Have you noticed the bracketing effect? There was a time when my Nieces and Nephews called me just plain “Annette.” Then they began calling me “Aunt Annette” (or “Aunt Pop,” as in Poppins, or other arcane, family favorites). And then one day, when my oldest nephew towered over me, I noticed that he dropped the “Aunt,” and I didn’t argue the point. But I didn’t ask him why, and so I’m left wondering.
I have one family of “grands” who call me just plain “Aunt.” (And don’t let anyone tell you that isn’t heartwarming.) I like to think it’s because they see me as the very definition of Aunthood, the “Cher” of Aunts for whom like all single-name celebrities, one name is enough. But they are too young to ask, and so I’m left wondering.
The children of friends often call me Aunt because their parents tell them to do so. These are balanced by friends’ children whom I did not meet until they were adults and they don’t call me Aunt. My college roommate’s son, for instance, calls me “A,” a nickname I had hoped would die when his mother and I reached voting age. There are other people who make such a point of insuring that their fully grown up children call me Aunt that it makes me wonder whether there’s a message, not an entirely positive one, in the title.
“To Aunt or not to Aunt,” then seems to be the question. And it might be open to just as many interpretations as Hamlet’s “To be or not to be”. Nieces and Nephews have their reasons why they do, or don’t, use an Aunt’s title. Aunts have their own, often quite different, reasons for wanting or not wanting their title to be used. Parents have their reasons for urging their children to use or not use an Aunt’s title. It begins to look like there could one day be a college catalogue listing an advanced sociology course entitled “The Aunt in Context: an exploration of the use of the title and what it reveals about the sociological structure of the extended family.” The following lists, however, are offered on a strictly not for credit basis.
Times When Aunts May Want To Use Their Title
When stopped for speeding…..as in “Because, Officer, my nephew Danny just called me and said, ‘Aunt Jean, Mom isn’t home yet and the coach said that if I’m late for practice, he’ll never let me play in Little League again.'”
When her Nephew is stopped for speeding…..as in “Because, Officer, my nephew Danny was just asking me, “Do you think this is too fast, Aunt Jean?”
When she’s having an IRS audit…..as in “Then I said, ‘Children, how many times has Aunt Julie told you not to use that box of receipts for making cut outs!’…but it was too late.”
Times When They May Not…….
When she is being introduced to her Niece’s urbane and sophisticated literature professor who just happens to look like Liam Neeson…..as in “I’m Victoria’s Aunt Ethel”
On her office door….as in “It should be obvious.”
On her business card…..as in (See above.)
Times When an Aunt May Want to Hear Her Title Used
When she has had six straight 14-hour days at work and feels like a working machine and thinks the phrase, “Get a life,” is not funny.
When she is being introduced to her Niece’s/Nephew’s friends and knows the title is being used to say “You’ll never believe it but this cool human being — for an adult — is my actual Aunt.”
When it is used to accompany another title, such as, “This is my friend, Aunt Barbara.”
Times When She May Not……
The day she has noticed her first wrinkle
The day she has noticed her Niece/Nephew noticing her first wrinkle
The day she gets her first unsolicited letter from The American Association of Retired Persons/AARP
On all her “bad hair” days.