The Agonizing Aunty Syndrome

It was well past mid-night, and we were returning home after attending a New Year party in Chandigarh Club. For a change, it was not my husband but I was on the driver’s seat. My husband had taken a drink and we were aware that the police had put up nakas to nab the drunk drivers; hence purposely I was driving the car. Half way through the drive, the car was signalled to halt. As I stopped, a young police man on duty came up to the car and, finding me behind the wheels remarked, “Yeh to aunty jee drive kar raheen hain.” (This is aunty driving the car). The moment I heard the word ‘aunty’, my heart sank. I was crestfallen. The cop might have uttered in a lighter vein, but what he said in good humour left a bad taste in my mouth. Needless to say, with deflated ego, I drove back home in a sullen mood.

How so ever hard I may try to drive the ageing blues away, but every now and then I am reminded of my middle age, aunty status.  Like any other middle aged woman, I am a victim of the agonizing ‘aunty syndrome’. Almost every one from the maid who works for me, to the fruit-vegetable seller, the akhbarwala, the kabariwala and any stranger on the road, all conveniently address me as ‘aunty’. I hate this ‘universal aunty’ status accorded to me, not only by the people who know me well but also acquaintances and total strangers. It is disgusting, a big blow to my self esteem when I am called aunty by the people not-so-young. In fact, I have grown so allergic to this term ‘aunty’ that I want it to be banished from the common parlance. (I won’t dare to use the term ‘vanish’ for obvious reasons. Remember, the cartoon controversy!)

In fact, no middle aged woman likes to be addressed as aunty by all and sundry. At a stage in life when she is leaving no stone unturned to defy her age, the term ‘aunty’ is a cruel reminder of her advancing age. All her efforts to ‘look young’ and ‘feel young’ come to a naught .She resents when she is called aunty but, of course, she does not mind addressing the relatively older women in the same manner. The elder females may not relish this elevated status but the relatively younger ladies love to address them ‘aunties’. How typical of women!

I resist the temptation of addressing the ladies older to me as aunties but others are not so considerate. When people not-so-young call me aunty, I feel like retorting and telling them to look into the mirror. But I exercise restraint and let go. What is the point in fretting and fuming? I have come to realize that if I cannot stop every maid or any fruit-vegetable seller from calling me aunty, I should better reconcile myself to the aunty status.


Published in The Tribune on oct.3, 2012

26 Replies to “The Agonizing Aunty Syndrome”

  1. Very crisply narrated common vow of middle aged women.It gives a peek into the real psyche of every woman facing these situations in everyday life.

  2. Very right Sonica ,a common grouse of middle aged women !

    To be addressed as aunty is not flattering but slowly you reconcile yourself to the auntie status.

  3. Very well written article , madam, but my pain is much more. Small children calls me Dadi now. I am suffering from dadi syndrome .

    1. That’s interesting. But then is it not a natural progression from aunty to dadi? Intially you resent it but slowly you get used to it.

  4. Very well conveyed with the power of words. Now it has more or less become a word of relation to address anyone other than near ones.

  5. When I stopped colouring my hair, a cab driver called me mata ji, l was taken aback but I understood that I have from Aunty ji to mata ji now. However I am quite comfortable when my grandchildren’s friends call me Nani or Dadi.

    1. mrs Rahi , you have put it across so beautifully- the transition from being called aunty to mataji.A lot to do with colour of hair!

  6. 😄 this is faced by most women in India. I have some of my husband’s senior colleagues wives addressing me as aunty. Now I have accepted the fact that I do not relate to the Santoor ad. This syndrome shall continue and we must learn to accept it

    1. True Preeti , better to reconcile than to fret and fume on which you have little control.I am sorry I can’t recollect the Santoor ad , may be I have not seen it.

  7. Beautiful and Powerful Blog Ma’am 🙏
    Age is but a number, and this story beautifully captures the universal struggle of middle-aged women facing the “aunty syndrome.”
    With a touch of humor, it sheds light on the societal pressure to defy age and the quest for self-esteem.
    A reality of life and thought-provoking piece that embraces the journey of aging with grace.

    OMG the middle-age world, beware the ‘aunty’ remark,
    A hilarious label that leaves us in the dark,
    With efforts to look young, we’re still called ‘aunty’ loud,
    But let’s age with grace and laugh, we’ll make them proud!

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