I’ve never liked the term “boyfriend.” I’ve had a blessed few, and I always felt somewhat uncomfortable with the designation. There is a level of ownership implied in the title.
Or maybe I’m just your average commitment phobic.
Like most Caribbean folks I know, my family avoids the terms boyfriend and girlfriend. Growing up, my parents would refer to everybody’s romantic partners as “friend”–even when they were engaged! We were going to a wedding and my mother asked,”when is so-and-so marrying his friend?”
A friend has it’s own definition. It is not a downgrade from a relationship. As I understand it, when you have a “friend,” it means that you and that person are interested in each other and are spending time together. It even, on some level, could mean that you both have a commitment to each other. You may even be exploring the option of marriage or co-habitation.
It’s a complicated word.
When I was younger, I used every opportunity to correct my parents. But now I can see the wisdom of having a “friend” instead of a “boyfriend.”
1. A friend loves you for exactly who you are; in the past, boyfriends have tried to change me. Or I’ve tried to change them. And that never works.
2. I never feel obligated to show up for my friends; I do nice things for them because I love them. In a relationship, there are expectations…and then I do things because I feel like I have to.
3. I can continue to think about my present and future without having to consider a ‘friend.’ With a boyfriend (even if it’s a new relationship!), I begin to alter my daydreams to fit them in my future. Suddenly I consider their dreams and how that fits in with my career.
And there isn’t even a ring involved.
In my world, friendship is safe. It’s sacred. My friends and I have a bond that is not easily broken. And when I get married, that will be a sacred bond. Boyfriends? Not so much.
In a book I just finished reading, a married man said this about his wife:
“she isn’t mine…She is ultimately God’s, and I am simply a steward of her heart for a season”–Secrets over Sweet Tea, Jones 342.
I think marriage is awesome. It’s still a mystery to me, as I am single. But too often, boyfriends and girlfriends play at being married, without the protection of marriage itself.
I don’t want to be owned by any man. Right now my earthly father protects me and my heart; in the future, my husband will do that. My dad can do this well because he knows that I belong to the Lord.
I think I was built for the permanence of marriage, rather than the fleeting boyfriend/girlfriend situation that I’ve been in before. I understand the usefulness of the terms–it lets you both know you’re in a relationship, and that you’re working towards something. But after years of doing that, and having it fail entirely, I think I’d like to have a “friend”. Much like an 85 year old woman, I’d prefer to have a gentleman caller with whom I keep company.
While with my family this weekend, my aunt leaned over and asked, “do you have a boyfriend? Or a friend?”
And I smiled.