DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a 21-year-old woman who is very close with my 86-year-old grandmother, and I see her weekly. Sometimes when my friends come up in conversation, my grandmother will refer to the female ones as my “girlfriends.”
I refer to all my friends as “friends,” regardless of gender. I am also bisexual, which my grandmother knows and accepts, but she continues to refer to my female friends as “girlfriends,” even knowing the possibility that I could have a romantic girlfriend.
I have politely corrected her when she refers to a female friend as my girlfriend -- ”I’m not dating her, we’re just friends” -- but she continues to do it. She is in good shape, physically and mentally, and she holds progressive opinions, so it’s likely not a matter of an old dog not being able to learn new tricks.
Is this an ingrained generational difference, or could I persuade her differently?
GENTLE READER: No, and probably not.
The fact is that even now, many people, young and old, use “girlfriend” in either sense -- as the female in a friendship or in a romance. You are not going to win that one.
Miss Manners suggests that you try teaching your grandmother to refer to your romantic interests as “partners” -- and try learning not to be upset if she doesn’t.