Apropos of nothing, I recently got an earworm, that piece of music that continuously, uncontrollably runs through your mind. I can’t even remember when I last heard this particular song. Yet — all day, for several days — I’ve had the Backstreet Boys singing “As Long As You Love Me” in my head on repeat. Annoying, right? But worse than that, without their cute faces and stylish dance moves, the lyrics of the chorus strike me as quite problematic, if not ridiculous, in almost every context.
We’ve come to a point in our lives, my boyfriend and I, where we think about leaving, not each other, but leaving this world… as in dying. We can’t help it; we are faced with this thought all the time.
I saw my father’s slow decline by stroke-induced dementia. I watched this proud, macho, intelligent man, who would have said “shoot me first”, slowly become a child-like version of his former self, unaware of where he was, which was a good thing because he was in a nursing home and in diapers. Luckily, he forgot his wish of being shot first, never asked any of us to oblige, and passed peacefully. My boyfriend flew back and forth to Ohio repeatedly for several years helping two parents with Parkinson’s disease as they struggled to walk, talk, sit, eat, and eventually even breathe. They, too, are gone. And now, I am helping my 90-year-old mom adjust to living in an apartment in a senior community where there is a lot of assistance to make her life easy. It is easy, yes, but it is still not her home. Many of our generation share similar experiences; many of us also say “shoot me first”.
We are at that age now, my boyfriend and I, where (among other things) the term “boyfriend” should not be unacceptable. I should start over and call him my …what? My partner? We are not gay or living together so that seems misleading. My fiancé? He did surprise me with a lovely diamond ring but it came without a proposal for marriage. I could be more hip and call him “my honey”, “my man”, or “my guy”. None of those feels quite right or very wrong, unless we are in casual company.
In Italy, people of a certain age use the term “fidanzato” or “fidanzata”, which signifies a serious relationship between two adults without a declared path to the altar. Do we have an equivalent in English? None that I’ve found. Help! What are the rest of the grown-ups doing?