Yesterday I was following a discussion among some Indian women, who mentioned how annoyed they became if someone addressed them as "aunty" or "didi" - despite being almost the same age or even older than them. One of the women said, it's probably because of the way she dresses up and looks older than her age that someone addresses her that way.
One particular woman went on to say that just because someone is insecure, has self-doubt, wants to cover up their age, and wants to feel younger - they call the others as "uncle" or "aunty". And that they are arrogant by calling others as aunty/didi/bhabhi, etc and forcing relationships instead of just calling by the first name. And by those suffixes of aunty/didi/bhabhi to the first name, it's just "fakeness" and does not bring out the genuine respect.
The discussion went on for a really, really long time. So many women resonated these thoughts, getting really worked up about how someone could dare to call them "aunty". And honestly, I did not understand the hullabaloo. I guess I was the only odd one out among the women who could not relate to the discussion. It's another story that I literally look half my age.
But In India, I learned not to address an older person by their first or last name. Not even a stranger, without respect. It's just the culture. The way a young kid in America might call an older man as, for example, Mr. Smith - someone in India might call the person as "Smith Uncle" or "Smith ji".
In India, I learned that when we stop an auto-rickshaw guy for transportation, we don't shout "hey you!" or "auto man" - we call out "bhaiya". When we ask an older-looking shopkeeper for the price of something, we start with "bhaiya, how much is this for?" or "uncle, what's the price?". The same goes for the milkman, grocery man, and others, whether or not you are aware of their first name. Unless you are comfortable calling them by their first name and they are too.
"Di" ... "bhaiya" ... "ji" ... "bhabhi"... "aap" etc among Indians is said out of respect and I find it a very good thing. Di or Didi means sister. Bhaiya means elder brother. Ji is a suffix the way Mr. or Mrs. is a prefix. Bhabhi means brother's wife, literally, but is used safely to address a married woman when you do not know their name or what to address them as. "Aap" is a respectful form of "you" which can be used to talk to someone much younger, the same age, or much older. It's just respectful. Just culture.
Unless I am aware of someone's age and friendliness, I'd like to play it safe. And if someone elder unknowingly calls me so, regardless of my dressing, all I have to do is tell them not to! To me, it does not matter whether someone is calling me a "bhabhi" or "didi" or "aunty" whether it's with or without genuine respect, or so-called forced relationship by making me their sister or aunt. It's just a way of being polite - and excuse me, WHO does NOT like that?
I find it easier to let someone know what to call me as the very first time, in case they unknowingly unintentionally address me. Why continue to be called as what you don't want, and then complain later, right? After that if they adamantly, repeatedly address me as something I do not like, only that would infuriate me. There has been no such case so far. And I infer from most of the stories shared by those women that they did not let the person know at the onset what to address them as.
What I understood was this - only those women who do not accept their age, who are insecure about looking older, and want to "feel" younger are the ones that get extremely agitated by being called as "aunty". I think it's THEIR insecurity, not the other person's.
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