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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 5, 2002

'Auntie' sneaks up on you

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

The first time you really notice it is when high school students start to look really young to you. Then, a few years later, college athletes start to look like kids. After a while, it strikes you that the couple buying a house in the 'Ewa by Gentry ad seems way too young to be married already. What are they, twelve?

Aging is a funny thing. It's not something you're constantly thinking about. Rather, the awareness pops up when you least expect it. One day, you're wishing for your driver's permit, the next, you're grumbling about how kids nowadays drive too fast.

There are all the typical shockers, like finally finding a radio station you like and then realizing it's an "oldies"; or catching yourself using phrases like "before time..." or "back when I was in school..."

Perhaps none of the rites of passage are as poignant or as potent as the first time a kid calls you, "Aunty."

I don't mean a kid you're related to. When it's your sister's child or your cousin's boy or whatever, the whole Auntyhood thing is easy. You see it coming. It's cute.

But when it's some kid you've never met before, it's like getting broadsided. Like the first time a waiter calls you "Ma'am" instead of "Miss," but worse because it's coming from a kid and they're brutally honest. You know that child took a look at you, sized you up, and put you in the "Aunty" category along with women two and three times your age.

Aunties are supposed to wear mu'u mu'u and hats with hat bands that match the fabric of the dress. Aunties know how to make complicated baked goods with fruit from their back yard and can crochet covers for every surface and product in your bathroom. They shake when they laugh and they laugh when they watch "Wheel of Fortune." Aunties bring back stuff like dried apricots when they go Mainland, and when you're really naughty, they threaten to pull your ear.

Which is all wonderful stuff. But the first time some kid tosses you into that category, it's jarring. It's cause for much self-reflection. And it makes you want to pull that darn kid's ear. You hardly ever wear mu'u mu'u — except for Fridays and sometimes when you're going out to a buffet. You don't know how to make anything with mango, in fact you're not even sure you know the right way to peel a Hayden. And when you go Mainland, you come back with Ethel M's and those naughty fortune cookies.

But come to think of it, Pat Sajak is kind of witty. Uh-oh.

And just when you start to get your head around your new Aunty status, telling yourself it's a great compliment coming from a small child who recognizes your status and offers up respect, your world comes crashing down again when some twenty-something you're being introduced to leans over to kiss your cheek and says, "Nice to meet you, Aunty."

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.