Please Don’t Respect Me

I’m turning gray. No, I am gray. I try to look dignified as my hip catches while getting out of a chair. While walking, I try to stand as tall as I can to take the pressure off my messed up knee so I don’t limp. Walking in heels is out of the question because I fall in the most public of places.

In other words, I’m getting old. I’ve reached the years of used to be. I used to be able to bike a hundred miles, I used to run, I used to jump and skip. I used to be young.

Now this isn’t a complaint. I’m fine where I’m at in time. I just think I don’t want respect.

Here in Hawaii, respect is a big part of the culture. You never go to someone’s home without taking some kind of offering, be it fruit, cooked food or dessert. This is showing respect for the other person’s hospitality. You always take off your shoes before entering their house and you never return from a trip without bringing gifts back for family and friends.

Children are taught from infancy to call adults, Aunty or Uncle. That is showing respect. The little children may not know who you are but they will always address you properly.

Often I’ve heard people who visit the islands comment when addressed as such by a wide-eyed, big grinning, gap toothed child. “Don’t call me that! I’m not your aunt.” It always seems to be women who complain. They’ve come here to enjoy the “Aloha spirit” and culture and right off the bat they interject their own culture. No respect!

For me, I loved it. I felt that my relatives were increasing and I was accepted in the islands. There aren’t as many “locals” as there used to be. There are more immigrants than people born here it seems. Large populations of military, tourist and investors have had a big effect on the Hawaiian culture.

Nobody leaves bags of mangos on their yard wall for any passerby to help himself or herself to. Rarely is anyone given a lei upon arrival to the islands, and it is the exception more than the rule to hear “Hi Aunty” from a little child.

Now I hear “Thank you Miss Karen” more then not. How did the South creep in?

Getting back to the old bones and falling down problems I mentioned. I say I’m fine at being on the autumn side of my life but maybe I don’t want to be reminded of it. When I was a young adult I loved being “Aunty” and I absolutely love to be aunt Karen to my nieces and nephews.

But there is another type of respect shown by the young adults I didn’t mention. Young adults always address those heading into their senior years as Aunty or Uncle also. The first time it happened to me I felt mixed emotions. Wonderful, this young man probably in his late 20’s, thinks of me as a local. Then my heart sank. I’m an old lady. He was showing me the ultimate respect that you would show someone of my age. Was I that old?

I’ve since been addressed as Aunty many times. Even the waitress who is my age! Addresses me as Aunty. But there is one more sign of respect to come Oh lord; I hope it won’t come for a long time. Though I am a grandmother I just don’t want to hear it.

Tutu. A very respectful name indeed for those heading down the geriatric road. It means Grandma, great grandma, old indeed. I’ll never need a calendar to tell me how old I am or look, as long as there are well brought up local children. I just wish I wasn’t’ so worthy of their respect.


17 comments on “Please Don’t Respect Me

  1. Janice says:

    We don’t have any forms of respect in Britain like Auntie or Miss Karen. There is ‘Sir’ and ‘Madam’ but that’s very formal and usually only used in old fashioned establishments. When I was in my early 30s in Oxford a young American man asked me for directions. He called me ‘Ma’am’ – made me feel so old!!! I understand your anxiety about the possibility of being called Tutu. But I guess there comes a time when it does feel right. And I can think of some gentle old ladies with whom it would seem so natural to use this term of respect.


  2. ÇAĞATAY says:

    It is true.

    Mrs. Karen and I married my daughter.


  3. Sartenada says:

    I and my wife, we are senior citizens. There was one habit in Your text which sounds so familiar.

    You wrote: “You always take off your shoes before entering their house “. Well its natural here in Finland. Everybody take shoes off in houses. So we do in our houses. So do my son and my grandson. So do my daughter and my granddaughter. So natural and excellent habit! Think what things there are on roads and many people who do not take shoes off inside their homes bring all into their homes. Besides, feet will rest, when one is bare foot. So natural again.


    • That is so interesting. Of course the ancient Hawaiians only wore a type of Ti leaf slipper if walking on rough terrain so they would not have worn slippers or shoes in their Hale’s but in later times when the people from America came they wore shoes. It was when the Japanese came that the custom was established to take off your shoes when entering the house. And like you I agree, it is a good custom.


  4. Lynette says:

    I’m joining your club. No, I am a bonafide member already. And I am a great-grandmother. Tutu is fitting. Much Love, Lynette


    • My grandkids are old enough to have there own kids but thankfully none have. I’ve put out the word. I may not be able to do anything about getting old but I am hanging up my shield. I will not babysit another kid. I’m finishing off with Nico and homeschooling Kauwela and that is where my career ends!


  5. I had to laugh at this, my parents recently retired although both of them still work part time so that they have some pocket money for their planned trips around Australia. My Mum doesn’t like referring to herself as retired or even semi-retired, she prefers to say that she works part-time and celebrating birthdays with big parties are a big no-no.

    Respect is sadly lacking in society today, some seem to think that they can buy it or bully their way into getting respect so it is nice to hear that some traditions are still practiced but I get your point 🙂

    By the way, your hair looks great!


    • I love hearing about others and their reaction to what I say. Especially nice to hear how your mom feels. As far as I’m concerned they can skip right over the day I was born. What’s to celebrate. Oh they always say,”you celebrate another year of life.” Yeah right, like they are hobbling in my shoes as I fall apart. Hmm must get out and exercise. Now if I do that, I will certainly celebrate it.


  6. I think this respect thing in Hawaii is great, and feel sorry for traditions vanishing. As they are everywere. Disrespect or indifference is what we get instead. So I think you will still enjoy some respect when you get some? But I think I understand what you mean. Age is just numbers, most of the time.


  7. Lovely piece, Aunty Karen!


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