For years, the investigative team at The Root has feverishly sought an answer to the age-old question: “Do white people have cousins?”
While our project is still undergoing the rigorous peer review process, our researchers can say, with a modicum of confidence, that white people indeed have aunts. We unearthed evidence that Aunt Jackie from Rosanne was the white equivalent to Lamont Sanford’s Aunt Esther and the now-incarcerated Aunt Becky was the black Aunt Viv. (We only recognize the dark-skinned Aunt Viv. That other lady was shacking up with Phil while she was still married to the owner of Frank’s Place.)
During the initial research phase of our study, we were shocked when we realized that there wasn’t a single documented case of a Caucasian auntie. Some may argue that Opie Taylor’s Aunt Bee qualifies but until we can forensically examine the contents of Beatrice Taylor’s purse for peppermint residue or test the moisture of her pound cake, we cannot confirm her status as the first white auntie.
With the upcoming Verzuz Auntiepalooza between Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle on Sunday—two first-ballot Auntie Hall of Famers—we decided to educate our readers on the list of auntie traits certified by the Organization of Uncles, Ridas, Sorors, Kids, Ign’ant Niggas, Fuckwittables and Other Loose Kin (OURSKINFOLK).
The first thing you should know is that an aunt is different from an auntie. A 24-year-old with five nieces does not qualify for auntiehood. Conversely, the 53-year-old woman in the black leather miniskirt and kitty heels on the front row of the Frankie Beverly and Maze concert is an auntie, even if she is nephewless.
As a founding member of Auntifa, One of the hardest days of my life was when I had to inform my niece Amaya that she needed to change her name if she wanted to babysit. There is no algorithm for determining an auntie name but some people can’t acquire their auntie certification just because their parents saddled them with a cool current moniker.
For instance, I could easily imagine my aunt Blue Ivy pulling a stash of Werthers out of a suitcase-sized purse but an Aunt Psalm West would never get a callback from the usher board tryouts unless she started using the official pronunciation of church ladies—it as “Psalmith” West.
Examples of Auntie names: Gladys, Halle, Willona and anyone named Patricia.
Regardless of age, all aunties are physically attractive (That’s a fact).
But, because the 5th Law of Negrodynamics explicitly states that “Black don’t crack,” there is no way to categorize aunties by age. Despite Erik Latavius Killmonger’s assertions, Angela Bassett still hasn’t reached auntie status but Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King have radiated auntie vibes for three decades. Sandra Huxtable was more of an auntie than Claire Huxtable.
Aunties can usually be spotted in the wild by the size of their pocketbooks, which, according to OURSKINFOLK regulations, must be large enough to carry:
- a program from a 1988 homegoing service;
- some kind of “liniment”;
- a family pack of Brach’s peppermints; a “billfold” with prom pictures of other people’s kids;
- reading glasses in an embossed, faux-leather case;
- house keys;
- house shoes (or flip-flops)
- a white prayer cloth;
- 17 ballpoint pens;
- a large print family Bible with a concordance (King James version only. Heathens read that New International Translation bullshit)
- and a change purse with emergency bosom money;
Oh, yes, If you want to be an auntie, you must have a bosom.
To be clear, I am not talking about breasts—aunties don’t even have breasts. I would never approve of body shaming and a woman’s bra size has nothing to do with her worth. I’m talking about the place where infants lay their heads when their aunties are rocking them to sleep. I’m talking about the place where Candy Ladies keep spare change.
The 23rd edition of the Unabridged Auntie dictionary defines a bosom as:
(noun) 1. An area formed by the the meeting two individual mammary glands that are correctly referred to by aunties as “tiddies;”
2. a magical place that spontaneously produces tithes, offering and money for the ice cream man.
3. The appropriate place to spray White Diamonds perfume
Aunties also must own some form of animal print and wedges for when they “go out”—usually to a “disco” for the “grown and sexy,” an all-white party or a place with an ample selection of Earth Wind & Fire songs.
That’s when the bosom transforms into “tiddies.”
Examples of auntiewear: Everything Saaandra wore on 227. This formal usher outfit, shoulder pad short set and church announcement uniform worn by these aunties:
While aunties are usually the sweetest humans on the planet, there is only one common characteristic that can be found in all aunties.
Aunties don’t play.
