A Husband By Any Other Name

The Carriage Before Marriage poster couple has got to be Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie:

Brad and Angelina

Brangelina don’t sweat being unmarried with 6 kids because as Angie told Vanity Fair, “Children are clearly a commitment…it’s for life.”  True that.

I love that they’ve gone on record saying they’re not getting married until all gay people can, though apparently Maddox has started to pressure his parents.  And I respect that they take turns shooting movies so that one of them is always there for the kids.  Dave and I fantasize about being so desirable to work with that companies would plan their multi-million dollar ventures around our personal schedules.  It could happen.

But I’m guessing Angelina never feels weird introducing her “boyfriend” to the new neighbors.

Caring what other people think came as a surprise to me.  When I first realized I was going to be an unmarried mom, I relished the opportunity to flout society’s conventions a little bit.  I grew up in Connecticut.  I barely ever got to flout!  Plus, my technically single status reflected my personal belief that marriage, while nice work if you can get it, is not essential to happiness, love or successful parenting.  But once Dave and I had Viv, this dormant east coast conventionality of mine woke up cringing, and I became unexpectedly self conscious.

Like when I’m at the pediatrician’s office holding our baby and I want badly to be able to say, “My husband will be right back.”  Most substitutions sound silly and vaguely embarrassing in my own ears.   Have a listen:

“My boyfriend” – What am I, a teen mom?  A really haggard, sun damaged, out of shape teen mom?

“My fiancé” – Saying this turns me into one of those annoying women who’ve waited their whole lives to get engaged and now can’t stop flashing their diamond rings while dropping the F bomb, emphasis on the last syllable, accent-aigu-ing all over the place.

“My partner” – Makes me seem pretentious or lesbian.  Would prefer to be thought of as a lesbian, but eventually “my partner” will show up with his penis, and then I’m just pretentious.

“Viv’s dad” – Sounds like we’re divorced, and he only sees her on alternate weekends in his sad studio apartment with takeout pizza and all the violent video games I don’t allow.

“Dave” – Assumes I’m married to a famous Dave who you should know, even if we’ve never met.  Maybe Dave Letterman, or the Dave who founded Wendy’s.  You know, Dave.

 Dave Thomas

Occasionally I’ll use “babydaddy” ironically.  But mostly I just lie and say “my husband.”  Like with our Guatemalan babysitter.  It was hard enough telling her I didn’t take Jesus to be my Lord and Savior (she asked).  I couldn’t also cop to being an unmarried mom.

And once I started lying, it was hard to stop.  The customer service department at Time Warner Cable definitely thinks I have a husband.  (I have rather enjoyed threatening them that my husband will switch to Direct TV.)  So do myriad repair people, shop keepers and UPS guys who fix, sell or deliver something for my husband.

A husband just sounds so respectable, secure, safe.  As a mom, I feel like saying anything other than “husband” raises a question mark next to my name.  Who?  What?  Where?  Why?  Huh?

I’m probably not giving people enough credit.   No one’s tried to burn me at the stake just yet.

My good friend is embarking upon single motherhood by choice, and I’m proud and in awe.  She will be an amazing mom and I’m glad she didn’t forgo her dreams just because Mr. Right is running late.  But it’s not going to be easy.  And public perception shouldn’t be one more thing piled onto her extremely full plate, but I worry that it will be.   Strangers will ask, well meaning, about the baby’s father.  There’s an assumption of a second parent, a second side to the family tree.  The wee world is mainly a “we” world.

So I figure my job is to stop fibbing, get comfortable in my skin, and do a good job raising Viv to know and cherish all different kinds of families.  A play date with Knox Jolie-Pitt would be a nice start. 

 

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10 Comments

  1. Posted January 10, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Amy,

    I LOVE your blog! Lisa wasn’t kidding when she told me what a fabulous writer you are.
    Keep up the wonderful work!

    Best,
    Jen

    • Amy
      Posted January 10, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      Thanks so much Jen!

  2. Jen
    Posted January 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Love the insight into your babydaddy world. And I hope you get a playdate soon!

    • Amy
      Posted January 10, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      Flygirl, keep up the comments. I love them!

  3. Kelly
    Posted March 18, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    I know this response is late. But I’m just discovering your blog for the first time. And everything you said in this post describes my life. Haha. I’ve gone through every single one of these trying to figure out which one sounds right. But our daughter is 16 months and I am learning to accept that my boyfriend, David, and I aren’t even engaged yet. The most judgmental person we have dealt with is his grandmother with her snark comments. “When are you two finally going to have a true Catholic wedding?” or my favorite “David, when are you going to make an honest woman of her”. Ugh! The catholic wedding crap, never going to happen, if she doesn’t like it, she doesn’t have to come. One less person to pay for!! Thank you so much for your blog!

    • Amy
      Posted March 18, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      Kelly, I’m so glad you’re reading the blog and I hope you’ll subscribe. I know the last thing you need when you’re busy taking care of your baby is judgement from family members, but it happens to all of us – even the married ones!

  4. Alison
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    AMEN! I just had my first baby boy (5 weeks early) got engaged 9/1 and the very next day my water broke…. but throughout preganacy and since the arrival of our sweet Cole I struggled with how to address my baby daddy, boyfriend, fiance… (I can’t even spell it)! I prefer MY CHRIS. Ha! Love your blog! I too am living proof of “carriage before marriage”

    • Posted September 19, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

      Alison, so glad you found the blog! “My Chris” is perfect, I might borrow that (except I’ll use “Dave.”).

  5. ELLEBIZZY
    Posted March 14, 2013 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Oh I can soooo relate to this! None of the labels fit – someone needs to invent a new word! I find myself referring to my man as my husband all the time – but then I feel guilty because (1) it’s not technically true and (2) when we do get married, I will have ruined the excitement of calling him my husband for the first time…

    • Posted March 14, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      Ellebizzy, this post also ran on Huffington Post and one of the commenters suggested “boy band” – like, half boyfriend, half husband. Cracked me up.

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