Excuse Me, Auntie

For the longest time, I have struggled to define what it means to be an ‘Auntie’
My favourite online dictionary defines ‘Auntie’ as an informal way of Aunt.
The Collins English Dictionary defines it as informal, derogatory ( Australia ) an older male homosexual.

In the local context, apart from being an informal way of Aunt, which is your mother or father’s sister, auntie usually refers to a woman that is from your mother’s generation.
It is also negatively associated with being poorly groomed, unattractive, boring, uninteresting, frumpy and grumpy.

20 years ago, when I first started work, my colleagues’ children would call me Auntie Hai Fang.
But at 20 years old, I was young, energetic, confident and self assured and it didn’t bother me too much.
In fact, being called ‘Auntie’ could be a recognition of our coming of age.
that we were “real” adults with responsibilities.

But now that I have passed the 40th milestone.
It can become extremely sensitive.
As a woman, the self esteem usually take a beating when someone calls you an ‘Auntie’.
Yet it is not uncommon to see a young ‘Auntie’.
Imagine a young mother with frayed hair, flip flops and dons what seems like the husband’s boxer shorts.

2 weeks ago both boys started school in the morning and I found myself with 3 good hours to myself.
I used to be able to scoot off to shopping mall for an hour or two during lunch time because both kids were in school.
But now, the only shops that are open in the morning hours are the ones good for grocery shopping.
NTUC, Cold Storage, Giant, wet market, you name it, they are open.
The only people you meet at the park are grandpas, grandmas and clueless housewives with oversized sun hats.
It kind of depresses me as I could imagine myself sliding down the slippery slope of Auntiehood and the wet market butcher becoming my good old friend.

Perhaps being an auntie is not just all about age.
Maybe it is about the grooming or complete lack thereof.
Yet she could be fashionably dressed in designer togs but her only conversation topics revolve around the kids, school, tuition, and mahjong.
So it could be related to a narrow range of “auntie” like pursuits.
Maybe an Auntie has no time or energy for anything else.

Perhaps it could be a lack of a penchant for fun, a lost of self and the thirst for knowledge.
Yet my 40 year old Scottish SAHM friend with 3 kids who has (nearly) no life whatsoever outside her mothering duties doesn’t quite fit the auntie definition.
And I certainly didn’t mean it the derogatory way (see Collins English Dictionary definition above) when I urged my 4 year old to call her Auntie.

Eventually, I realised that across cultures, explaining the term is nearly impossible.
I guess defining auntie is like defining pornography.
Even if you don’t know how to define it, you know one when you see one.



  1. Rachel says:

    You are far from being an auntie that we commonly see in the wet markets! I don’t see aunties getting their mountain bikes exploring with their boys. Frankly each of us have so many roles in our life, auntie-moments are just part and parcel of maturing in our lifecycle. Even if you are an auntie sometimes, you are more like an elegant, active and progressive ‘auntie’. Be proud of the auntie badge, I am..hehe… I am actually glad to be hitting 40 soon 😛

    • malmal says:

      Thank you Rachel, seriously I don’t mind the auntie badge. I am more concern about degenerating into a frumpy and grumpy one! It’s like ageing…it is inevitable but I think it is important to do it gracefully 🙂 and you don’t look a bit like you are hitting 40 !

  2. Adora says:

    Older male homosexual! Hahahah!!

    The butcher at the wet market is my good friend too. As is the fishmonger. Who calls me Da Jie even though he’s probat my age.

    Domestic workers in the estate call out to me and wave Hello Auntie!

    Oh well I can’t change them so might as well just accept it! One thing I’ve realised though is that I’ve stopped wearing slippers when out with the kids. Slippers make me feel VERY auntie. Slippers and NTUC plastic bags slung very stylishly on the nook of my elbow is a winner for me

    Embrace auntiedom I say!!!

    Ps YOU so don’t look auntie la! Please la!

    • malmal says:

      How dare the fishmonger called you Da Jie when he is your age! I don’t think you qualify to be an auntie because you are too funny and ever so full of ideas! I love being your kids ! Keep up the good work, mama 😀

  3. Susan says:

    You don’t look your age at all Hai Fang. Goes to show what exercise can do for you- keep you looking youthful 🙂 Must learn that from you.

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