Last week, my nephew turned one. And in my first year of aunt-dom, I think I’ve done pretty okay. I’ve introduced him to Batman, hockey, and The Beatles; kept him well stocked in hand-knits; and will happily sit through an episode or two of Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Not a bad start in my quest to be the cool aunt. While I had my own cool aunt growing up (she had the best nail polish collection…), there are a few ladies in pop culture I can look to for inspiration.
For me, the ultimate cool aunt is Mame Dennis. The 1955 novel by Patrick Dennis was loosely based on his own eccentric aunt, Marion Tanner. In the story, an orphaned Patrick is sent to live with his wonderfully bohemian Auntie Mame. She gives Patrick a notebook to keep track of the words he doesn’t know, teaches him how to make a good martini, and encourages him to live life to the fullest. I’ve always appreciated Mame’s view that “life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.” The 1958 movie, starring the great Rosalind Russell is one of my all time favorites.
Abby and Martha Brewster seem like the super-typical spinster aunts, however there is more to these two ladies from Arsenic and Old Lace than meets the eye. Sure, they make a mean elderberry wine cocktail, with just a pinch of cyanide (it’s simply a bit of charity that helps lonely old bachelors move on to the next phase of life). But they also know their nephew Teddy is happiest when left to the delusions that he’s Teddy Roosevelt – charging up the staircase like it was San Juan Hill and digging the Panama Canal in the cellar (while taking care of a few dead bodies). The Brewster aunts may be a little nuts, but they also encourage Teddy and their two other nephews to be themselves.
On the the long-running show Roseanne, Aunt Jackie usually had no idea what she wanted out of life for herself. But she was always there for Becky (both of them), Darlene, and DJ. Especially in the early years of the show, when Jackie would team up with DJ in schemes to terrorize his older sisters. Like Jackie, I may not always know what the heck I’m doing, but I want the best for my little guy.