Joe and I climbed into the back of the American automotive manufacturers’ biggest and fanciest creations the day after Christmas. My parents were in the front seats, my dad behind the steering wheel and my mom in shotgun.
We were driving this luxury behemoth of a vehicle to my dad’s sister’s ex-husband – uncle Gerry – on the east side of Illinois before going to visit my mom’s family on the west side of the state. It was just another typical Miller family road trip... but for one thing. My boyfriend was with us.
The weirdest part of this whole scene is not so much that my parents invited my boyfriend along on this trip or that Joe and I were allowed to rent our own hotel room with a king size bed while traveling with them or that my mom told my aunt Cathy it was OK for us to sleep together in the same room or that we had adjoining rooms at the hotel in Galesburg. The weirdest part is that I have a “boyfriend.”
One friend who met Joe on a fun weekend excursion to Chicago at the end of our Illinois adventure said he’d never known me to be much of a relationship person and asked how I liked it. I like it. It’s a lot of fun and not so different from being single except for the sleeping arrangements, which I rather enjoy, and always having someone to go on adventures with and share stories with. It’s nice and not that hard to adjust to in practice.
But in theory, it’s a little more challenging. The hardest part is getting used to being a couple in public. It’s that word, “boyfriend,” and all of the social implications that go along with it that are taking a little getting used to.
That word is such a foreign one in my vocabulary that I feel a little shy using it. When I introduce Joe as my boyfriend or tell strangers about my “boyfriend,” I feel a bit like a little girl admitting that she secretly shaves the fine blond hairs on her legs. It’s like I’m too young, not yet mature enough to handle something so serious as a “boyfriend.” The commitment invoked by the word is parallel to that conjured by the words “mortgage” or “career.”
Of course, I know this is ludicrous. I will be 29 years old on Wednesday. What 29-year-old woman hasn’t had a boyfriend? Most have had dozens of them. But I can’t help it, I still blush when I say it. I feel awkward trying to tell people about him. Maybe it’s because I somehow missed the practice many of my girlfriends had. I’m not sure why, but I’ve never really dated and I didn’t have my first “boyfriend” until two years ago.
I’m pretty sure most of my relatives had decided I was a lesbian. So it was pretty interesting introducing “my boyfriend” in the flesh to all of my aunts and uncles and cousins and even my grandmother. She raised her eyebrows and smirked at me when I told her who Joe was at the nursing home.
I suppose when a guy travels across the country with your parents to meet your aunts and uncles and visit your grandmother in a nursing home, he’s officially earned the title of “boyfriend.” I don’t know what else I could call him.