I’ve always hated the phrase ‘my other half’ – it implies a lack of completeness about me. That I, on my own, am never quite full or rounded. Not quite enough.
I hate ‘him indoors,’ which implies the kind of comfortable, settled domesticity that I’ve never really felt with anyone.
I’m ambivalent about ‘boyfriend’ and ‘partner’ feels too grown up.
I panic at the thought of a ‘husband.’
‘Boy’ is becoming tired, and not a natural descriptor for someone in their 30s.
Says ‘girl’ on the net. At the age of 30.
‘Mate’ is either too pally or too like an Attenborough documentary, depending on how you interpret it.
‘Lover’ makes me cringe.
Some days he’s my guy, my dude. That dickhead. And often he’s a twat.
But maybe my obsession with the lack of a proper word belies what the actual problem is with any of these statements: the ‘my’ that comes at the front of them.
No one is ever mine, of course.
There are a million and one reasons why I’ll say I’m complete without someone – I can do everything on my own. There’s nothing that I do when I’m with someone that I wouldn’t do without them. From paying the rent to putting up shelves, doing the weekly shop and throwing a birthday party. The implication that I must have help makes me angry when I’m single – these tasks don’t get only half done if there’s no one else to chip in.
But when I talk like that, with an angry, feisty stamp – when I bang on about the value of independence and the fact that I’m actually pretty damn capable, thank you very much, I’m probably doing a disservice to the guy who supports me. Sure, I could do it all alone, but he does more than just hold one half of the shelf while I mark off the drill hole on the wall. He does more than carry half the shopping.
He does things that I badly need, and don’t know that I need until he does them. He sits with me on the District line for 30 minutes, and listens to me reel off an anxious list of everything I need to do that week, in the cracked voice of someone who will not manage to do them. He wraps a blanket around me on the sofa and watches tears of exhaustion fall from my eyes. He finds me when I’m lost. He puts me to bed.
Maybe the reason ‘other half’ feels so tempting isn’t because we feel complete when we’re happy. It’s not because suddenly everything falls into place when you pair up with someone, like the jigsaw puzzle of your life has always been missing a piece. ‘Other half’ appeals as a phrase because sometimes that other person’s not there, and you realise that over time they’d become a vital part of the equation.
Like every year you tip slightly further towards them, until they’re partially propping you up. So when they’re not there it feels like you’re falling.
And at that point ‘other half’ feels natural: it’s the ‘my’ that sounds misplaced. And you feel absurd for not checking before you leant against it, or for leaning too hard when you got comfortable.
For the unthinking, preposterous assumption that it was ever really yours.