THE BLOG
06/18/2014 03:29 pm ET Updated Aug 18, 2014

A Taxonomy of Boyfriends

Francesco Carta fotografo via Getty Images

Heterosexual women have a lot of boyfriends who are not really our boyfriends. Rather, they are our boy friends, "boyfriends," and boys.

Boy friends are honest-to-goodness friends who are male. We don't want them as husbands or lovers. We'll probably make out with them at some point, but in a wholesome Family Games Night way. Also, we are obligated to despise our boy friends' girlfriends, whenever the girlfriends are nice, waify, and named something like Elyza.

We refer to boy friends by their first and last name, like Ryan Black or Josh Walton.

Question: What if I am attracted to my boy friend?

Then he is not your boy friend, he is your...

"Boyfriend" -- These are guys we sarcastically refer to as boyfriends -- like how you teased people in grade school, "Ohhhh is he your boyyyyfriend" -- but the teasing is self-inflicted and self-deprecating. "Boyfriends" are guys whom we've never dated, but have flirtated, which is a word I made up right now to mean long-term, significant flirtation.

Specific "boyfriends" are referred to by an identifying qualifier, like Chemistry Boyfriend, Starbucks Boyfriend, or Treadmill Boyfriend.

Question: Can I hook up with a "boyfriend"?

Yes! You absolutely can and should. Chemistry Boyfriend will be your lab partner for a semester before you find yourselves studying for the final together in an abandoned classroom. Starbucks Boyfriend will order a double macchiato in front of you every weekday until you happen upon him ordering a double whiskey in a bar. Treadmill Boyfriend will give you a ride home from the gym the night when your car won't start. These scenarios all sound like the starts to plebeian pornos, which they kind of are. Sex with a "boyfriend" will be some of the most exhilarating sex of your life due to the months of accumulating desire. They key is that you accumulate this desire--that you maintain a relationship of subtly conveyed, consensual sexual interest long enough for him to qualify as a "boyfriend." If you hook up on the first encounter, he is actually a...

Boy/Guy/Man -- This relationship comprises an isolated romantic or sexual event, such as a first-and-last date, a one-night stand, or a noteworthy dance floor make out. Particular Boys are also given an identifying qualifier, such as Khakis Guy, Fireman Man, Generic Club Boy 1, Generic Club Boy 2, and I'm not going to tell you how many Generic Club Boys there have been.

Question: What if I really start to date a boy, "boyfriend," or boy friend?

Ha! I doubt that you will. I've heard of it happening, but never to someone I've known directly. A friend of a friend transformed Generic Club Boy 7 into a live-in boyfriend. My cousin's yoga instructor married her Optometrist Boyfriend. But if this does miraculously happen to you -- if your "boyfriend" becomes a boyfriend -- you must cease referring to him as Late Night Dominoes Boyfriend and begin calling him your...

Boyfriend -- This is an established companion and sexual partner for a month or longer. The relationship is officially consummated by changing BOTH of your Facebook relationship statuses from single to in a relationship.

Question: What if I'm obnoxious and presume the whole world knows/cares that I have a boyfriend?

Then you refer to him as Dan or Chris or Henry or whatever his name is, and you refer to him incessantly. You speak in the "we" a lot, even when he's absent. "We're training for a marathon." "We're going to the Cape this weekend." "We're worried that you're drinking too much."

(Girl friends with boyfriends can be so condescending.)

Now that you understand the taxonomy of boyfriends, see if you can follow this hypothetical brunch conversation!

It's Sunday and too bright. It's always too bright on Sundays when you're hung over. Four young women huddle around a table. The rest of the diner is hectic, unpredictable motion, clanking, and baby wails, but their table is tranquil and grounded, with big cups of much-needed water.

Lauren is too perky, with a prim dress and straightened hair. She woke up early, went for a run, and showered before brunch. She did not go out last night and is basking in vitality. She did not go out last night because she has a boyfriend.

The other women tolerate Lauren's behavior because they've all been that girl friend with a boyfriend at some point.

Sarah, Kristen, and Maddie exhibit differing expressions of dishevelment. Sarah is in a college letter sweater, spandex, and L.L. Bean boots. Kristen tries to conceal her state with sunglasses and a voluminous scarf. Maddie wears a dinosaur tee shirt and a pained expression. She has to hold the big water cup to her forehead. The women have unkempt hair and entrance stamps on their hands. Except Lauren, Little Miss Not Hungover, la de dah.

"So what happened with Hat Boy?"

"He came home with me and we made out for like four hours and then he left."

"Did he ask for your number?"

“No. Nothing. Four hours! What the fuck! Who makes out for four hours? I could have been sleeping.”

“He probably has a girlfriend.”

“He definitely has a girlfriend.”

“Did he try to have sex?”

“No! Four hours! My face hurts. What about Tie Guy?”

“We had sex.”

“Did he get your number?”

“Yeah, but it was weird.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t remember his name so I just entered his number as Tie Guy.”

“Where did he go to school?”

“Brown.”

“Was he on a sports team?”

“Baseball.”

“Is this him?” Maddie holds up a Facebook page on her phone.

“Oh yeah, definitely.”

“He looks familiar. I think Steven worked with him at Bain. We’ll get his back story for you.”

“Eh whatever. So how did it go with Texas Man last week?”

“Meh. We met for a 5 p.m. Sunday beer and then I pretended like I had dinner plans. He was a little too Texas.”

“Ohmygod -- isn’t that your Law School Boyfriend?” Kristen points across the room.

“It is! I’ve never seen him outside of the library.”

“Who is he with?”

“I don’t know, but she looks terrible.” Terrible meaning pretty and intimidating.

“What’s his name again?”

“Chris something. Chris Jones? Chris Johnson?”

“Chris James.” Maddie displays his Facebook page on her phone.

“Is he in a relationship?”

“It doesn’t say.”

“Is she in any of his pictures?”

“They’re blocked.”

“Come on, they’re out to brunch on a Sunday. They’re obviously dating.”

“Not necessarily. I brunch with Ryan Black all the time.”

“Yeah, and his girlfriend comes.”

“Not always and when she does she’s irrelevant. She only speaks to order her virgin mimosa.”

“So… orange juice?”

“Orange juice and ginger ale.”

“I cannot believe he dates her.”

The conversation is interrupted by the grand arrival of food.

Lauren pokes at her omelet and says to the waitress, “I’m sorry, but I asked for egg whites. We’re watching our cholesterol.”

Annelia Alex blogs at bannelia.com