Since our writers’ group officially established itself at Casa Ana 10 days ago, we’ve had several wonderful evenings at Carlos’ place. Of the 8 writers in our group, 5 of us are women. In our first getting-to-know-each-other day, the women quickly ‘found’ each other and organized dinner out at Carlos’ restaurant. (The 3 men were invited but declined). Our group consisted of 2 Canadians (myself and a woman from Victoria BC), an American living in London, a Russian living outside London, and an American living in Boston, ranging in ages from 40 to 55-ish! Carlos, clearly accustomed to using charm in such a female presence, generously poured ‘vino tinto’ and ‘vino blanco’ and set his playlist to alternate between Spanish flamenco, American jazz classics like Oscar Peterson’s “It’s a wonderful world” with instrumental Sinatra as transition. You might predict, we started sharing our personal ‘back-stories’ filling in our past and present relationship histories.
A question posed by our Russian friend [J], self-described as valuing ‘passion’ above all else in her writing, became the focus of laughter, debate, story-telling, and bonding – ‘What [relationship] word do you use to refer to the significant man/men (in our cases) in our lives?’ Ask a bunch of writers (who also happen to be women) this question and the answers occupied our entire evening into the next day. One by one, some or all of us rejected each term proposed, with [J] expressing the most frequent and vehement vetos in the way only an elegant Russian woman can – shaking her head, still smiling, with a hint of disgust. We compared translations from our shared knowledge of other ‘romance’ languages (French, Russian, Spanish, Italian) and still came up short. Here is the publishable list of rejections … “let me introduce my …
- boyfriend (we’re all too old)
- chum (not familiar enough)
- friend (boring, not meaningful)
- close friend (ditto)
- guy (too slangy, too generic)
- husband (if accurate, minimally satisfactory, but more often n/a)
- live-in (too much about the address)
- live-out (ditto)
- love (yes, but doesn’t always work at cocktail parties)
- lover (too focussed on the physical)
- man (too much machismo)
- partner (too legal)
- significant other (too English, too technical)
- sweetheart (too saccharine)
The evening ended and we still had no consensus and no further creativity, but we knew each other quite a bit more over only a few hours. The next day at our breakfast we shared a little of this discussion with the men in our group (a Swede living between Stockholm and Budapest, an Irishman living in Germany for many years, and a Welshman living in Newcastle) but there was no further inspiration, though we did hear more from the male point of view on this topic.
When we ran into Clem (west Ireland, now living in Spain) at Casa Ana later, we polled him for his opinion and any further contributions. And after pausing for a moment, he came back with “my ride” and “my pair”, which [J] heard and interpreted as “my right” and “my pear”. Within minutes we all seized on “pair” that became “pear” or as our own version of an alternate, “apple” – sweet/sour/tart-ish, many varieties, distinct, a hint of passion, still mysterious. And the term has stuck – across languages and cultures, we constructed a temporary discursive community of our own. So if you ever come across a novel or short story where the author refers to her / his love as their ‘pear’ or ‘apple’, you’re probably reading something by one of these Casa Ana writers!