The editors of the Associated Press Stylebook announced on Twitter that they will no longer use the “archaic and sexist” term “mistress.” They now recommend as alternatives, “companion” or “friend” or “lover.” The reason, if you consider this “reasonable” is: “mistress” isn’t “gender neutral” I guess that’s in case your husband is stepping out with a guy. You don’t want the poor guy to be offended. Second reason: “mistress” supposedly places the blame on the woman rather than the man. Well, okay. I don’t see it, but I also wouldn’t want to see the woman taking the blame. But then, the “person” your wife/husband is cheating with — given that your husband or wife pledged to be faithful to you forever — plainly must be aware they are aiding and abetting that breach of faith.
But let’s face it: “friend” or “companion” do not imply, in my style book, the sacred and intimate sexual violation that the supposedly archaic word “mistress” seems to carry with it — dating back, as it does, to those times when the sharing of the sexual bond was unalterably understood to be, yes, sacred and exclusive (under penalty of sin, if not civil law). Call me old fashioned, I guess.
As for “lover” — who’s to say there’s any love involved? Maybe it’s all about money. You know — “sugar daddy” — or, lest I be sexist — “sugar mommy.” In fact, the AP Stylebook had stipulated that “mistress” should apply only to those instances where there is a long-term sexual relationship with a married man from whom the woman is receiving financial support. That sounds right.
To me, there is something appropriately odious about the word — “mistress.” But…friends, companions, lovers, countrymen…and countrypersons….let’s just quit the hanky-panky, okay? (Now there’s a phrase you probably won’t find in the AP Stylebook.)
And by the way, what happens when you change the headline BEZOS PROBE CONCLUDES MISTRESS’ BROTHER WAS ENQUIRER SOURCE to COMPANION’S BROTHER WAS ENQUIRER SOURCE. In the former, as I read it, you instantly detect a possibly malicious intent; in the latter — well, some “companion” at the party just let it slip. We all know companions — and friends — can’t keep secrets. Lovers — maybe.
Whatever. There must be something else I can waste my time writing about tonight, since, pace the poet Marvell, I do have “world enough, and time….”