On Feeling *Extra* Brown This Morning

Baby Barron Trump.JPG

Every weekday morning as I make my way towards the looooooong escalators which lead to red lines, I smile at the man who is employed by the Washington Post to hand out their freebie paper The Express (a.k.a. WaPo Lite). It’s stapled and tabloid-sized which makes it convenient to manage but more importantly, it’s interesting enough to make the trip to work fly by; I especially like the back pages, where they choose pithy quotes from blogs, mention things like FREE Haagen-Dazs and update us metro-riding DCists on celebrity-related crap.

I don’t read Trent or Perez because I’m not THAT interested in whether Britney is wearing knickers (Shamita Shame Shame on the other hand…) but I don’t mind learning enough to keep me clued in to what might be considered conversational fair-game. That’s why I skimmed the following blurb about Junior Combover and his spouse, while waiting for the next train:

Donald Trump became a grandfather over the weekend, 14 months after he became a dad all over again. The baby girl, Kai Madison, was born to Donald Trump Jr. and his wife, Vanessa, both 29, on Saturday in New York, according to published reports. She weighed 6 pounds, 14 ounces. Trump Jr. said the girl’s name comes from her maternal grandfather, a Danish musician. Kai will grow up alongside her uncle Barron, born to Trump and his third wife, Melania, in 2006.

Fine, fine…but what caught my attention was the title:

Family Tree Irrevocably Mangled by Trump Scion

I was so perplexed by this, I didn’t hustle like a normal person and I almost missed my opportunity to evade Sliding Doors. Seriously? Wasn’t “mangled” a bit much? I know, the writers at Express are delightfully snarky, but this immediately and consummately reminded me of all the times when I was younger and my classmates were weirded out by my byzantine family tree:

5th grade Teacher: Anna, your turn. What did you do this summer?
Me: I visited my cousin in New York.
5th grade Teacher: How nice! And how old is your cousin?
Me: 45.
5th grade Teacher: Oh…okay…I was about to ask if you did anything fun with them…but…
Me: I did fun stuff with my nieces.
5th grade Teacher: Your cousins…kids, you mean? Wouldn’t they also be your cousins?
Me: No. They’re my nieces.
5th grade Teacher: And are they your age?
Me: Of course not. They’re 16 and 12.
Jackass who sat across from me: Is there anything normal about you, cow eyes?

My father was the tenth out of eleven kids, ten of whom were boys. He didn’t bother getting married until he was 37 (and you wonder why I’m in no hurry at 32) and he didn’t have us until he was 38 and 41, respectively. This meant that my family tree was irrevocably mangled, too.

It never seemed odd to me though, because all of my Father’s nieces and nephews were his age, since many of his elder brothers were having kids when he was an infant, much like Trump the sequel having daughter Kai Madison a year after his half-brother Barron was born.

So, I grew up knowing that my Father’s favorite relatives were all “junior” to him, even though they were not. Don’t ask me what the specific title for Father’s Younger Brother’s Wife and all that other confusion is, though. I’m as perplexed as non-desis when it comes to that. ;) And they’re pretty baffled—none of my unhyphenated friends understand why I consider my first and second cousins my brothers and sisters, which logically forces me to regard their offspring as my nieces and nephews.

To my unBrown friends, every person in that teeming group is merely a “cousin”, no matter what age or whom they popped out of…though to be fair, I’m not so enlightened either; I can’t for the life of me figure out what this “once removed”-phrasing refers to, i.e. “He’s my Mom’s cousin twice removed.”

The one time I asked my Mother what that meant, she muttered, “Typical! In this country, they try and remove family, we, we try and preserve it.” Then she launched in to why Thanksgiving is a stupid holiday and how Halloween was barely-legitimized begging, but I won’t traumatize you with those tales. ;)

67 thoughts on “On Feeling *Extra* Brown This Morning

  1. I hear you, after about 15 years I reestablished contact with a relative. Technically she is my mom’s cousin, But given that she is way younger than my mom and only a little bit older than me, I refer to her as my cousin and call her by name.

