by Sam N. Yago
So you're going to be an Uncle; Read this: your health may depend on it...
|I recently went to a national chain of bookstores — which shall remain nameless (all I can say is that Barnes sure ain't noble) — and absentmindedly wandered off into a section of books on parenthood. A lack of anything better to do encouraged me to explore this seemingly vast section of the bookstore. Almost every sleeve boasted the predictable titles: “First-Time Parents,” “Being A Father,” “Motherhood,” “So You’re Gonna Have a Wee One,” and the like. After exhausting five minutes of my precious time, I came to realize that there aren’t many books (if at all) on unclehood (or aunthood, for that matter) — all the more solidifying the tendency to ignore this much-maligned segment of the family unit. As an uncle, I found this very disturbing.|
Certainly, an ode to uncles can be seen in a significantly different section of the bookstore wherein we are constantly depicted in less than amiable light. As comedian Chris Rock had once belabored in one of his routines, we always hear or talk about the alcoholic uncle, or the gay uncle, or the child-molester uncle — the sort of angles of which writers can develop page after page with little effort. Of course, there isn’t an absence of truth with these. After all, most of the generations of serial killers and other headline-grabbing personalities had belonged to one or more of these categories at one point or another (or otherwise throughout their pathetic lives). But, what about those uncles — like yours truly — who deserve more than to be labeled among this group of lowlife scoundrels?
As much as grandparents and great-grandparents alike, uncles and aunts — that other group of extended family members — should enjoy the love and respect that is long overdue them. No longer shall they be used and abused as they currently are, by malicious, ungrateful parents. (Okay, maybe that last statement went a bit too far.) Naturally, I can only speak from personal experience as I now present this partial list of why it’s great (and often, not so) to be an uncle in this day and age.
You play the good cop-bad cop routine to its full potential. Often, when nephews and nieces cannot get their way with their parents, the uncles are subjected to a barrage of whining and white lies that eventually force them to give in to whatever the whims of the manipulative tykes. Oh sure, the little ones don’t mean to obfuscate their unsuspecting second fathers, but they know a good thing when they see it. Afterward, the uncles are then given the third degree by the parental units (in special cases, even the grandparents get involved in the ensuing criticism) and offered an endless list of reasons why the tykes’ requests shouldn’t have been granted. Thankfully, the unassuming uncle can always rely on one of the following surefire retorts:
“Oh, I didn’t know you didn’t approve of it. Believe me, it won’t happen again.”
“He told me you said it was okay. I’m sorry.”
“But you shoulda seen the look in her cute, widdle face…”
You don’t have to be a (pseudo) parent twenty-four/seven. After a tiring day of “Uncle, carry me?!” and “Uncle, I wanna fly!” and other physical, pyschological and emotional abuse, uncles have the joys of caring for little ones without it being a full-time job. It’s sort of like Blockbuster Rewards: the more you rent, the more points you get, and you don’t have to buy the movie to enjoy it. There are uncles — even the single ones — who (for reasons that escape yours truly) actually feel inclined to keep their nephews and nieces overnight. However, these same uncles may also use their nephews and nieces to attract women. Now, that's genius! Er...I mean, sickening.
You make for an excellent, supposedly non-partisan sounding board. Nephews and nieces tend to gravitate to uncles when they have problems about which they choose not to talk to their parents. You become the listening ear, the good advice with things for which nephews and nieces count on uncles, especially when dealing with sensitive matters. Incidentally, you can totally use this to your advantage. At the next family gathering, as you are being subjected to ridicule and condemnation as a result of that IRS scam you unsuccessfully attempted, and it comes to a point when the clan must decide on your excommunication, you can always count on that handful of nephews and nieces, who were so willing to tell you their deepest secrets and desires, to defend you. All you need to do is give them that knowing nod and they're on your side. Blackmail is so underrated.