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.