I am not your sister or mother, please! A note to the 'young'
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
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
Photo by KS KYUNG on Unsplash