    I am guessing the absence of televisions back in the day has left us with all this confusion.

  2. My aunt went to a desi baby shower for her friend who was pregnant (obviously ;) ) and her daughter was pregnant too. Mother and daughter baby shower. one way to bond.

  3. 5th grade Teacher: Your cousins…kids, you mean? Wouldn’t they also be your cousins?

    Me: No. They’re my nieces.

    I have had almost this exact thing happen to me. I’m telling my friend about my new baby niece and she says, “oh, I didn’t know your brother had a baby!” So I say “no, it’s my cousin’s baby” and she just gives me this completely blank look.

    Also, maybe only other folks of South Indian origin can appreciate this, but my dad always got a kick out of introducing his brother to non-desis, and having them be utterly confused at the fact that they were brothers, but had different “last names.”

  4. Mother and daughter baby shower. one way to bond.

    Bad party planning. Two baby showers = lesser gifts. But it might also work to one’s advantage if the guest list for both people were separate. That way people might have to bring two gifts, if they kinda know both people.

    confused at the fact that they were brothers, but had different “last names.”

    Amen to that. After a point in time, I stopped telling non-desis that he was my brother. It saves a lot of headache.

  5. Also, maybe only other folks of South Indian origin can appreciate this, but my dad always got a kick out of introducing his brother to non-desis, and having them be utterly confused at the fact that they were brothers, but had different “last names.”

    funny given that a lot of people who give these looks have a bunch of “ex’s” in the family. different last names should be common in an american family given a high divorce rate.

  6. Wait.. So, Americans refer to their cousin’s children as cousins? That’s so wierd!! I assumed that they would call a cousin’s son – nephew, because I thought that was the norm throughout the world.

    And yeah, what is that “twice removed” thing?

  7. And yeah, what is that “twice removed” thing?

    thats always f-cked me up.

  8. Jackass who sat across from me: Is there anything normal about you, cow eyes?

    what does cow eyes even mean? When i was a kid people would make fun of me with a fake bad indian accent. I grew up down the street from them. I never understood that. they called me “poor starving indian kid”. Then I realized that these kids were growing up in trailors (nothing wrong with that. not trying to flame), and me in upper middle class suburbia. somehow i was “poor”. confused me even more.

  9. Yeah, trying to explain that we don’t do second and third and once-removed and all that gets tiring after a while.

  10. ….not sure what became of these kids 10 years out of high school…

  11. BTW, has this ever happened to someone:- you go to a marriage and figure out that the bride is the groom’s aunt?

    It happened in my cousin’s wedding. First time all the guests from the boy’s side and all the guests from the girl’s side were invited, 2 of the guests from opposite sides realized that they were related. So, they traced back the relationships until they figured out that the groom is my cousin’s nephew

  12. My mom is the youngest of eleven brothers and sisters, and I am an only child…sort of. My mom left my father right before I was born and came to America. Initially, We stayed with my Mom’s brother who had two older sons. I started talking at an early age and would mimic everything my older ‘cousin brothers’ would say. When they called my uncle ‘dad,’ so did I. Since my uncle has no daughters he would be highly offended if I didn’t call him dad. My own dad is long gone, so really there was no competition for the title. I spent many confusing lunches and recess hours trying to explain my faux father relationship at almost no avail!

  13. Two baby showers = lesser gifts. But it might also work to one’s advantage if the guest list for both people were separate. That way people might have to bring two gifts, if they kinda know both people.

    I think they had to take two lots of gifts. Or it would have looked bad.

    what does cow eyes even mean? When i was a kid people would make fun of me with a fake bad indian accent

    someone tried to insult me once by calling me a curry eater, I thought for a second and said, “your right I am, try again mate”.

    One of my eldest cousins, is about the same age as my dad, he is not really a close cousin but always called him uncle until some smart-arse pointed out to us, that is not technically true.

  14. I have a few I’m-older-than-my-uncle cases in my family. But only one where the “uncle” is indeed the mother’s brother.

