Adopt an Auntie: The Value of Older Woman Friends
If you're blessed in a special way, you have cousins and aunts who are old enough to have at some point shown you the ropes but still absolutely young enough to be relatable. You know the ones--they watched over you, were a model of self care and womanhood, took you for your "first" drink at 21, were there for that first breakup, told you the real real about sex, and just were the embodiment of what you thought Black womanhood should look like. Well if you don't know, just imagine. I’ll let you borrow mine. For me, that person was my aunt. My father’s sister. She was, and is, a boss, and is the inspiration of this post.
In my formative years (awareness age to around 12), I was on the quiet side, and a very focused observer. I would take note of the details of her life and decided in my very-young mind that her life had several aspects I wanted for myself. Whether she intended to teach or not, I don’t know (I hope to interview her soon) but what I do know is that she was a model of what I thought womanhood was. My perceptions may or may not have been a reflection of reality but here is what I saw:
A powerful woman--she lived alone and was very financially successful but made room for a man in her life. She had the support of sisterfriends, loved her family, and traveled the world while on vacations from her 9-5. Her graduation with her Masters degree was the first I ever attended, and she went out of her way to do my hair before we went there. She made time to cultivate me and my sister, her little nieces, making sure we felt at home in her home, and showed us a level of self-prioritization that I had never seen. To me, her life had a soundtrack that was Tribe Called Quest, Lucy Pearl, and Jill Scott on vinyl. I mean, the sista was magic, chile.
She was entrepreneurial in the marketing of herself, promoting to different jobs and insisting that she be compensated at a number that was agreeable to her. If a role didn’t meet her where she wanted it to be, she would bounce and ask questions later. Her home was lovely, always with candles, and floors delightfully slippery from her use of Murphy’s Oil Soap. No “smell-good” or cosmetic was spared in the curation of her space or maintenance of her skin and hair, and we played happily in her bedroom with nail polishes, makeup, perfumes, and lotions. Without formality or explanation, she showed me the ropes.
She would shower, then come hang out with us not realizing that I was studying her every move--rub body butter on feet, put on thick socks before bed to keep skin soft, wrap your hair like that, paint nails like this, answer the phone in this way, initiate small talk at the cash register like this... To this day, in summer I use the body oil she did at my age, and I think of her every time I buy it.
Not one to sit me down for a heart-to-heart, she didn’t have to say that she believed in me or expected me to accomplish as much as her. I just knew it. She would invite her nieces to the city (3 of us), leave me with a key, and as the eldest (11 years old) I was expected to manage the small budget of petty cash she gave us, project manage the cleaning of the apartment, and keep us alive as we ventured out into the Chicago north side streets. I was absolutely and utterly mortified, even had trouble sleeping the night before as my sister and other cousin laid in the dark happily chatting about what fun was to be had, but knew she expected me to know what the hell to do and where to go. So I did. She taught me to be fearless.
As a result of her impact, I’ve always sought the wisdom and friendship of older women and have several friends and associates who are old enough to be my (young-ish! ha! ) mother.
I'm here to tell you, this kind of relationship is definitive! As we get older and can choose our own tribe, we have to make room for this kind of relationship in our lives.
Here are four signs you might have found an auntie:
Someone let you in to their personal life/space. You know a woman who is substantially older than you (note: Six years or more, and they know enough to prove it. Age does not always equal maturity, unfortunately) but authentic and let's you have a window into her personal and spiritual life.
Someone is loving on you. There is a woman who treats you like an adult but when you really need advice, she shares with a no bullshit attitude.
You're getting close with your friend's mom. You have a sisterfriend whose family has welcomed you into their lives and her mom has told you “you don’t have to only come over with [insert sisterfriend name here]! Come see me sometime!”. Go see her sometime, girl! Don’t overstay--an hour or two should do it! But go take some snacks and see if you guys hit it off!
There is a woman whose story intrigues you. She is willing to share the obstacles she overcame to get to where she is, the failures she has faced, and verbally and through action expresses her enthusiasm to be in your life.
Women like this are priceless. If you feel you don’t have anything to contribute to a woman with more experience, then it’s time for you to take inventory. If it’s true that you have growing to do, then it’s time to level up! Otherwise, enjoy the mutually beneficial relationship. You’ll be a breath of fresh air to her and in return you’ll grow exponentially as you interact.
Life can be exhausting so if you have friends like this, show your appreciation!! She will absolutely appreciate it.