How should I refer to my mom's boyfriend?
November 25, 2004 7:53 PM   Subscribe

In conversation, how should I refer to my mom's boyfriend? (MI)

He and my mom became an item 'round about the time my parents separated in 2001. She and I moved into his house, and they are, by all accounts, going to be together for as long as they live. However, for a few different reasons, they're never going to get married. So I can't call him my stepdad. Saying "my mom's boyfriend" over and over in various stories is getting REALLY tedious, besides the fact that "boyfriend" sounds like a really high-schoolish title for someone in his forties. 'Partner' sounds silly to me AND them -- makes them sound like they own a business together. 'Lover' is just too creepy. Is there any other word I could use? Or should I just call him my stepdad, even though it's never going to be legal?
posted by fricative to Human Relations (28 answers total)
I call my Mum's boyfried "Noel, my Mum's boyfriend" (if I actually need to contextualize him like that), or just "Noel". I've been doing this for more than half my life. You'll get used to it.

I suppose "boyfriend" does sound a little juvenile, but everyone knows what you mean. I don't think people really used "partner" much when they got together... otherwise I might've used that.
posted by pompomtom at 8:09 PM on November 25, 2004

You could just refer to him by his name and let people figure it out for themselves.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:10 PM on November 25, 2004

posted by falconred at 8:12 PM on November 25, 2004

How about "old man", as in "My mom's old man"? Doesn't necessarily imply marriage and it's kind of funny.
posted by cilantro at 8:21 PM on November 25, 2004

To me, "My mom's old man" sounds like a maternal grandfather.
posted by kickingtheground at 8:49 PM on November 25, 2004

Being Britsih would allow you to use bloke or chap, but these wouldn't translate well. other half? man? (as in my mom's man) dude? thesaurus time probablty. What does your mom call him when talking to 3rd parties?
posted by Flat Feet Pete at 8:59 PM on November 25, 2004

My older son calls his younger brother's father his step-dad, even though we never got married.

And, even though his stepdad and I haven't been together for years, he still does.
posted by kamylyon at 8:59 PM on November 25, 2004

I like using 'significant other'. Most associate the term with marriage, but I think it equally applies to any relationship. The nice thing is that it's also vague, so you can use it for mom's girlfriend, or even in reference to a multitude of mom's partners, if she happens to be polyamorous.

I used to use it all the time for my brother's boyfriend- until my brother proposed to him! Now he's my brother's fiance.
posted by id at 9:36 PM on November 25, 2004

i second significant other. it's polite and everyone knows what you mean.
posted by Arch Stanton at 10:17 PM on November 25, 2004

When referring to them together, I'd say "My dad and Fran". When explaining their relationship, I'd say "his partner" (until they got married, and now she's officially my stepmother).
posted by mkultra at 10:20 PM on November 25, 2004

I'm with pompomtom; refer to him by name. Or, if it's necessary as "Whateverheiscalled, my mother's boyfriend".

My mother got a boyfriend, and I just refer to him by name. Most of my friends and collegues know who I'm talking about, and if someone don't they usually can guess it from the conversation.

On the other hand the creepy guy who's wooing my grandmother I call just that. But then I don't like him.
posted by mummimamma at 10:39 PM on November 25, 2004

My mom's posslq.
posted by mono blanco at 10:54 PM on November 25, 2004

Pronounced "Pozzle Que".

If his name is Ozzie, that's even better.
posted by mono blanco at 10:56 PM on November 25, 2004

My mom refers to her boyfriend (with 100% sincerity) as her "special friend, Bill."

I think it's sweet.
posted by 4easypayments at 11:13 PM on November 25, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks guys! I've tried referring to him by name without previous explanation, but he has a pretty unusual name. If I mention it, it usually elicits comments of, "Who in the WHAT now?" Which means I not only have to explain who he is in relation to me, but what his name means! As for my mom, she usually just refers to him by name when speaking to third parties, but all those third parties know who he is already. My problem is that I'm many thousands of miles from home, telling stories of my family to people who've never had any exposure to 'em! So I'm having to repeat "mymom'sboyfriend(name)" a LOT, and it's gettin' OLD.

