'My husband' isn't the best way to describe my better half
Sometimes, I have to write a few lines about myself for the author bios that run alongside my columns and stories. It’s an easily checked box: someone who writes for a living usually doesn’t need more than a half-second to consider how best to simply and humbly self-promote.
That’s changed somewhat since I got married, since I write a lot about me and my life, and now about my husband, Simon. When I had occasion to write a blurb about myself this week, I ended it with, “Kate lives in Toronto with her man and her dog.” I would have used “puppy,” but I liked the monosyllables together; I would have used “husband,” but that word — the name, not the relationship — has started to feel like too much.
Many days, I find myself saying “my husband” over and over, like I’ve been hypnotized by heteronormativity. It’s like I’m in love with what the words “my husband” signify — that I’m solved, that even though I dress like a Beastie Boy in 1994 and hardly wear my wedding rings, I am an adult woman who has “achieved” love.
I don’t mean to say it so much, but I do.
Not yet three years into marriage, “my husband” is the person I’m around the most, so referring to him is a reflex. As a works-from-home wife, I use “my husband” talking to the neighbours, contractors and dog trainers, while Simon, “my husband,” is at the office. It’s like he’s a spectre I’m trying to invoke, like Beetlejuice or Bloody Mary, by saying “my husband” three times in a row and sometimes he appears, at least in the form of a text message.
The words “my husband” are really just descriptive. He is.
I never planned to get married, and don’t think of marriage as a goal I’ve met, but that phrase, “my husband,” in its possessiveness and formality, comes together like a brag, even though I’d never mean it to.
The alternatives aren’t much better. There’s the antiseptic “significant other,” or its message-board equivalent, “S.O.” Obviously “hubby” belongs in the dankest corner of the Great Pacific garbage patch. There’s “sweetheart,” which works until it cloys you to death.
Then there’s “bride.” I had a high school science teacher who said things like, “Last weekend, I took my bride to Harvey’s” (a direct quote!); I liked it, but I like it less because I don’t know anyone who would call a guy her “groom.”
One of Twitter’s gentler controversies of the last few weeks has been around women who date men (women who are presumed, correctly or not, to be straight) calling their boyfriends or husbands “partner,” and whether that appropriates something from queer culture, in the same way “girlfriend” for a straight-on-straight girl-friendship is sometimes thought to do.
“Partner” is all-inclusive, non-binary and beautifully neutral in gender, legal status, even romantic context. It could refer to a partner in life, a law practice or tennis — and that lack of clarity makes it even better. Whose business is any of this, really?
I don’t use partner because even though it’s essentially perfect, it’s restrained about something that isn’t. “Lover” would be better, if I had the brass to use it.
The people we choose to spend our lives with, to love, are in too grandiose a position for any of the names we could give them.
I do call Simon “my person” sometimes, but I also call my family and friends “my people.” It’s less descriptive, maybe, than even “Kate lives in Toronto with her man and her dog,” but “my person” and everything that it indicates is really all that I mean. And all that I need.
Kate Carraway is a Toronto-based writer and a freelance contributing columnist for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @KateCarraway