“This is my partner, Meg.”
I remember that transition. It was weird. You had to call your unmarried live-in main-squeeze SOMETHING and “partner” was the word that seemed to have the most caché. It wasn’t sexist or diminishing like “girlfriend” or “boyfriend.” Meg would always be willowy and faux-independent. She would cling to Larry’s arm more tightly than would a wife, but they were in an open relationship.
I always thought Larry was in an open relationship. Meg was probably hoping to get married, but I was probably wrong.
In my life, the word “pardner” was nicer. It was a word my Uncle Hank would say to me to get me away from the noise of the family, whatever noise — my mom and her sisters, my cousins, my brother, whatever was going on that made me unhappy. “C’mon pardner, I have a job for you,” and I would follow him. Sometimes we’d go to the garage and work on a car. Sometimes we’d go to the shop and he’d show me his latest saw or the boxes he was making. Sometimes we’d just take a slow walk to the back 40 and back to the house.
When I was grown up, sometimes it was my idea. “You wanna’ go for a ride out west of town in Little Red?” (the name of his old Mitsubishi small pickup. The first time I proposed this — and we went — he said, “Well by golly, Martha Ann, you can drive a stick.”
“You wanna’ go get coffee at McDonalds?” (He liked that.) “You want to go shopping for Jo’s Christmas present?” (That was a howl for both of us.)
Pardnership is knowing your pal well enough to know when they need to escape, and good pardnerships are rare. I miss my pardner very much.