Growing up I was always told to call people Uncle [place name here] or Auntie [place name here]. I was a good little girl and did as was told, I called everyone that and sometimes the adults would get upset because by me calling them that it made them feel old. Catch 22, if I didn’t call them that I would get in to trouble and if I did call them that I would upset them, some visibly.
The adults that didn’t like it would go off on a tangent with me saying how I should just call them by their first names, that they weren’t my Aunts or Uncles but rather just friends of my mothers. Got confusing calling her boyfriends uncles can tell you.
To make matters more confusing when my grandfather passed away my cousins told me that the woman I thought was my grandmother was in fact not. She was my grandfather’s second wife and no relation to me. They told me that I was to stop calling her Granny immediately or I would get into trouble.
The family didn’t like her much because she stole all Oupa’s money, denied the family inheritance and was not of our class. Aristocratic family thinking surpassing snobbish to the extreme. Confusion deluxe for my little mind. Huh? She’s not my Granny? So instead of losing just my Grandpa, known as Oupa, I lost my Granny to.
After that I decided that no matter what mother said I was not going to call anyone Aunty, Uncle or anything else ever again. The people in my life weren’t constant and who knew if they were real or not, one moment they could be my Uncle, the next they could be my torturer or better yet my mothers boyfriend. No ways was I going to do it.
I also realised that calling people by titles doesn’t show respect. The whole family call this one and that by titles but showed little respect. In my little mind it made no sense that they said it was a sign of respect only for them to treat the other without respect. No sense at all.
The adults didn’t like my decision much to the point that I was told that I was bad mannered and rude. No matter what they said I stuck with my decision, they couldn’t do anything to me that they hadn’t done already and my skin was now thicker than thick from it all.
Instead I showed them respect by being respectful in all that I did. I continued to offer them food and drinks as always. I would continue to let them walk first through a door and open doors for them. I would always smile and say my thank you’s, pleases and how are you’s. I would listen to them at length and keep quiet when children should be seen not heard.
It worked. Soon the family gave up castigating me for my rude manners caused by lack of titles and they slowly accepted my decision to do away with them. They grew accustomed to me using their first names even if they didn’t understand the why’s, no matter how many times I tried to explain them.
My families attitude sickened me, I used to get really upset by their actions, by what they said to each other and how they treated each other. I would often try to tell them to show more respect but hearing it from a little girl would just make matters worse. Eventually after many years I gave up when I realised that some people will just never show it as it should be.
From my family I learnt that no one in our lives are constant, that giving someone a title or calling them something doesn’t make them what you call them, that people are more often than not who they say they are.
My most important lesson from my family though was that the only true indicator to know if someone is someone of worth is by their actions.
You can be rich or poor
You can wear nice clothes or wear torn ripped clothing
You can speak and write more eloquently and proper or with the worst grammar
You can be aristocratic or working class
You can be prominent in the community or unknown to the majority
How you treat others says more about you, your actions, speak louder than all else.
A wolf will never be a sheep no matter how hard it tries