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EST. May 2000 (AD)





By Marni Rebecca Malarkey

A woman is nothing without a boyfriend. How many times have you heard that? Probably millions, but the astronomical number of times you've heard it, or said it yourself, doesn't make it any less true. We are nothing without boyfriends. In our modern world, though, having a decent boyfriend is next to impossible. Men are either wonderful and commitmentphobic, or available yet so horrendous you'd rather be barren and alone forever than stuck with them. And the rest are married. The good ones, as the saying goes, are all taken. And as I absolutely do not advocate being a party to-or of, or in-adultery, I have come up with another solution to the boyfriend problem.

Imaginary ones.

Imaginary boyfriends. With an imaginary boyfriend, you can appear, in the eyes of your friends, family, co-workers and various and sundry, worthwhile. And you can appear worthwhile without having to stoop to the tawdry lows of meeting your married lover at the NoTell Motel, or without having to bring your 50-something never-married dreamboat to a family gathering where he will make a point of telling everyone in the room that you and he are "just friends" and nothing more, or without having to date a guy with a combover, bad teeth and bad manners.

The steps to having a successful relationship with your imaginary beau, and of making sure he has a successful relationship with your social circle, are simple. Start slowly, as you would with a real man. For example, don't say to your mother and girlfriends "Cyril and I...oh, haven't I mentioned him before? He's a dish. He's the best. We just met, and well, now Cyril and I are planning a weekend together in wine country. And we've signed up for a scuba diving course next month, which we figure will benefit us when we go cruising in the South Caribbean next winter." If you've been alone for a while and all of a sudden you're talking like that, chances are people won't buy it. Start by dropping your new paramour's name here and there—"This funny thing happened at the gym last Wednesday. Cyril, he's a guy I know there, he accidentally dropped a fifty pound weight on this surgeon's hand! Isn't that a hoot? Ha, ha, ha!" Then mention "Cyril" a few more times and then start telling people that "Cyril" has been asking you out. Only after all of that can you and Cyril start planning holidays together.

In order to make your imaginary honey realistic, give details.

Details about his family, appearance, where he went to school, his car, his house (he owns one, of course), the restaurants you go to, the movies you've seen together and so forth, will add texture, quality and believability to your "relationship." You might as well give him a good job, since it's our real, in-the-flesh boyfriends who tend to be waiters, customer service representatives, unemployed actors, artists, aging students and welfare recipients.

So go for the gusto! Make him a bank president, a senior partner at a law firm, the head of surgery at a children's hospital, a professor, a restaurateur, a crown prince or even the former head of a major New York crime family who is now in the Witness Protection Program. That last one is an especially good choice for "Cyril" (though you may then want to call him "Tony") since a drawback of imaginary boyfriends is that your friends and family will probably want to know why he never accompanies you to anything.

Polish up your excuses! He's a surgeon? "Sorry mum, he couldn't make it to your and Dad's anniversary because he had to perform emergency surgery on a small child who had to be pulled out of a car by the jaws of life." He's a lawyer? "Sorry Susie, Cyril would have loved to have come with me to your Jack and Jill wedding shower, but he's been called into an emergency court session where he is trying to help a battered woman get her children back from her powerful ex." Don't hold back. Make him sound noble, kind, trustworthy, brave and true.

Be careful though, that you don't create an imaginary boyfriend whose details can be verified. Only give away so much information. It would be a grave error, for instance, to say "my boyfriend, Kofi Annan, would have loved to have come to your book launch, Allison, but he had to fly to Baghdad to meet with Hans Blix." It would be fairly easy for all but your dimmest friends to find out that you and Kofi have never met.

And what should happen if you meet an actual man you like? A male incarnate? A decent, single guy without a combover? That's easy. Drop "Cyril." Send him packing. Tell your friends he hit you/stole from you/cheated on you or that you just "met someone better." That last part wouldn't be a lie, right? Not only will you have met someone better, you'll have met someone real (those two things are not necessarily mutually exclusive...or inclusive, come to think of it). Make sure you shed a few tears, of course. Talk about "grieving" your relationship before you go out in the open with your new living doll. You don't want people thinking you're callous.

Until the magical day that you meet Mr. Right-Mr. Breathing-Mr. Imaginary can do the trick. And he won't complain about your weight, your makeup, your housekeeping ability, your pets, your moods or your political opinions. Imaginary boyfriends can fulfill your every need...well, your every need but one. So you'll have to take care of that yourself. But that's for another article.


© 2003 Marni Rebecca Malarkey


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