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I am not your sister or mother, please! A note to the 'young'






Hi there!

How are you doing? Hope your day was good and peaceful today.

Sometime back I had read a brilliant article  Please don't call me Aunty by Shobha  Tharoor Srinivasan which I share from time to time on my social media. Do read it. (highlighted is the link)

I quote her opening lines
When you meet an adult woman, who is perhaps your mother’s age, what do you call her? Mrs.? Ms.? If she is between 10 and 20 years older than you, do you address her by her first name or last name? Or, do you pause to ask how she would like to be addressed?
If you’re an Indian American, you’ll probably just call her “aunty.” “Aunty” and “Uncle” have become easy fallbacks when addressing people including distant associates, neighbors, acquaintances, and even total strangers who are older than oneself. I’ve watched the attractive shopkeeper in our neighborhood Indian store cringe and straighten her kurti when a jean-clad matron has the gall to address her as “aunty.” And I identify with her indignant irritation completely. As an adult woman who has also been called “aunty” one too many times by too many adults who I barely know, I have a bone to pick with what I believe has become a hapless naming practice.
She talks about why it is not about vanity, not about looking older and hence relegated to the 'auntydom' and 'Uncledom'.  She elucidates on how it takes away from an affectionate and endearing term, that means something, and why it is not about 'giving respect'.

I get tonnes of messages from readers  who fall in love with my books.  They  follow me on instagram and feel a connection with me. I am addresed as 'akka' or 'didi'.  The people who address me this way mean no harm at all. On the contrary, it is with great affection they do this.
But I cringe when I hear the term.

Only my cousins, the one I grew up with  have earned the right to call me 'akka'. It's a moniker reserved for my nearest and dearest. I don't  even know the person who is addressing me this way. And therefore I dislike it.

The other thing I intensely dislike is people comparing me to their mother. These are full grown college kids as well as some adults who do this ! I cringe when I hear this too. It creeps me out. I have my own two children to be a mom too--so, no thank you. I have absolutely no motherly feelings towards anyone  other than my kids!

Also terms like didi, akka, ma, aunty--all of it irks me because of an assumption of  familiarity  and closeness which the person hasn't earned.
A lot of people want to give me respect--they are taught that calling their elders by names is not okay. They call me Preetiji. That doesn't irk me at all. Some call me 'm'am'.. I tell them to call me by name but they are hesitant.  I can understand their discomfort in not giving me respect they think I deserve, and hence I am okay with it.. If anyone calls me m'am--it's still okay.


I also strongly feel that in India, we have such a warped sense of 'propriety' that many think that you are respecting a woman only if you call her 'sister' or 'didi' or 'Aunty'. (My vegetable vendor calls me didi or chechi and I am okay with that. But not my readers/fans)

A long time back, I worked with an editor who was in her seventies while I was in my thirties. I asked her how she would like to be addressed and she told me to call her by name. I did that. She said she loved it, as it immediately made her feel we are peers, and bridged the gap between the 'older' and the 'younger'. She said she felt young and carefree when I addressed her by name, as it has been a while since anyone called her by name. Nobody had asked her how she would like to be called.

I don't believe age brings respect. Respect is something that has to be earned. My yoga guru is someone I respect hugely. Though he is about 18 years younger than me, I call him 'Sir', as he is my teacher, my guru.

To me, these terms mean something. They are not just meaningless words I use.

If you don't know how to address a person, just ask them what you should call them
When they tell you, listen to them!


You might just  bridge that mental gap, when you call someone the way they like to be addressed. You might even  make a new friend, when you don't view them in terms of their age.

Think about it! (and tell me what you think in my comment box)


More tomorrow! Till then, chat with me in my comment box.

Lots of Love
Preeti
***************************
Photo by KS KYUNG on Unsplash

Comments

  1. Well, this is something I have been meaning to ask you earlier.. as I did address you Preeti in the few comments I left here so far(it's a common norm not to use Sir or Ma'm in service based companies and thus I am now used to address people by name, so it came naturally to me)... and then I recently wondered if you'd be ok with getting addressed that way..so was meaning to ask anyways..glad you wrote something on it.. :-)

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    1. Perfectly happy to be addressed by name :) Yeah, I think Sir/m'am is very stuffy and formal!

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  2. Well, I'm only 18 and a guy around 10-12yrs of age (a total stranger) called me aunty! That really irked me as I'm not like in 30s or above.

    I just call my relatives and friends' parents as uncle aunty.

    I agree that it is most easy to just ask them what they would be liked to call as.

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    1. The whole point of this piece was to not judge people by how they look. Hence 'it's not like I am in my 30's' kind of implies it is okay if the person is in their 30's. It is not! :)

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  3. Please let me know how you would like me to address you.. I generally call people mam if I feel respect for them. I would be happy with whatever you answer...

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    1. Please call me whatever you are happy with as long as it is not didi or akka :D

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  4. Dear Preeti,

    This is an enlightening piece. Thanks for sharing the article too. It irks me also when some young adult calls me aunty. But, I enjoy being called 'chechi' (malayalam of akka) not by everyone though. Hence, I will keep it in mind not to call a stranger 'aunty' unless it is their preference. Thanks again.
    Good night!

