Significant Other

My instructor in Gender and Race in Political Thought class wears an earring. Of course, that doesn’t mean much any more. On the first day of class someone asked him about it (because it is really a nice design). He explained where he got it from and that his partner wore the other one. So, I can safely put him in the gay category. (I don’t judge, but I’m a human–we like labels.) As the class goes on, the course of conversation reveals that his partner is a she. Okay, take him out of the gay category and put him in the straight, but not married box. See me with my label maker running around making sure I know what’s what.

Then I got to thinking about it.

Maybe he uses the term consciously because he is an advocate for gender equality and all other equality and feels that partner is an accurate and equitable term. So I was going to ask him about it. But I got all caught up in the HOW of how to ask the question so I would be clear.

“Do you call your partner partner because she’s your partner or…” wait- that’s not clear.

Maybe a different word would help. So I tried again.

“Do you call your significant other your partner because of–

–Bleh that sounds even worse!

I thought about it in terms of my own life.

I am married. To a husband. (nice, easy prepackaged labels there.) And yet…

I hope (and think) the phrase Life Partner is just as accurate, if not more accurate, than husband or wife conveys. There are many ways to cohabit and then label that cohabitation. You wouldn’t have to do this at all if you never spoke to another human. But if you plan on doing that, then you will probably end up referencing your “significant other” in some way.

What the hell is a Significant Other?

Here is my problem with significant other as a term for your mate(!).

I am pretty sure I have never met an Insignificant Other. Except maybe that one guy I dated when I was 20. But even he was probably not Insignificant to his mother or friends or family. So we are all Significant Others.

If we stop and think about it, it is really hard to find a label that fits  comfortably and accurately describes what goes in to making a life together. We fall back on the easy traditional terms, because it is so difficult.

Partner is probably the next easiest label to use.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ayala
    Feb 09, 2011 @ 16:59:32

    Partner is a good term and it almost covers all bases. There is a respect to the word partner as well, such as an equal to.


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