    In my family’s system, cousins, no matter how many times removed, are brothers and sisters. But if X and Z are cousins of Y through different parents, that’s usually considered no relation at all.

    In the system of my wife’s family, though, X and Z could be considered siblings! And this chain can be continued ad-infinitum (U-V-W-X-Y-Z). Everybody is either a “marry-able” cousin (other family) or un-marry-able cousin (same family, hence brother or sister). This seems to be from the time when there were only two families in the village and marriages could not be in the same family. Today, only the nomenclature survives.

  15. My mom is one of nine so i understand your pain. All my cousin’s kids are my nephews and nieces not just “cousins”. I call my father’s younger brother’s(who is 5 yrs older) wife Bhabhi but thats not correct cuz she is my chachi (aunt).

  16. In the system of my wife’s family, though, X and Z could be considered siblings! And this chain can be continued ad-infinitum (U-V-W-X-Y-Z). Everybody is either a “marry-able” cousin (other family) or un-marry-able cousin (same family, hence brother or sister). This seems to be from the time when there were only two families in the village and marriages could not be in the same family. Today, only the nomenclature survives.

    my community is the same way. although i would never hook up with or marry a “marryable” cousin. would be icky for me.

  17. I’ve experienced the “what? your cousin’s kids are your cousins, not your nephews” confusion before, and assumed this was just an Indian thing. But then I learned that my Colombian, Brazilian, and Puerto Rican friends also called their cousin’s children their nieces/nephews.

    I think the once-removed thing is someone from a generation ahead of you. For example, your mother’s cousin would be your cousin once removed.

  18. <

    blockquote>When they called my uncle ‘dad,’ so did I. Since my uncle has no daughters he would be highly offended if I didn’t call him dad

  19. When they called my uncle ‘dad,’ so did I. Since my uncle has no daughters he would be highly offended if I didn’t call him dad

    Gudia, Its the same in my family, cousins for my dad side call him Badepapa as he is the oldest.

  20. BTW, has this ever happened to someone:- you go to a marriage and figure out that the bride is the groom’s aunt?

    Hold on, let me get my popcorn.

    Ok, I am ready, tell me more, tell me more.

  21. Family Tree Irrevocably Mangled by Trump Scion…The NYPost would have been went with something like Baby Barron Trumped by Newer, Younger Apprentice

  22. i’m sure

    Don’t ask me what the specific title for Father’s Younger Brother’s Wife and all that other confusion is, though. I’m as perplexed as non-desis when it comes to that. ;)

    was not an invitation for a lengthy explanation of all that stuff, but since i was just having this conversation with my dad a few days ago and he referred me to wikipedia…i feel obligated to pass on the parental knowledge…or (more accurately) the parental-passing-of-the-buck-to-the-internet

    English names

    Hindi names

  23. If you really want to see a confusing family tree. Just look at Days of Our Lives.

    Phillip is Shawn uncle, which would make him Belle and Shawn daughter grand uncle. Phillip is the brother of both Bo and Billie and they used to be a couple. Lucas is the cousin of Hope and Billie sister. Hope half-sister Julie is also her stepmother.Belle and Shawn are a couple and Belle half brother Brady is also Shawn cousin. Rex and Cassie are twins and they are both half siblings to Sami and Lucas who are married. I could go on.

    The desi angle to this is that my aunt watches this show and she get me hooked.

  24. Ha!

    I trump you all!, I have a grandfather younger than me. B/c of my great great grand-father’s second mairraige, I had a great grandfather who was younger than my grandmother and his youngest son is younger than me. Go figure!

    Come to think of it this is why we have population explosion in the sub-continent! Our ancestors have been producing babies all the way from age 20 till age 60!

  25. aww perez, trent, and popsugar are my favorites. gotta get the ‘buzz’.. reading that crap makes my life look like a fairytale…

  26. Our ancestors have been producing babies all the way from age 20 till age 60!

    yup, they didnt need Viagra. They had jadi-buti(not to be mistaken for booty)

  27. yup, they didnt need Viagra. They had jadi-buti(not to be mistaken for booty)

    i think they had booty too.

