Writers like Jane Austin and later Charles Dickens would sometimes write about maiden aunts who would take in and care for lost and forlorn orphans. They would also guide pubescent young men and women into making suitable choices for marriage. Later in the mid twentieth century, we were introduced to aunts like Bea and Mame who would guide children into making suitable choices for life.
Before the 18th century, you never heard of anyone named Aunt Ruth or Jezebel in the bible even though I am sure they were somebody’s sisters. You also never hear mention of Aunt Drusilla or Aunt Julia Minor from the early days of the Roman Empire and sisters of which ever Caesar was in power at the time. The term Aunty never really became popular until society with its Victorian mores started justifying why someone’s sister had reached a certain age and still had no man in her life. Why Bertha was sitting at the end of the table hogging all the bread rolls as her only comfort with no marriage looming in her future. They had to explain why Sally was living by herself or with some other spinster woman down at the end of the street? So they came up the title Aunt and let’s face it, Aunt is really code for dyke.
Now there is nothing wrong with being labeled a dyke. It just means that no one is laying down that pipe unless it’s made of rubber or plastic, and is strapped on. No shame in that. I know a lot of women that don’t need to call themselves aunty anymore and live their lives and enjoy it. This is the twenty-first century and no one needs to act like the strange man behind the curtain in the Emerald City any more. No, the embarrassment only comes when you are living your life still trying to get some and you end up in a crowd of people looking like somebody’s great aunt who has never seen it and probably never ever will.
Take for example my recent dinner at XIX, a restaurant in the Park Hyatt Philadelphia at the Bellevue. “What, the Bellevue?” you say. “Isn’t that the hotel where legionnaire’s disease came from and all those people died?” Yes, but let somebody else’s blog talk about that shit, I’m talking about dinner.
Anyway, I was surrounded by all of the old world charm and opulence that the "Grand Old Dame of Broad St" could offer on the 19th floor of the building, The dining room, although not too large but actually small enough to be intimate, was bathed by a low light that reminded you of sitting on the banks of the Seine or riding in a gondola on the Canal Grande in Venice. In other words romantic. There was a humungous string of oversized pearls that hung from the ceiling in the dining room over our group of mainly gay men. How appropriate.
We were there to celebrate the birthday of a friend of mine who having turned or about to turn 40 had decided to commemorate it by going to this restaurant. He had his partner with him, whom I am actually closer to and almost everyone else there was also similarly paired with their partners. The only exceptions were my friend’s sister another guy and of course you guessed it, me.
Now during the last two or three years, I have become used to being the one with no special person to turn to, or even being with someone who would not last longer than the night. Hell sometimes they wouldn’t even last the length of time that it would take to think about it. But this night, this night, something different happened.
I was speaking to the person across from me and I asked him, for what reason I forget now, how he felt when he turned 40, since except for the young-uns, I thought that was the general age group and theme of the party. Well faith and begorrah, shock and awe, Captain and Tennille. Alright, I don’t know how to describe the distress and anger that he was going through. But you would have thought that I had just made a sexual proposition to his mother or some other nearest and dearest as he clutched his imaginary pearls.
So I looked to my left and then to my right and apart from the old man at the end of the table with the nineteen year old, don’t ask I don’t have all the details yet, I suddenly realized that I was the oldest one there. I was the elderly maiden aunt that everybody tolerated but spoke about behind her back. I felt embarrassed for myself and I decided then and there that I should keep quiet and to myself before someone started asking me questions about what it was like during Prohibition or something. Suffice it to say, I realized that even if I didn’t hog any of the bread rolls, I behaved and was probably perceived as somebody’s maiden aunt who was to be helped and pitied.
I shall let NPR know that not all maiden aunts are dying out. Some of us are alive and well, keeping the tradition of saying the wrong things at the wrong time. By the way, I kept the pen that I signed the check with as a keepsake of the event. That’s so old womanish.