Someone wrote me an email late last night - I know who, I'm just not telling you - with this line:
My new boyfriend is a poet.
It might seem interesting that my friend is dating a poet. For some. For me, there's nothing inherently interesting about anyone dating a poet - I guess I don't see a poet as an 'other,' an unusual character in our society. I know at least three people who make some part of their living as "poets," & many more with whom I've shared my own poems with as they've shared theirs with me. I don't think of myself as a poet, but I think most everyone has a touch of the poet in them. As Robert Heinlein once said, "A poet who reads his verse in public may have other nasty habits."
The thing that interests me is the first part of the sentence - the subject & its modifiers. My new boyfriend. I am charmed by that half of the sentence. As someone who's married, & has been with the same person - happily, I add, with only a few quibbles - since 2001, & who - perhaps mistakenly, but honestly so - doesn't imagine being with someone else for at least the rest of this life, I think wistfully about the phrase my new boyfriend.
When did I ever use that phrase (with its gender corrected for my own predilections)? Was it in 2001, when I was introducing my Magda to people. Would I say, "This is my new girlfriend, Magda"? That would be strange, wouldn't it? But surely I must've thought about it. Or I must've thought, in lonely times, "When will I ever have a new girlfriend?"
Because I often felt like I had to ask a woman whether, after dating for a time, we were actually boyfriend/girlfriend & not, in the 1990s parlance, just "hanging out." In one particularly disastrous case, I remember taking aside a very lovely girl, with whom I was in fact "hanging out," & asking her if she wanted to be my girlfriend. She didn't answer, exactly - she didn't talk much at all - but I understood that she was telling me "no."'
That may be why I haven't really had all that many girlfriends. Proper girlfriends, who agreed to the terms. I "hung out" with a bunch of women. Then we stopped "hanging out." We never "broke up."
Actually, it's unusual perhaps for someone to say "my new boyfriend." It's more likely for someone to say "your new boyfriend." You know it's new, but you don't usually put it that way. So what is my friend up to? Have I not been paying attention? Do boyfriends get replaced with such rapidity that every new one needs to be stamped as such? Would it be rude to ask?
Reading that sentence - just its first half, actually - last night I felt a little sad I would never have a "new girlfriend" ever again. But it's just as well, because, it turns out, I've only been able to say such a thing a very few times in my life. & even then, I didn't.