(The Root) —
"I read something about a woman who was dating a guy for six months and he didn't introduce her when they ran into people. It got me thinking — does it matter if your boyfriend introduces you like 'This is Gina' instead of saying, 'This is my girlfriend, Gina'? Does saying 'girlfriend' first mean anything more than just saying the name?" —C.W.
I'll probably tick off a lot of people and upset a lot of "relationships" by saying this, but yes, it means something more. It changes the way you are treated and perceived; a title or lack thereof is one indicator about the seriousness of the relationship.
Over the weekend, I attended a birthday celebration for a friend of my parents. It was a grand event with lots of people they didn't know. We all had the honoree in common, so it made it easy to mingle. Without fail, everyone we met introduced themselves and whoever they were with as, "my wife, Gina," "my husband, Martin" or "my daughter Ashley."
There's a reason for that. Not only does it establish the relationship, but it also gives a cue as to how you should respectfully proceed in engaging each of the parties.
"This is Gina" tells the person that you're being introduced by nothing but your name. Gina could be a co-worker or a random woman he just met, and she could be fair game to approach about a date. It's unclear and can make for awkward situations.
"My wife, so-and-so, or "my girlfriend" — that is, claiming someone — lets the person you're speaking to know that there is a relationship in place and what kind. The title used denotes the importance of the relationship. Titles are also subtle signals that say, "Hands off. She's taken. Do not approach."
Our group has been introduced to various women over the years — so many that we've lost count. He introduces them as "This is Gina" or even, like the guy you referred to, not at all, which, frankly, is just poor manners, likely combined with a lack of any real interest. We all note when there is no title or no introduction, so we engage in minimal small talk to be polite. The unspoken assumption, however, is that he's not serious about this one and she'll be replaced soon enough, so there's no sense in getting to know her too well or making a big to-do. She's a date for the evening. Maybe we'll see her again, but likely not.
At this very swank affair, my friend arrived with a woman I'd never seen before, which was expected. Usually my interactions with him include some sort of teasing about him soon running out of women in New York's tristate area to date. He knows this and I know this. And that is why promptly, upon spotting me, he came over with his lady beside him and said, "D, this is my girlfriend, Gina."
This required a new approach. "Gina! It's so nice to meet you. I've heard so much about you," I lied (about the last part) while going in for a hug. I was headed to the bar and invited "Gina" to go with me to keep her company while her man took her coat to be checked. I bothered to get to know her and her details. The title said that she was special, so she was treated as such.
And not just by me. Everyone made a fuss to make sure she felt welcome. Her title as "girlfriend" meant that she was an extension of our friend and not another random woman he was bringing around, like all of the others.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.