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Real Talk: Are You His 'Wifey?'

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What exactly is a "wifey?"


I was passing my day as usual on Twitter last week and noticed #wifey was a trending topic.

Sigh.

As I attempt to write my thoughts on the subject, my iPad keeps auto-correcting my words, wanting to change every mention of "wifey" to wife.

Ugh.

I push the key to allow all mentions of "wifey" to remain.

"Add to dictionary?" the pop up asks me.

Of course it asks that... why? Because wifey isn't a real word, and definitely not the same as wife.

So can we all stop using that word?

Let everyone's favorite microblogging site tell it and the non-word "wifey" is some sort of superwoman/porn star hybrid who cooks and cleans, rides or dies, and keeps a book open and her legs closed (except for her man, of course). She's also street smart (would never snitch, important to note as this is a street-term somehow gone mainstream), and loyal even to her own detriment (think Tiny, pre-becoming Mrs. TI). It's Method Man spitting love lyrics to Mary on the project roof of "You're All I Need to Get By." Cute at 20. Less so by 25.

In essence, wifey is a pseudo-social rank for an important woman in a man's life, allegedly of greater importance than just another girlfriend. She’s similar to a fiancee, but notably without the pending promise of a marriage or legally binding commitment, i.e., all the expectations/duties of a wife without ever being one. 


I blame boy-group Next for this one. Back in 2000, they introduced the term to the national urban lexicon when they crooned, "Wifey."

Eh... as my forever-married mother, in all her traditional, old-fashioned sensibilities said when I was 20 or so singing along to that song, "What is a wifey?! Wifey? That isn't a wife! If she's so great, why doesn't he make her a wife?”

Then? I didn't really get her outrage. It was a new term. Harmless. Eleven years later? Eek! I'm turning into my mother.

Wifey, for those who have been bamboozled, is the new wife. Turn on a VH1 or Bravo show allegedly about wives, love or hip-hop, and too much of what you find will be long-term girlfriends who carried burdens, and babies, like they were wives. Clearly, a man cared something about them to invest the years, but ultimately they were only wifeys, never wives, even though the title of "wife" may be inappropriately given... perhaps for production purposes of the show.

Wifey is a low bar to set, especially if what you're doing for a man falls under those duties typically fulfilled by a wife. Marriage isn't for everyone, of course. But if it's for you and you're playing wifey, whether you know it or not, you're getting hoodwinked to put in the work without benefiting from the privilege. Wifey is an approximation of a real thing. Wife-like, but not an actual wife.

Raise your standards and while you’re at it, ban the word “wifey” from your lexicon, just like my iPad.


Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of "A Belle in Brooklyn: Your Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now.
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