getting married but hadn't yet made it official for everyone around us, I started referring to him as my mister. Because while boyfriend is a perfectly serviceable word, and at that point completely accurate, it didn't seem, to me, to properly convey the importance he has in my life. I had a boyfriend for thirteen hours in sixth grade, you know? But this man, heaven help him, has seen me at my very best and my very worst, and hanging out with him is way better than holding sweaty hands with what's-his-name as we walked down the hall to fifth period art class.

And so help me, I can never remember to call him my fiance, even during conversations in which people correct me when I slip and call him my boyfriend, and honestly it sounds a little pretentious anyway, so my mister he shall remain. Unless I can get accomplice to catch on, because that's pretty good.
posted by alynnk at 8:08 AM on May 25, 2013

I haven't ever understood the difficulty with using "husband." Actually, my fiancé uses it now, which wigs me out only because, well, we are not yet married and there's a word for that. I just used it. He is my fiancé. Not my husband.

I guess it's the "but there is a word for that" part of this whole thing that makes it a non-issue for me. The man you are married to? That's your husband. That's what the word is there to express.

Maybe I am just lucky. I missed that day in school when I was supposed to learn that wives are bad or less than or inferior. I also missed the lesson that says there can only be one husband in a relationship and that husband must have a wife. And for the life of me the only time I think I've ever had the "which of you is the girl" talk was once, with my mom, who was joking, because my boyfriend was so much taller than I was and she had drunk a couple glasses of wine and was feeling punchy. Perhaps I was just fortunate to be surrounded by people who were taught not to ask ridiculous personal questions about someone's sex life.

Partly, I think that it is a function of my age. I didn't grow up seeing a married relationship as something out of reach. I had been out to the world and dating already for a year before I even learned that gay's couldn't legally get married. And that was during or just after the big original push in Hawaii, so even then I felt as though it was just a question of When and not If I was able to get married. I think for a lot of people, this push for marriage equality is weird and retrograde and heteronormative. And sure, I think there are some reasonable arguments to be made that marriage is a pretty flawed institution. But I also think that a lot of the grumpiness of the anti-marriage crowd is because they were forced to develop an identity apart. And now they're being told that they don't have to be apart anymore. It's essentially as if culture finally said "oh hey, gays, of course you can come to my birthday party" and the poor previously-disinvited gays shouted back "I don't want to come to your crummy birthday party anyway! My mom and I are going for ice cream, SO THERE!"

But I didn't ever really experience that exclusion, so I am already at the birthday party, where men who are married are husbands, women who are married are wives, and anyone who doesn't feel comfortable with that, or the institution of marriage, is free to do whatever makes them happy. When we get married, he'll be my husband. I will be his husband. We will have some adorable children and we will both be their fathers.
posted by jph at 3:39 PM on May 25, 2013

[Be decent to each other please, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:14 PM on May 26, 2013

OK, I'll try again.
kavasa: Also I googled Mr Burroughs and he is attractive
Well, thank god for that.

And, with 50 favorites to that comment, it's clear that judging a woman by her beauty is contemptible here, but judging a man the same way is A-OK.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:20 PM on May 26, 2013

I thought that short aside in kavasa's much longer comment referred to this:

Our wedding was apparently about jewelry, which is gay, but bad gay... Our young and deeply attractive friends, Eric and Nick, are good gays.

The suggestion seemed to be that the author and his husband are older, not as tasteful, not as attractive, etc.
posted by taz at 2:49 AM on May 27, 2013

Still not seeing how kavasa's personal opinion of Burrough's attractiveness is relevant to this thread. Still thinking a hetero guy commenting on Miss Burrough's attractiveness after googling wouldn't be received as well.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:24 AM on May 28, 2013

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