Well, it's happened again. The first time was a few months ago when I was speaking to a rental car agent. "Will my partner be able to drive on my policy?" I inquired. "Is she licensed?, he asked. "He is, but not in this state" I corrected, and we went about our discussion.
"I'd like to make reservations for my partner and myself, " I said on the phone a few weeks ago. "And her name is....?" asked the reservationist, Hmmmm, said I to myself. Maybe this automatic assumption is just a product of living in the San Francisco Bay Area, heart of political correctness.
This morning, on the phone with a New York producer of a prospective television show I asked "Will my partner be involved in any way?" "Only if she wants to be," was his response.
Well damn. When did the gender neutral term of "partner" become universal code for "same sex partner"? The same time the polite response to "Thank You" ceased being "You're welcome" and became "No problem"?
Perhaps it's a generational thing. My daughter, in her early 40's, insists anyone will assume that if I say "my partner" I mean my same sex partner and if I want to avoid that assumption I should say "my boyfriend." At my age? The last time I thought of the male in my life as a boyfriend was in junior high school. "My lover" brings to mind lascivious twining of naked limbs, not at all the image I want conjured when conducting a polite conversation. "My significant other" sounds too sociological, "my special friend" too coy, my "companion" sounds like a paid position and "my mate" smacks of Tarzan and Jane. Then what is an adult to call another adult who shares her bed and her life and is not a legally wedded spouse? Certainly not "my housemate".