THE imperative is to be not boring.
As an aunt you may be many things, many and wide and varied, but boring must never be one. I say this after reading yet another article about the Pank. The Pank is the latest snappy acronymn to describe a group that has existed for all of time but which has yet to mobilise or be monetised.
In the case of the Pank, it's all about the money. The acronymn stands for Professional, Aunt, No Kids. There seems to be deviance in the use of commas in this list. Many will write Professional Aunt, No Kids.
I must insist on the second comma; a Professional Aunt is a nanny and a nanny is a separate beast entirely.
Pank has a pleasing smack of the Suffragette about it - the Pank could easily stem from Pankhurst. It also has a pleasing smack of a smack about it - spank. Though the male version of this acronymn sounds much more fun.
Some light digging turns up all sorts of new, Pank-related word play. The Debutaunt has become an aunt for the first time; an Aunt By Choice is a close family friend; a Lesbiaunt is exactly as you would imagine; and a Pank must spend qualauntie time with her younglings.
Panks would appear to be on the rise: the proportion of childless women has not been this high since 1920, following the losses of the First World War. The International Business Times calls "Pank travel" — aunts holidaying with nieces and nephews — one of its top trends for 2014,
Depending on your era, you will know the Pank by the more common "maiden aunt" or "spinster aunt" but the Pank is an attempt to distance the modern young aunt both from these stigma-laden terms and from her cash.
We are, apparently, the current marketing dream. From what I read about Panks, their worth seems to be valued at, well, their worth.
The founder of website SavvyAuntie, Melanie Notkin, is Pank spokeswoman yet she repeatedly conflates aunthood with cash. Notkin includes the phrase: "Play a financially meaningful role in the lives of other people's kids" in her definition of the "modern, cosmopolitan aunt". Marketers are rubbing their thighs at us.
Might I boldly suggest they're doing it wrong.
The sum of a Pank's parts is not her financial outlay, it is vastly more than that. The Government will have you believe that nuclear families are the rock on which a wise society builds its house. I call that balderdash. The nuclear family is but sand.
Motherhood is sentimentalised but aunthood is largely ignored. A wise society will learn to value its Panks. Preferably with tax breaks.
Every family needs a dedicated Pank to thrive. When the mother is at her wit's end we are there with gin and sympathy. When the father has no idea what's wrong with the mother, there we are to lay it out for him in simple terms. When the couple needs a night to themselves, we babysit. We referee and we counsel and we come fully equipped with Hendricks.
But, mostly, we are there for the children. And so here we are back at the beginning: it is imperative not to be boring.
You must have some weird quirk, some marker of your great uniqueness. You must have at least three party tricks; be horribly, spectacularly embarrassing; dance and juggle, preferably at once; and - most vitally - keep their secrets.
Your niecelets and nephlings should say at least once per visit, "What are you doing?", with mouth slightly agape on the "doing". If they do not, you have failed. And once you have loved them, counselled them and kept them warm, your last purpose as an auntie is to be aspirational - either as an excellent example or horrible warning. Money's the last of it. The very, very last.
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