Singing of relationships with significant others

May 18, 1994|By MIKE ROYKO

(Mike Royko is on vacation. In his absence, we are reprinting some of his favorite columns. This column was originally published on June 3, 1981.)

He was staring morosely into his beer and every so often he'd sigh deeply. The bartender was too smart to ask him what the problem was. But I wasn't.

What's bothering you? I asked.

He shook his head and said: "I just ended a . . . we just ended . . ." And his voice choked and cracked.

Ended what?

"We ended . . . a . . . relationship."

A relationship?

"Yeah. She broke off our . . . relationship."

I bought him a beer, advised him not to let life wear him down, and quickly moved on.

I'm not without sympathy, but I hate the word "relationship." If he had told me he suffered a shattered romance or a broken love affair, I'd have stuck around and endured the boredom. But I refuse to listen to someone blubber about a "relationship."

What an awful word. It's the kind of sterile word used by lawyers and sociologists and other menaces.

Exactly when the word "relationship" began being used as a substitute for a romance or love affair, I don't know. But that's the way people talk now.

And not only does it sound like something out of this impersonal, computerized, digital, credit card era, but what does it rhyme with?

That's the real question. Try to rhyme relationship with something. Battleship? Landing strip? Broken hip? Scholarship?

With words like that, how are we ever going to have schmaltzy poems and heart-plucking love songs?

Sure, you can string together a few words like relationship. But can you imagine anyone ever saying: "They're playing our song" when they hear: "We started our relationship, on a landing strip, while watching a Messerschmitt fly by"?

If the word "relationship" had been in use over the years, I hate to even think about the popular love songs we would have been hearing.

How about this: "I'm in the mood for a relationship, simply because you're near me."

Or: "You've got to give a little, take a little and let your poor heart break a little: That's the story of, that's the glory of a relationship."

How about the classic "Stardust"? "Tho' I dream in vain, in my heart it always will remain: My stardust melody, the memory of relationship's refrain."

From the Beatles we would have: "Yesterday, relationship was such an easy game to play: Now I need a place to hide away. I believe in yesterday."

I can go on and on. So I will.

* "Fish got to swim and birds got to fly, I got to have a relationship with one man till I die; can't help relatin' to that man of mine."

* "I can't give you anything but a relationship, baby; that's the only think I've plenty of, baby."

* "Oh, how we danced on the night we were wed; we vowed our true relationship, though a word wasn't said."

* "You made me relate to you, I didn't want to do it, I didn't want to do it."

* "What the world needs now is relationship, sweet relationship. It's the only thing there's just too little of."

* "Relationship is a many-splendored thing."

* "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's a relationship. When the world seems to shine like you've had too much wine, that's a relationship."

Then there's another phrase. "Significant Other." It has become a substitute for words like girlfriend, boyfriend, etc.

You could really make some heart-tugging songs out of it.

How about this? "Let me call you significant other, I'm relating to you. Let me hear you whisper that you're relating to me, too."

The old jukebox favorite, "You Are My Sunshine," would sound like this: "You are my significant other, my only significant other. You make me happy when skies are gray. You'll never know, dear, how much I relate to you. Please don't take my significant other away."

One thing I forgot to ask the guy in the bar: When his significant other ended their relationship, did she at least osculate him goodbye?

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