My girlfriend, who worked in London's City district, was
closeted at the office - not easy when it's open plan. One
day her colleagues put her on the spot to name her partner and she
panicked. She wasn't ready to come out over an Excel spreadsheet
so, completely uncalculated, she lied and produced Peter.
Peter became my alter ego. By night I was Sarah Westwood, rubbish
lesbian, but by day (at my girlfriend's office) I was referred to
At first I was a little put out by her choice of 'Peter'; wasn't
it a pet name for a penis? Apparently, she was desperately racking
her brain for a man's name, Peter popped up, and she just grabbed
it with both hands.
Talking about Peter made my girlfriend feel less like 'the office
lesbian' - she was finally one of the girls. At lunch when the
subject of 'fellas' came up she could play with Peter, and join in
with a faux moan about his shortcomings.
She also used Peter as a way to get out things she didn't want to
do. I would never have stopped my girlfriend from attending work
socials, but Peter had no such inhibitions. If he had just come
back from being away he'd stop her going out for drinks - talk
about an alter ego trip.
There's playing the pro-noun game, and then there is creating a
complete storyline for a boyfriend who doesn't exist. While the
former is a simple sidestep, the latter is completely freestyle,
and far more exhausting.
Soon my girlfriend was working overtime - on Peter. She was
continually having to make excuses for his absence: Peter's
Christmas party clashed with hers, Peter was on a rugby trip, or
Peter wasn't feeling well. He became more and more demanding; it
was hard to keep it up.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, people began to tire of Peter and his
elusive and demanding ways. My girlfriend decided that the time had
come to give this alter ego the heave ho. Poor Peter, he never even
saw it coming.
I'm pleased to reveal that she has since moved jobs, and is out to
her new work colleagues. She can finally be herself at work, and
I'm thrilled that I no longer have to answer to Peter.