Personally, I think "posslq" is excellent, as is "my mom's old man". I think that's especially fitting, seeing as she's an ex-hippie and he's got hair down to the middle of his back. When I'm talking to him, sometimes I call him "The Grey Hair", so maybe that's how I'll refer to him around others -- with a menacing tone, of course!
posted by fricative at 12:04 AM on November 26, 2004

i know partner sounds silly, but i use it anyway, because it seems to be the most neutral term (and one that translates into other languages). i'm kind of hoping that if i use it enough it won't sound so silly and others will start using it too....
and boyfriend sounds like they're little kids.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:24 AM on November 26, 2004

Have you considered just asking them what they consider the state of the relationship to be? Do they think of themselves as husband and wife without a marriage certificate? (In many jurisdictions, the fact that they live together over a period of time may mean the government does.) Do they see themselves as life partners with no need for marriage? Or boyfriend and girlfriend still in the early love stages? Whatever they think is most accurate is probably your best choice.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:33 AM on November 26, 2004

My kids say 'This is D., my mom's friend." Everyone gets it by inflection, or, better, don't quite get it and we can watch their wheels spinning for our own version of family fun.
posted by thinkpiece at 5:41 AM on November 26, 2004

FWIW, here in the UK, "partner" is a very commonly used term, and it seems to be inclusive--where an American invitation might include something like "spouses, significant others, and so on are welcome," a UK invite would just say "partners are welcome."

Also, I wanted to link to the classic POSSLQ-related poem, but, bizarrely, it only seems to turn up in comment spam for Cialis. Click here and scroll down to the comments.
posted by yankeefog at 6:07 AM on November 26, 2004

I know someone who uses "uxor." But that'll just confuse most people and it's technically wrong.

I vote against "significant other," which is one of the most appalling locutions around, followed immediately by "impact" as a verb. What the hell is an "other" anyway? Are there insignificant others? Bleah.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:25 AM on November 26, 2004

Embrace silliness: "My mom's life partner"
posted by Capn at 7:49 AM on November 26, 2004

I second CunningLinguist's vote against "significant other," though I'm not quite as appalled by it. I'd go with "stepdad"; it describes the relationship, everybody understands it (unlike, say, "posslq," which sounds silly anyway), and are the legal details anyone's business?

I know someone who uses "uxor."

Huh? Uxor means 'wife.'
posted by languagehat at 8:22 AM on November 26, 2004

"My mom's special gentleman friend."
posted by samh23 at 11:55 AM on November 26, 2004

languagehat, I think that's what CL meant by "technically wrong".
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 5:45 PM on November 26, 2004

I've had to face this situation often, myself. I usually just refer to the person by name, and leave the conversationee to figure it out for themselves. The curious will ask what the relationship is between person X and my parent, in which case I explain. Most people, I find, really don't care.

Occasionally the boyfriend/girlfriend will pop up in conversation when it really doesn't matter what their name is (i.e. they're incidental to the story, or the person I'm talking to has absolutely no relevance to my life). In that case, I'll refer to them as "my mom's boyfriend" once, and then just stick with "he" for the rest of the anecdote.

When talking with close friends, I've developed a series of nicknames for everyone I know. People find it much easier to remember the difference between "Popcorn Head" and "Tux Tattoo" than the difference between "Mark" and "Stan" (or whoever).
posted by mechagrue at 8:57 PM on November 26, 2004

languagehat, I think that's what CL meant by "technically wrong".

Well, obviously. I'm suggesting that, like so many technicalities, this one is better ignored. Which is worse, to have to explain once in a blue moon that your "stepdad" is not technically married to your mom or to be constantly dealing with people asking "what's a posslecue?" or sneering at a phrase like "significant other"?
posted by languagehat at 9:00 AM on November 27, 2004

Companion divorcee. Well, works best if he is divorced, too. But it will work anyway. Takes away the high-schoolishness of boyfriend, gives the relationship a solemn-but-not-excessive feel. And you can say it with a French accent for effect.
posted by copperbleu at 12:52 PM on November 27, 2004

my dad calls his girlfriend his "companion." I tend to call her his girlfriend but it is admittedly partly out of paggro (I love that, whoever started that) disrespect. She can't be my stepmom, because my dad's third wife (the one before this one and after my mom) is still my stepmom even though they're not together anymore. Mostly I just call her by name, though.

I think SO is a totally usable locution. Partner gets a little confusing because of business partners and other non-romantic relationships.
posted by mdn at 10:56 AM on November 28, 2004

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