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    1. Absolutely. What is this ' generic aunty' ?! My pleasure.

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  5. Hi Preeti,

    "MANY LIKES TO THIS POST πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘"

    Initially I use to address you as ma'am when I discovered you on Instagram...
    And when you replied to my DM - it was like my "Fan Girl" moment πŸ˜›(I am not doing it anymore ☺️)
    The problem is in our schooling they insist us to give respect to seniors by calling akka or Anna. Only when we started working during professional grooming sessions we realised, addressing by ones name itself is a respect.

    And I've noticed, few peers feel like they have some power over you if you address as Sir or Ma'am (with my personal experience).

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    1. I don't remember your message sushmitha!! But I am glad I replied. Oh yeah--some get their ego kicks that way.

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    2. Some may get offended if not addressed as ma’am or sir πŸ˜‚

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  6. Absolutely agree to what you have said above . I had that incident too . When I got married at the age of 21 ,straight away I was called “kaku “ which means aunts , by the neighbours kids while a day before that I was their didi. I can totally experience here in the uk the freedom of addressing people by their first names with so casual and ease that just makes the relationship so transparent .
    Your posts are so inspiring , gives a feeling of friendship . Take care Preeti xx

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    1. Yes, it was when I lived in UK too that my eyes opened. I was so used to my kids friends calling me aunty (and I actually like it as I feel close to them when they say aunty). It took me a while to get used to my kids English friends calling me Preeti.

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  7. I'm just 21. Is, It ok for you when I address you by your Name.

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    1. You are a full grown adult swathi!! :) You can call me whatever you want as long as its not akka/didi please :)

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  8. if i personally know you, i would like to call you preeti !
    is it ok.

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    1. yes--anything is fine as long as it is not akka/didi/sister/mother/aunty :D

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  9. So from now... Preeti it is :) (My love and respect for you lies in my heart and it evidently will show up in my actions) There's no point in making you uncomfortable with things you really dont like :)

    and you're like that coolest buddy like professor in college (who is witty and gives us life lessons!!!)

    - Milauni

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  10. Thanks for making us think in terms of asking others what they like to be addressed...would like to follow that...But I equally feel that sometimes we have to be ready to accept (atleast for the ones who like and respect us) what people like us to be addressed as depending on the feelings they have for us (Just my thought).

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    1. Agree 100% which is why i said I am okay with 'm'am' or 'Preetiji'. I let it go. But akka/didi/aunty/mother etc truly makes me cringe.

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  11. Dear Preeti,

    Thought provoking post, indeed !

    I think it is wise to ask them how they want to be addressed as. I ll follow it , henceforth.

    It irks me when men call me akka just to show that they are very decent and especially when they dont mean it at all

    Also, even though we dont know you personally , we connect with you through your books and blogs. We feel you play an important role in our thought process. Power of a writer. Hence few may feel overwhelmed to have motherly or sisterly feelings for you. If possible, you can let it go. But if you feel pressurised, then I think you have every right to tell your readers about it and they should agree:-)

    Love,
    Deepika

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    1. Deepika
      I understand readers have that feeling for me. But to me, they are complete strangers and I have no idea what their intentions are. Hence (understandably) I get creeped out when they send mails that deify me and worship me, to the point of making me some kind of a goddess. Let's stop with those adulations please. :)

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  12. I understand this post and I will try to call you 'Preeti' henceforth. πŸ˜‚ I am 37 years old and hope that will be okay if I call you like that. The huge amount of respect I have for you makes me call you 'Mam' and the success and achievement you have received deserves lot of respect 'Preeti' (Oh my God! πŸ˜‚). I will get used to this.
    Well for me! I was called 'aunty' by a high school girl when I was in my 12th standard and I was not looking like any aunty then. I was disappointed a lot that day and let it go as I knew many people don't know how to address others.
    We had been to Nepal last year with my family and with our house owner's family. My owner aunty is 65 years old and my mother-in-law is 61 years old. Both my mother-in-law and owner aunty called each other 'Aunty' on the whole trip and me and my children laughed like hell (of course not in front of them). We still recall it and laugh. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

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    1. The whole point is not to call people aunty based on how they look. I am perfectly okay with 'ma'am' ot 'Preetiji' as I have mentioned as I know people feel uncomfortable.

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  13. Hi Preeti. I have gone through this number of times. Many people have called me Aunty when they can call me by my name. I told them so many times, but they would not listen. Due to the age gap, they said they felt uncomfortable calling me by my name. In my family, I am older than my cousins so they all call me Akka. It has a lovely ring to it. I am an only child, so when they address me as Akka, I feel like they are my own siblings. When in doubt, it is always nice to ask the other person how to address them. Saves a lot of embarrassment and misunderstandings. Have a good day Preeti!

