These four little words live rent-free in my head: “I’ve taken a lovaaaaah.” That’s what Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw tells her gal pals when she begins dating the mysterious Russian artist Aleksandr Petrovsky (Mikhail Baryshnikov) in the show’s final season, and it’s a term that’s haunted me ever since I first heard it in 2004. “Lovaaaaaah”: so vivid, so TMI, so unnecessarily grandiose – but really, what else was she supposed to call the man before he ascended to boyfriend status?
To be fair, Carrie is using the word “lover” somewhat in jest, and the rest of the girls definitely heckle her for it. But now that I’m a single woman making my way through the relationship minefield, I’m revisiting the Carrie/Petrovsky relationship out of a total lack of suitable terminology for “the phase where you’re definitely dating, and definitely like each other, but aren’t capital-P Partnered yet”.
I’ve recently started dating someone and – being a big-mouthed Cancer – I feel compelled to tell all the people in my life about them, but I don’t quite know how to refer to them. We’re not girlfriend/girlfriend, because we haven’t known each other long enough for that title to feel earned (and because they identify as nonbinary); we’re not partners, but we’re also not each other’s casual hookups. I feel confident about where our relationship currently is and where it could be heading (well, as confident as I ever do), but I wish there was a term to describe it that didn’t feel either clinical or cringe.
When in doubt, I’ve been defaulting to “the person I’m dating”, but that sounds, as mentioned above, clinical; “lover” is out of the question, and euphemisms like “main squeeze” and “honey” make me want to projectile vomit. Unsatisfied by the options occurring to me, I turned to Twitter, the last resort of the on-deadline journalist – and of course, answers abounded. In less than half an hour, I was offered “person I’m kissing,” “flame,” “boyfriend applicant,” and “the guy I’m talking to,” but I wanted more; I wanted a term I was actively excited about using. Vogue Senior Fashion News Writer Liana Satenstein suggested “extended fling,” which she insisted would “keep [the relationship] hot,” and I took it under advisement. I like “fling” a lot, and I like anchoring the word with something that sounds a little less whimsical and flighty, but it still didn’t feel quite right.