I became an aunt when I was 31. That was the time when my niece was born. Three years later, my nephew was born, and I became an aunt the second time. They have been taught to call me Er Eee (2nd aunt in Chinese) since young as I was the second child in the family. These are my elder sister’s children, and I have a younger sister whom they call San Ee (3rd aunt). I always thought San Ee sounded way cooler than Er Ee (which also sounded like “crocodile” in Chinese!). My nephew couldn’t say San Ee accurately as a young boy, so it came out as “Charney”. He once wrote me a card with “A E” on it, which was how he called me then.
So, why should it matter that now strangers address me as “Auntie”? I have been an aunt to my niece and nephew for the past 20+ years. The other day, at CBTL, I was clearing up a table and a young lady spilled some hot drinks on herself. I quickly helped her to clean up the mess and she said “Thank you, Auntie”. I got her some serviettes to clean her hands and she said “Thank you, Auntie” again. I just smiled although I did feel a bit uncomfortable.
Since working at CBTL, I have been called Auntie several times. Sometimes, it is by new fellow colleagues who didn’t know my name. They probably saw the silver hair and called me Auntie. I am in my early 50’s, and old enough to be their moms actually! And I tell people that I am retired anyway. So I shouldn’t get so hung up with being called Auntie. But somehow that made me feel really old and I don’t like it. Most people still address my mom as “Auntie” and I am definitely not as old as my mom! I think when they start calling her Ah Por (grandma), then that’s the time to call me Auntie, not before then, thank you very much.
I pride myself on my looks. I have relatively good skin with very little acne marks, pores and wrinkles. Yes, pigmentation marks have started showing but I have been going for laser treatment to lighten them. Overall, if you get past my silvery hair, I can still pass off as early 40’s. I suppose it does boil down to the colour of my hair at the end of the day. That is the first thing people see anyway, not the smoothness of my skin.
I started greying in my 20s. It started with a few strands of hair which I would pluck out. When those became more, I turned to dyeing. I have been dyeing my hair for more than 20 years. That got to be damaging to my scalp, no matter what organic or no-peroxide dye they use. I decided to embrace silver because I was like 95% grey and it was just not logical to be spending so much time and money covering the 95% every few weeks. Plus I wasn’t working anymore and job interviews were few and far in between. My new employer would just have to accept the person that I am, silver hair and all. Anyway, in my 50s, hiring me shouldn’t be about my looks anymore even if it might have been in my younger days. Now, it should really be about my capabilities and work experience. I think I chose the right time to be grey because it seems to be the in-thing nowadays. A lot of youngsters are bleaching their hair and dyeing it grey as a fashion statement, which doesn’t make sense to me. Why rush the process and damage your hair, I told someone. You will eventually grow grey with age anyway!
Overall, I don’t regret making this choice to embrace silver. It has saved me a lot of money and time that I use to spend on dyeing and treatments. I know I can always go back to dyeing if I wanted to but I don’t see a need so far. To be honest, I am still trying to get use to my whole head of silver, I wear a cap when I am on public transport because I feel uncomfortable about people staring at me. No one has given up their seat to me yet — I think it is because I don’t look like an elderly. I finally posted a photo of myself on Facebook. Some friends like it, others are shocked. Hopefully, we will all get use to my new look because I don’t think I will be going back to dyeing anytime soon. I am actually thinking of adding highlights in ash colour to be more stylish and more with the in-crowd — my hairdresser will check on it for me. And I so need to get comfortable with the term Auntie. No one is getting younger, so we need to accept that we are aging. What I really want is to be the cool Auntie, the drummer Auntie, the adventurous Auntie, the healthy Auntie and the wealthy Auntie. One day soon, I hope.
Let the Aunties unit! And be proud!