What's in a name?
The art of introductions

by Mark Sproxton
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 26/97) - Anyone who has been in any type of relationship knows how difficult they can be.

They are unions of two different minds with two different outlooks. That alone means there are always going to be awkward moments.

For example, when holding hands do you like your thumb on the outside or inside of the grip? Or, do you keep the lights on or off during intimate encounters?

The actions themselves may be small, the repercussions significant.

But perhaps one of the most fumbly moments comes when it is time to introduce your new friend, er partner, to someone else.

And that's exactly where the problems lies. You are not married, so wife or husband is technically not correct.

What do you call this person?

Although you are definitely a couple, how do you tell others this person is your mate?

What description do you use?

Girlfriend or boyfriend? Maybe, but likely not for most who are out of high school.

The words are simply too immature sounding for most. The phrase reeks of junior high or grade school, where going to consecutive school dances and never speaking in between counted as a long-term relationship.

Partner is another term that has gained some acceptance. It is descriptive of the relationship and gives the impression of equality in the union.

Spouse is used by some. The word, however, seems better suited for a health-care form or bank loan application.

Maybe mate is the word to use? Then again maybe not.

If it is a serious relationship, there should be more to it than mating, although regular intervals of the posturepedic polka have been recommended.

Lover is another term, but again puts the focus squarely on the mattress.

There are some terms that you may want to consider not using when talking to those you don't know well, or those who are a bit prudish.

Introducing someone as your bed-mate may not go over too well with the older generation.

The phrase lay-beside should only be considered for select company. Ripe with sexual overtones, it may not hit the funny bone of everyone.

Mind you, knowing how much work the rest of the relationship takes, maybe it is not worth worrying how you introduce your (fill in the blank). There are many other hurdles to clear in the meantime.