I remember this one character from a hit show from 90s, Hum Paanch, a middle aged woman who plays neighbor of the girls, whenever she visited them, emphasized on “Aunty mat Kaho na” (Don’t call me Aunty). She was projected, as this flamboyant woman who was very conscious of her looks and age, the character was very animated. Cut to today, in our 30s, and some in 40s, oddly remind me of that character, not for the comical reasons, but for reasons how the word ‘Aunty’ is offensive rather than endearing. There are times when I meet friends and we vent about the situation when the ‘not so young and not related’ people call us Aunty. It’s annoying.
Coming back to us, my fellow 30-somethings and the 40-somethings, we collectively despise being addressed as ‘Aunty’, unless,
- You are friends with our kids,
- Call us Aunty instead or Masi/mami/Bua/Chachi, that means you are related to us or
- You are our friends’ kids.
- If you do not fit into any of the above, please refrain from calling us the dreadful ‘A’ word if you love your life.I personally don’t mind being addressed as Ma’am (in a professional setting) or Mrs Rao or First Name as simple as that. Didi and Bhabhi are redundant and equally bad, so don’t even go there. However, I may just excuse that to the vernaculars that still follow the antiquated terminology.
In my personal experience, I have only been called aunty by 20-somethings when their moms have addressed me as aunty for them; these are mostly women from the society or extended family. Luckily no 20-somethings who know me out of this realm of connections have called me Aunty. It’s this trend of unknown people and especially the youngsters living with their parents in the society complex calling a woman aunty… just cause she is married or has a kid is an annoying practice.
While simmering in my exasperation I also realized that men are as sensitive, if not more, to the term ‘uncle’. Earlier I believed that it was just the women who were finicky about this term, I was proven wrong. Men, whether they admit openly or not, are bothered when they are randomly addressed as ‘uncle’. When addressed by unrelated individuals, gender notwithstanding, the words Aunty/Uncle are equally offensive. They not only remind you that you aren’t ‘young’ anymore, but they also indicate that one might be looked at as boring and not cool enough.I think once someone is an adult, you should make your own decisions about how to address an individual, believe me most people like to be addressed by their first name. If you are really overflowing with respect for this person then you can just call them ma’am/sir. Also, lots of people use this term in a demeaning and condescending manner towards the addressee. My advice is for you to refrain, because you know, Karma and all.
I was wondering if many share my plight or just the few I happened to speak with. A larger survey resulted in mind-blowing results… So I was mostly right to assume, when I started writing this, that majority of people DO NOT like to be addressed as Aunty/Uncle, unless of course one can establish a familiarity or relationship. People in their 40s dislike these terms as much, but since their children are older, they are more accustomed to be called aunty/uncle by older individuals. They do not normally react as fiercely as the 30-something.
Listed below are the most common answers to the survey questions. Here we all agree that it’s legit being called aunty/uncle by nieces/nephews and kids of our classmates/batch mates, also friends of children.
Q. Have you ever been called an aunty/uncle?
Yes. Everyone in their 30s and 40s has been addressed so.
Q. If yes, when, where and by whom?
By Children and by strangers! People who want to call out to you in public and may/may not know your name. Anyone who is even slightly younger or sometimes older people too! Facepalm
Q. How do you feel about?
Terrible! Hate it; especially when its people who may seem to be much older than the acceptable age to call you aunty/uncle.
Q. What’s the acceptable age of a person who can call you aunty/uncle?
Anyone who is 18 years and under or has an age difference of more than 20 years.
Q. Would you prefer to be called something else?
Yes. First name… Ma’am/Sir… Mr. or Ms. Last name…
Q. Do you want to say something to the 20-something year olds who call you aunty/uncle?
I got some of the best responses in this… sharing a selected few…
- I am old enough to be your older sister
- Uncle hoga tera Baap
- Dude, I am old enough to be your younger brother 😉
- AI will take your job
- Wait for it! The teenagers are coming for you too
In conclusion, my advice to you, if you are the perpetrators, drop the word!!! Its offensive! If you are the victim, High Five we all sail in the same boat!
Photo courtesy – Youtube
- Srushti Rao
- September 6, 2017
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