Wednesday, September 03, 2008

First partners

As the bishop might have said to the actress, pushing back her advances: "These days, a lot of ladies are trying to be first."

Ancient joke, which amused me when I was twelve years old.
A guy asks his mate: "Who was that lady I saw you with last night? "
Reply: "She's no lady. That's my wife."

The First Lady terminology is old hat and rather sexist. Not at all politically correct. What would have happened if Hillary Clinton had become president? Would Bill have been referred to as the First Lord?

What would happen if the elected president of a republic happened to be lesbian, and married to a woman. The latter would be merely the Second Lady.

Here in France, we recently had a First Divorcee. Then Carla Bruni was the First Partner for a short time, before becoming a full-fledged honorable First Lady.

Language would have to evolve just as rapidly as our morals if ever a gay president were to be elected.

Maybe the ideal situation would consist of reverting to the way things were at the time of Général de Gaulle. It would have been unthinkable for "Aunt Yvonne" (as she was called affectionately) to set aside her knitting in order to play some kind of semi-official role. Up until now, Carla Sarkozy has expressed no desire to break into the fascinating world of knitting. And we might suppose that Bertrand Delanoé's companion (if he exists) is even less excited by this noble activity. So, we need to get adjusted to this new world in which we now live. To start the ball of wool rolling, I suggest that the sexless expression "First Partner" be adopted from now on to designate the president's favorite companion. With a minimum of poetic license, this expression might even be used in the case of a president living alone with his/her favorite dog or cat, say. Taking things to extremes, even an exotic beast such as an Alaskan moose could theoretically become a First Partner.

2 comments:

Sueblimely said...

Maybe it should be the 'Presidential Partner' rather than 'First'. Perhaps the latter term should only be used when there actually is more than one - as in Bill, Hilary and Monica?

William Skyvington said...

The old-fashioned habit of categorizing particular people as a function of their affinity with other individuals seems to be receding. Eleanor Roosevelt was officially the first lady of the USA up until her husband's death in 1945. But it was only later that she became in fact the outstanding stateswoman whom President Truman referred to as the First Lady of the World. I would imagine that an admired singer such as Carla Bruni probably gets a pleasant kick out of being addressed as Madame Sarkozy, but no polite title is likely to hide her authentic personal and artistic identity. In French, the same word, "femme", is used both for woman and wife. So, I've often felt that a Frenchman, introducing his wife to others, seems to be saying: "Here's the female who belongs to me." Personally, I dislike the notion of putting people into slots of any kind whatsoever. Life must be hard for individuals born with a family name such as Roosevelt, Mussolini or even Picasso.