Kind of a miscellaneous gripe today, folks, but bear with me. I know they’re in vogue and tend to share well on social media (ah, so many writers are the mercy of the algorithm gods), but I generally don’t do a lot of ranty, complaining posts because… I don’t rant a lot in real life?
But the truth is that I do have some pet peeves. And I’d like to talk about an itty bitty one today that I find myself butting against quite often.
And that’s the fact that while there are tons of gender-neutral forms (they/xe/ze/partner/spouse/joyfriend, etc), there’s a distinctive lack of quantity-neutral forms. The ones we do have are pretty awkward.
Here, allow me to demonstrate, using a real-life example:
So I wanted to tweet about how grateful I am to have my partner in my life. I was just feeling that. While I’m ambiamorous (meaning, I’m about equally as happy being in a monogamous relationship versus being part of a polyamorous relationship system), at the current time, I’m only seeing one person (who is a great person by the way).
So without thinking too hard about it, I wrote the following tweet: “I’m on Team My Partner Is Awesome and I’m Lucky to Have Them in My Life.”
Because this is quite accurate. My partner generally uses he/him pronouns, but he also doesn’t care if I use “they” when I talk about him — like when I want something to apply to more people (so they can relate to it more easily) or if I’m trying to be vague about who I’m talking about. (Related: I change the genders of the people I write about all the time, in advice letters and in the stories I tell, in order to protect their identities, along with other identifying details.)
If I were seeing multiple folks right now, I would have naturally written it in plural, like this: “I’m on Team My Partners Are Awesome and I’m Lucky to Have Them in My Life.” (At my busiest, I was dating five people at once.) But I’m not at the moment.
Longing for a Less Awkward Quantity-Neutral Construction
Anyhow, Poly Land’s readership is about a third monogamous, a third ambiamorous, and a third polyamorous. (Really, the one unifying factor is that our readers are generally interested in relationships, relatively prosocial/kind, and aren’t aggressively anti-polyamory in their attitudes — aside from the few who do in fact hate read us. Hello, hate readers! I appreciate you. <3 )
And even some of our polyamorous readers only have one partner (since you can still be polyamorous even if you’re only dating one person at any given time).
Some of our readers (whether they consider themselves monogamous, polyamorous, ambiamorous, etc.) are single — either by choice or chance.
So it actually took a bit before I got some people who were a little miffed that I hadn’t constructed the tweet in plural.
I thought about creating something that essentially was quantity neutral — but it looks/sounds so damn awkward (and is really hard to read aloud). Here:
“I’m on Team My Partner(s) Is/Are Awesome and I’m Lucky to Have Them in My Life.”
I found myself saying (not for the first time), “Damn it, I wish there were an easy quantity-neutral construction.”
What I Ended Up Doing
Anyway, in this particular case, I ended up tweeting a couple of amendments, replies to my original tweet:
Tweet 2: “Team My Partners Are Awesome…” is a synonym and the same team.
Tweet 3: “Team My Partner Is Awesome and My Other Partners Is Also Awesome…” is another synonym and still the same team. Yay for awesome partners. We are so lucky.
Because honestly, I wasn’t trying to leave anyone out. I was just tweeting about the particulars of my personal circumstance. We’re all on the same team.
So yeah. I’m still longing for better quantity-neutral forms. Ones that are easier to read/say.
I thought I’d turn it to you, dear readers. Do you know of ones that I haven’t thought of? Something other than the strategies I’ve covered in this piece (partner(s) is/are OR adding on messaging that the singular or plural case also applies after declaring the other).
It would be particularly cool to have something that’s explicitly quantity neutral and doesn’t resemble either plural or singular construction.
Perhaps you can come up with one on the spot! Feel free to comment or write me directly via the site.
Thanks in advance. And thanks for being all on the same team — regardless of our personal circumstances at any given moment.