The list of things aunties don’t “play ‘bout” include their money, their nieces and nephews, their appointment at the beauty parlor, their 2012 Honda Civic and their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If you fuck with any of these things, an auntie will whip your ass and then whip you up a perfectly melted grilled cheese sandwich. They can drink tequila straight with no chaser but if you ask them, they will only admit that they like “a little wine every now and then.”
And, even though aunties might go out and drink Hennessy straight out of the bottle, they hardly ever miss work, choir practice or Sunday church service. According to a Nielsen survey, 82 percent of aunties have the Holy Ghost and 49 percent of aunties have a picture of the Obama family on their phone.
They always vote.
Examples of auntie behavior: Harriet Tubman, Gayle King’s R. Kelly interview; Waiting to Exhale is a study in auntieology.
Another way to tell an auntie is by their language. There are five words and phrases that are used almost exclusively by aunties.
- Sometimey: A person who is not dependable.
- Mess: Confusion, chaos or disorder. Someone is always starting it or either coming with it.
- Hee hee hell: A warning not to laugh at her expense.
- Ass: Because most aunties let the Holy Ghost to lead and guide them, they refer to the buttock area by names like the “behind,” the “rump,” a “goat-smelling” (South Carolina only) or—in the case of my aunt Marvell, a “roopastor” (I still don’t know what that means). Aunties are, allowed to say the word “ass” in a moment of anger.
- Earl: All aunties have dated or are currently involved with someone named Earl (Coincidentally, this is why there are so many aunties named Earlene). Whenever I go to a pastor’s anniversary, an AKA function or a 50th-birthday party or any function called a “soiree,” I always introduce myself as “Earl Jerome.”
Example of Auntiespeak: “You know I don’t like to start no mess but Earl ass be acting sometimey.”
Contrary to popular belief, not all aunties are skilled at macaroni-making. Most, however, can make biscuits from scratch and can whip up a red velvet cake for your birthday, graduation or if you did well on your report card. Aunties are very concerned with report cards and if you have a boyfriend.
Aunties also can help you with your homework because most are currently in school for nursing. This doesn’t mean that aunties are overrepresented in the population of nurses. Then are just in school for it. I think they do it for the scrubs. Two-thirds of aunties wear scrubs to work.
Most aunties can also sing and have at least one song they sing during praise and worship service that will make the church shout. In fact, according to Billboard Magazine, 73 percent of the Black women who have ever appeared on the R&B chart were aunties when their song charted or later transitioned into auntiedom. Very few aunties can dance because they have bad knees from their athletic days.
All aunties ran track in high school.
Examples of aunties with talent: Mary J. Blige (excluding her dance moves); Mary Mary, the original Mary and this piece of merry.
*This list is not based on life achievements. This is based solely on accomplishments in the realm of auntiedom.
10. Willona Woods: Adopted Penny after pushing Penny’s mother down an elevator shaft. Made 12 pans of mac & cheese after James died.
9. Phylicia Rashad: Helped keep Cockroach off the streets. Raised Cousin Pam and Olivia like they were her own.
8. Rosa Parks: Was secretary of the NAACP, which is the perfect example of auntie work in the community.
7. Aunt Esther: I know she seemed mean, but she was always nice to Lamont. Plus, she wore a church hat to non-church events.
6. Wilma Jenkins: First woman to pair pound cake with fried chicken. Always kept a supply of this candy, which is only available to high-ranking usher board member.
5. Aretha Franklin: Aretha Franklin was born an auntie. She sang like an Auntie when she was 19. She also gave us a seminal moment in auntiequity when she wore a fur coat to sing the national anthem at an indoor stadium.
4. Aunt Viv: One of the few aunties to achieve excellence in the dance arena. Before she was savagely murdered by that light-skinned woman (that’s what happened to her, right?), Viv raised Will to always be in total control, even when he learned about “entanglements.”
3. Michelle Obama: First Auntie-in-Chief. Literally grew collard greens at the White House.
2. Sandra Clark: Beneath her diva exterior, few people know that Sandra Clark was an organizer in the Auntie Rights movement of the 1970s. She was the first person to ever be called a “hussy.” She also gave excellent advice to Lester.
1. Harriet Tubman: The original recipe auntie once said: “I gave birthday money to a thousand nephews. I could have helped a thousand more if only there was space in my bosom.”