Editors, the Gauntlet
A recent Gauntlet article illustrated the pet peeve women have with men who don't call. Since we're airing grievances on the opposite sex, I would like to file a complaint about the usage of the word "boyfriend" among some of the females among us.
Now let me explain. I'm not saying that boyfriend/girlfriend is a term that should be removed from the lexicon of interaction, just that there should be some rules to govern its use.
The word boyfriend usually either enters too early or too late when you meet a girl. Sometimes, you'll be just making conversation, you really aren't hitting on the girl. You say something like "man what a wank that prof is." She says "yeah my boyfriend thinks he's a wank too." Her boyfriend is not present, never took a class from the prof and lives in Ohio. Really, it's uncalled for. There are more subtle ways of delivering the PFO (Please Fuck Off). It creates a totally awkward point in conversation and there's little you can do aside from say "oh, did you think I was hitting on you? That's pretty arrogant" and walk off. But most of us really wouldn't stoop so low. It would feel nice, but men always have to show some measure of dignity and class.
The obvious use of the word "boyfriend" in the above case is to say not only that "I'm taken," but to say "even if I wasn't, I wouldn't go out with you." The exact opposite case is also quite common. You get to know girl A or B and have interesting conversations, and eventually get to the point where you ask her for a coffee or what have you and have absolutely no clue that she has a Significant Other. You usually inadvertently find out that she has an so when you're about to make your move. Usually this case represents a loss of several months of your A material being expended on someone who is "off the market." Meanwhile girl B, who was previously single, now has an so.
I can totally understand this from a woman's point of view. A lot of "softballs" that we men lob up to figure out a girl's status are completely useless. Phrases such as "what did you do on the weekend" or "what did you do last night" will rarely elicit the response "my boyfriend and I rented a movie then fucked." (direct quote from a female friend on this issue). It's understandable that women don't use the boyfriend phrase in these situations. Realistically, the word "boyfriend" doesn't come up much in conversation.
Sometimes the benign ignorance approach on the part of females is quite damaging. I can remember being at a big party and this guy was really hung up on a female friend of mine. They were dancing the night away and having fun and he slipped his phone number and address into her purse, hoping to see her before he moved away. He asked me, "hey who's that guy she's talking to?" I had to reply, "man, that's her boyfriend. They live together." The guy's face just dropped and I felt really bad for him. I did laugh my ass Off though- he looked like he was about to assume the fetal position.
This is what I suggest to remedy the problem: First, the word "boyfriend" can't enter into your first conversation unless he is actually in your physical presence. Telling a guy you have a boyfriend after just one sentence is rude, even for bar trolls. Second, after two weeks of general conversation the word boyfriend must somehow slip into conversation. It won't seem like a blunt PFO then. If the guy ceases to be interested in your conversation, then you know all he wanted to do was get in your pants.
Actually, forget it, that's all way too complicated. What we should really do is attach a little toe tag on our shoes to denote that we're single. You want to know if someone single, just look at their shoes. When you enter a relationship, you take each other's shoe tag. Break-ups would be so much simpler, you just give the other person their toe tag back.