Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The F Word

I have to confess something. I hate the F word.

No, not that one. I quite like that one. Actually, when Mr. T and I first started dating, he told me I swore too much. Can you imagine? A belly dancer with a mouth like a sailor. Well, I guess you can imagine, since you know me. I've calmed it down, though.

The F word in question is "fiancee." I feel so pretentious saying it. I've only managed to introduce Mr. T as my fiancee once, and that was to the coordinator at Venue #1, who knew already (so I couldn't just say boyfriend).

Isn't there a better word for this? Do we need some pompous French word*? I suppose I could say "intended" or "betrothed," if I wanted to step back in time a couple of hundred years, that is.

Mr. T and I use the word in private all the time, as kind of a sweet joke. "Who's my favorite fiancee?" "Come over here and kiss your fiancee!" That kind of stuff. But it's not really meant for public consumption (although now I've just told all of you).

The pretentious feeling I get when I say "fiancee" in public reminds me of the David Sedaris story "The Ship-Shape" (since renamed), where he and his mom overhear the woman talking about her second house. I heard him read this and it was hilarious, and I think about it everytime I hear the F word. "Oh, this is my fiancee..."

Here's the blurb I'm thinking of, courtesy of the New Yorker:
My mother and I were at the dry cleaner’s, standing behind a woman we had never seen. “A nice-looking woman,” my mother would later say. “Well put together. Classy.” The woman was dressed for the season in a light cotton shift patterned with oversize daisies. Her shoes matched the petals and her purse, which was black-and-yellow striped, hung over her shoulder, buzzing the flowers like a lazy bumblebee. She handed in her claim check, accepted her garments, and then expressed gratitude for what she considered to be fast and efficient service. “You know,” she said, “people talk about Raleigh but it isn’t really true, is it?”

The Korean man nodded, the way you do when you’re a foreigner and understand that someone has finished a sentence. He wasn’t the owner, just a helper who’d stepped in from the back, and it was clear he had no idea what she was saying.

“My sister and I are visiting from out of town,” the woman said, a little louder now, and again the man nodded. “I’d love to stay awhile longer and explore, but my home, well, one of my homes is on the garden tour, so I’ve got to get back to Williamsburg.”

I was eleven years old, yet still the statement seemed strange to me. If she’d hoped to impress the Korean, the woman had obviously wasted her breath, so who was this information for?

“My home, well, one of my homes”; by the end of the day my mother and I had repeated this line no less than fifty times. The garden tour was unimportant, but the first part of her sentence brought us great pleasure. There was, as indicated by the comma, a pause between the words “home” and “well,” a brief moment in which she’d decided, Oh, why not? The following word— “one”—had blown from her mouth as if propelled by a gentle breeze, and this was the difficult part. You had to get it just right or else the sentence lost its power. Falling somewhere between a self-conscious laugh and a sigh of happy confusion, the “one” afforded her statement a double meaning. To her peers it meant, “Look at me, I catch myself coming and going!” and to the less fortunate it was a way of saying, “Don’t kid yourself, it’s a lot of work having more than one house.”

The first dozen times we tried it our voices sounded pinched and snobbish, but by midafternoon they had softened. We wanted what this woman had. Mocking her made it seem hopelessly unobtainable, and so we reverted to our natural selves.

“My home, well, one of my homes . . .” My mother said it in a rush, as if she were under pressure to be more specific. It was the same way she said, “My daughter, well, one of my daughters,” but a second home was more prestigious than a second daughter, and so it didn’t really work. I went in the opposite direction, exaggerating the word “one” in a way that was guaranteed to alienate my listener.

I just love David Sedaris. I recommend the whole article if you've got some time. Anyway, back to me. So, what do I call Mr. T? "Boyfriend" seems so inadequate now. And it's clearly not like I'm not happy we're engaged!

Perhaps it's something one gets used to?


*Note to all French people: No offense intended. I'm French-Canadian, so I feel like I can take these liberties.

3 comments:

Pica Maloria said...

I've always been a fan of consort.
Attachè - no, still french.

bilunabirotunda said...

The editor is coming to the top, and I have to point out that I'm pretty sure that Mr T is your fiance and you are his fiancee. Not that that helps in the slightest!

Since I also hated the word boyfriend, Erik and I agreed at one point that I would call him Bloodaxe the Inamorato.

tina walsch said...

in these days of BFF and FIL, you could always go with SO, which you can both use, or HTB (which has the feminine BTB, for use by Mr.T)

You know, I can't really do the Mr. T. Sometimes I call Mr. Tice that, so it's a little akward for me. I'll have to stick with "Toddy."

And this is my last comment for the day-- i need to actually do some work now.

...Do you have to check back over your entries to see if someone commented?? Just curious. :-)