Wednesday, March 19, 2008

even if it means they call me Dork

I remember trying to explain the Auntie thing to H when he and I were first dating. I confessed to feeling weird about the idea of calling people who are older than me by their first names (even now I only do so at work). What's with all the awkwardness? I blame the motherland. 

Where my family's from, everyone has a very specific title; you never have to say "My father's younger brother's wife," you say "My Chachi" (or whatever the word is depending what area you hail from). And while learning them can be tricky, using them makes things easier. Especially when you employ my no-embarrassment method of addressing any unrelated elder as Auntie or Uncle.

Sepia Mutiny had a tribute post to the Auntie today and one commenter mentioned that he feels more warmth and affection when his cousin's children address him as "Mama" (mother's brother) or "Chacha" (father's brother) than if they were to just call him "Uncle."

I feel exactly the same way. In fact, I've been telling my brother for years that my kids will call him "Mama" no matter how much he protests. My brother, however, thinks that sounds ridiculous and would prefer that my children call him by his first name, or "Uncle." He swears that if I make my kids call him "Mama" he will make his own children address me as "Dork."

So I guess that just proves that personality has just as much to do with people's choices as culture. But it's interesting how people choose which practices to keep from what they knew as children. And the comments on that Sepia Mutiny post show only a small variety of how many choices are out there. 

I'm banking on the hope that my children will be adorable, so even if they were to call my brother something like "Uncle Doodyface" he'd just chuckle and say, "Just call me Mama." 

12 comments:

omar said...

Growing up, I wouldn't dream of calling an adult by his/her first name. It was always Mr. or Mrs., and for my parents' closer friends, Aunt and Uncle. It was very different for my wife, who grew up calling her best friend's parents Jim and Bonnie (and still does when she sees them now). I wouldn't dream of calling my friends' parents by their first names!

Luckily, I don't have a sister, so I'd never be in a position to be called "Mama."

naechstehaltestelle said...

I can't wait to make my son call people random things. Kids are so impressionable and easily manipulated. My sister once asked me to spell all the names of people in our family because she had just learned the alphabet letters. Let me just tell you what she actually wrote was pretty crude. I got in big trouble for that...haha.

Alexandra said...

so in the future at big family parties something like this will take place:

you: hey honey, can you go tell Mama that Dork is calling him into the kitchen?

Syar said...

I totally understand. In malaysia, all parents are aunties or uncles. All older people that you come across , no matter in what obscure way is auntie/uncle or makcik/pakcik (the Mlaay version). And actual aunts and uncles have different titles according to a) where you come from and b) your place in the family's hierarchy.

This is why since I was born I've been known as Kak Su to my cousins, and their kids will call me Mak Su. Su is a shortened version of bongsu, which in malay means the youngest.

My sister and I are eschewing the malay titles should/when we have kids. But the Auntie will stay.

P.S : If you couldn't already tell, I'm in love with this post.

Guyana-Gyal said...

My big brother in England was tickled when our little nephew [sister's son, living in 'merica] called him Uncle Mamoo.

It's interesting how the different names for different people still live on here, despite Guyana being so culturally mixed...cha chi, bhougie, cha cha, beta.

Sphincter said...

I don't have anything especially meaningful to add, except that my brother's kids call me Auntie Slug, as my brother has always felt I'm prone to slothfulness. And because they are awesome, I don't even care.

Jon said...

huh?

Is there a manual for this stuff? maybe some mnemonic devices or something?

Lia said...

I have trouble calling adults by their first names, too. But only to their faces. I can talk *about* them with their names.

I can see how the whole title system could make things easier. But I don't think I could ever be comfortable calling my uncle "Mama", and I don't think my brothers would ever answer to it. But that's only because English is our first language, and Mama is definitely a woman in English.

SupaCoo said...

I don't know, Auntie Dork has kind of a nice ring to it...

willowtree said...

In my parents' culture, calling adults by their first names was and still is definitely a nono. It doesnt matter that I'm breathing on 30. I don't really understand it, or the acceptability of a child calling thier teacher or anyone significantly older than they are by first names, but I often think that people who have no problem with it would probably think of me just as strange.
One of my very dearest friends is now planning to teach his 6 month old niece to call him "Magical Mama". The scary thing about that is- it started out as a joke (I thought he was joking) and it is now a plan, but I see you would have a mama in the family too, maybe you just have to add a whimiscal adjective somewhere in there. hehe

Zinta said...

I think, its so cool to have different terms for different relationships! Makes everything simple or may be complicated...Its, same here, its kaka (father's brother) or mama( for mother's sister). My cousin's kids call me Zinta fufu or Zinta mom,...I love it!!

Zinta said...

oops! mama is mother's brother