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    1. Yeah--i also like it when my cousins and siblings call me preetiakka. I also like it when my kids friends call me aunty. But I don't like it when strangers take that liberty. I am perfectly understand if people feel very uncomfortable calling me by name, and hence use 'ma'am or 'ji;'.

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  14. Hello Preeti! This is the first time I'm addressing you by your name else it was ma'am πŸ˜…. I'm assuring you that I'll keep it the way you want it to be.
    I can totally relate this post and I have a lot to tell but yes! I'll make it short. I'm 19 and I'm pursuing my B.Ed (teacher education). As a part of my project I visited many schools and will be visiting further too and yes atleast in a professional setting like a school πŸ˜… I expect my students to address me as ma'am or miss but few students call me 'akka' that word just get through my nerves and the very next moment I'll tell them to address me as ma'am not to forget I will be in 100% teacher's uniform saree (that's what society expects). When I ask them to address me as ma'am their expression changes (a frowned face) they come to the point on what has to be spoken. I always wonder why is this happening and I know it is because of the foundation what was taught is wrong. And also πŸ˜… Especially when students address me as akka I feel unsecured thoughts like "why they call only me as akka but not other teachers" "don't I look like a teacher?" many such questions wander around my head. Ofcourse when I pass out from this training and secure a job I will make sure to teach students the right way to approach.

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    1. Hahaha..I hear you!! I think in our heads 'akka' is somewhat 'less than' M'am. Isn't it?
      You can call me M'am if you want to.. :D :D (am giggling as I type this reply)

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  15. Hello Preethi,

    Completely agree with you. Even I don't like being called Aunty by random people. My kids friends call me aunty and I am fine with it and like it , but not for everyone. Also another perfect point is being like mother to someone or someone being like a mother to you. Both are not acceptable to me. I am mother to my kids and no-one can replace my mother. By saying someone is like a mother to you is kind of insult to your own mom.

    Spot on post. Loved it. Thanks again for writing posts everyday during this period.

    Cheers
    Sudha

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    1. Thanks for the comment Sudha! After reading your comment I was like 'YES! Someone gets me 100%'. I too like i when my kids friends call me aunty. (they will be full gown adults themselves as my kids are adults). I soooooo agree when you say that you are insulting your own mother by saying someone is like a mother to you. What nonsense is that!! And being a mother to someone other than my kids too is not okay.
      Thank you so much for leaving this comment. It means a lot to me, as I feel understood.

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  16. Ashok Sharma here . I have a very strange relationship with my elder sister, Santhi and my brother Sankar alias Sasi. I have an younger sister Anitha whom we call Kochu meaning the smallest . Both me and my youngest sister call our elder peers by name right from our younger age . Even though our relatives have tried their best to change they have never succeeded... My wife was a Homoeopathic physician and she used to be called Ma'm by her students ..

    We have to address people with respect to depending on their position and age..

    This is my feeling...

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    1. Alright! But these positions are what we give them. What if they feel differently ? What if you didn't know my age or anything about me and you just met me?

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    2. There are people who would like to be called by their position even if they are younger to you.I would definitely respect women across the country and treat them with respect .. If we meet definitely I would like to call you by your name and may be add Ma'm also if you don't mind..
      Warm regards
      Ashok Sharma

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  17. Good one! Very well explained. Of course, it is slightly making a sense that calling strangers with relation. But it is rooted deep to get off that from most of us. We were taught so!(Fraternity) We never felt awful, though! Calling akka and anna is just used in the perception out of that brotherhood(Only with the persons we know).But complete strangers as you pointed, is a No! I agree with you. I too never call an unkown with thosee.
    Ma'am according to me, is said when people have done plenty of work in certain area and earn that seniority or as you mentioned, to address our professors. However, how would they feel was never considered because we presume that others too would feel the same oneness akin us. Haha, however, aunt subject as you said irks me too and I end up turning around smiling- that's what I can do about it. I am 28 years old and now I am too confused. :) Otherwise, it used to be mam. what would you prefer me to address you?

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    1. Whatever you like Priyanka :) Just not aunty/sister/akka/mother please :)

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  18. You sort out how to call people, like you said we should ask them that's much better..And even i call you mam sry for the mis convenience... Thank you Preeti i agree with you all my heart...

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    1. Perfectly okay with m'am if you are uncomfortable otherwise..but why 'elevate' me so much!! :)

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  19. Thanks. Never realized that calling by name reduce gaps btw ages. The moment I call someone by name , all the hesitation and fear of being judged get lost. That's awesome. I will do it ( after ask him).

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  20. That’s what I appreciate in u, u speak ur mind, yeah it’s indeed a good post few may take it offensive but that’s true that taking name brings a kind of friendliness in environment , Thanks preeti��

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  21. Hi Preeti,
    Nice post... I love if someone calls me with my name - Chitra...& no mam or anything attached to it...I feel a sense of belongingness.....I usually call others with their name & only when I see others call them mam, I use it but along with their name....

    The idea of asking them how they can be addressed is new to me as no one have ever asked me nor have I asked any....Thanks for the idea, hereafter will ask them as per the need arises

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