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The Word ‘Auntie’ Is Now A Vicious Weapon To Put You In Your Place, To Ensure That You ‘Act Your Age’

The imagery has gone from a friendly neighbour with a benign smile, asking for a bowl of sugar, to a sad, frustrated old woman who sits about lamenting the loss of her youth.

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So, which end of the age spectrum are you on? The side which is full of butterflies, rainbows, young, vivacious people, working, partying, traveling, romancing, living life to the fullest or the doomed highway dotted with bent backs, greys, sagging boobs, frumpy attire, dark circles, crows feet (that don’t really belong to a crow but are found nesting around your eyes), furrowed brows and cynicism (about everything from noise, pollution, disrespectful behaviour, disobedient young’uns to rude neighbours).

Did this sound like a character sketch of a wicked witch from one of the Grimms Brothers fairy tales?! It did? Well, you better hope you’re not infected.

I don’t blame you. It’s always made me curious why middle aged folk, especially older women tend to be projected in this stereotypical, almost farcical light as soon as they cross their 30s, or God forbid, 40s. Mind you, this phenomenon works in reverse for most men who tend to get ‘more virile, successful, driven and desirable’ as the hair gets whiter. In fact, the older you are, the younger the female company you’re expected to keep. You know, the young lasses who can’t keep their eyes off the irresistible hunks of wisdom and worldliness.

Women in their 40’s, take notes and learn, please. Don’t slack or it’s the common road of ‘sathiya gayi hai’ ‘such a budhiya you’re acting like’ or ‘stop being an auntie’ that you’ll be walking down.

‘Auntie’ reminds me of a joke I read a few months ago on a WhatsApp group. Why do older women have extra protection from the Coronavirus? Because it’s scared to take on the auntie-bodies.

This sounds about right. Even I would think twice before taking on strong, experienced, confident women who have weathered storms of all kinds.

A viciously used word

But society has a penchant for imbuing harmless, everyday words with some sinister meaning. The word ‘auntie’ has now become a weapon to put you in your place, to ensure that you act your age.

On a very popular reality show last year, an actress was seen lashing out at another older one, by viciously labelling her a horny auntie who would go to any lengths to steal her boyfriend. I’ve seen women burst into tears when addressed in this way. The imagery has gone from a friendly neighbour with a benign smile, asking for a bowl of sugar, to a sad, frustrated old woman who sits about lamenting the loss of her youth.

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Are women being ‘hysterical’ for no reason? Let’s dig deeper…

‘Auntie mat bolna!’ Sounds familiar?

This might sound a bit simplistic, but the television and film industry have played a key role in creating this mindset and the sensitivity towards this term.

Scores of characters come to mind here. The lonely unmarried bua. The older unmarried daughter who would rather keep a job and fend for her family. The sizzling hot neighbour who can’t contain her sexuality.

There is always an element of these women in some way being non-compliant to what is considered ‘womanly, age-appropriate’ behaviour / choices. Can we blame them though? They say cinema and soaps are a reflection of society, but often they become the testing grounds for a lot of radical and progressive thinking. In this way they play a key role in moulding how we think. Perceptions and popular media both play a part.

Have you noticed that women themselves don’t back down when it comes to hurling ‘auntie’ as an abuse when someone older is behaving in an unsavoury way?

Why is it hard to hear ourselves called ‘auntie’?

I think one of the reasons most women react negatively is because it is also a reminder of the fact that we are all perishable. That we are now moving onto another stage of life which honestly has nothing to do with what people think we are capable of or how we look.

Instead, it should herald a quieter introspective phase, where while going on with the daily rigours, we pause enough to remind ourselves that we matter, our bodies matter, that we must accept change of all kind with happiness, grace and dignity.

No one can make you feel bad about yourself unless you allow it. You are the gatekeeper. Celebrate your scars, your wisdom, your accomplishments and move on with the same passion, drive and fortitude, auntie-gonisers be damned!

Image source: a still from short film Saas, Bahu, and Strategy/ Life Tak

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About the Author

Richa S Mukherjee

After chasing criminals as a journalist and spending over a decade in advertising, Richa penned a book of poetry titled A penchant for Prose. She has been a TOI Write India top 10 winner and read more...

35 Posts | 106,043 Views

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