  28. Indians view family/relatives very differently. My dad would always make me refer to my cousins as cousin-brother, cousin-sister. And he often times had nephews around his age or aunts that were closer to him in age. Also, I don’t know about anyone else but I was instructed to call my parents elder siblings Pappy or Mummy after their names, i.e. Joy Pappa & Podi Mummy, as if they were like my own parents. Younger male siblings esp. of my parents were referred to as Chachan (brother) because they were considerably younger than my parents. Those aunts and uncles that were middle siblings got the plain ole Aunty and Uncle titles. Thought that was interesting since in American culture I have never seen a seperate title of respect given to parent’s older siblings. In other immigrant cultures I have seen grandparents not just called Grandma or Grandpa but titles such as Papa or Poppy.

  29. My partner is Maori and all cousins children in Maori culture are also called nephews and nieces. He is the youngest of ten children and has 150 first cousins so that is a lot of nieces and nephews! The generation you belong to is important, it should not be acceptable to call an older niece or nephew auntie/uncle though European culture has undermined this. The general term for undefined relatives beyond the immediate family is ‘whanaunga’, after that you start getting into hapu and iwi (subtribes and tribes).

  30. And yeah, what is that “twice removed” thing?

    Ok, so my Irish friend explained this to me because according to her, the “removal” terminology is used fairly frequently in Irish families. If there is a generational difference, the term is “removed” by however many generations. If there is a lateral difference, it is degrees. So, your first cousin’s kids are your “first cousins-once removed.” Your first cousin’s grandkids are your first cousin’s twice removed. Your cousin’s cousin is your second cousin. Which means that your second cousin’s kids would be your second cousins once removed. Of course, I think this is a bit more confusing. The way we did it in my family is any blood relative who was my parent’s age or older was an aunty or an uncle. Any blood relative who is closer to my age is a cousin. If someone is on the cusp, you just pick whichever feels right.

  31. In Zimbabwe’s Shona culture, we also refer to cousin-brothers and cousin-sisters. I do think it’s kind of cool that we call our father’s brothers, “Big Father” or “Little Father” depending on whether they’re older or younger than our father. Same with “Big Mother” and “Little Mother”, though I forget those refer too. (Patriarchy divvies up honorifics by the Y chromosome once again ;) )

    I personally feel these and other titles create a closer psychocultural link to family members than titles like uncle/aunt, and cousins-removed etcetera etcetera etcetera. :)

  32. On our last visit to India we were greeted at a cousin’s house by a beaming young woman holding a bouncing toddler and telling him “Look! There’s Nana and Nani!” I looked around to see to whom she was referring only to realize to my shock that she meant me and my SO. To explain, since our previous visit the cousin’s son, our nephew, had married and now had a child to whom we were ofcourse, grandparents.

  33. Also, I don’t know about anyone else but I was instructed to call my parents elder siblings Pappy or Mummy after their names, i.e. Joy Pappa & Podi Mummy, as if they were like my own parents.

    Same thing in my house. Everyone was and is called the same way. Name followed by relationship.

    What is weird is that I address certain relatives – Dad’s parents, His sister and my Aunts (Dad’s sister in laws) with more respect. Neenga vs. Nee (Aap Vs. Tum in hindi).

    My uncles (dad’s brothers), my parents and my mom’s dad got “lesser” respect.

    Never figured out why, but that is always how it has been.

  34. I consider my first and second cousins my brothers and sisters, which logically forces me to regard their offspring as my nieces and nephews.

    THANK you, anna! I constantly go on and on about my adorablicious nieces and nephews, but then people get confused and ask, “Wait, I didn’t know your brother or sister was married!”

    How difficult is this to understand? My parents’ cousins are like siblings to them. Their children are my cousins, too, just as my first-cousins are, and their kids are my nieces and nephews. Voila! The hell is this “twice-removed, etc.” drama anyway?

    The NYPost would have been went with something like Baby Barron Trumped by Newer, Younger Apprentice

    hahaha HIGHFIVE, sirc! and Ba, that was such a great story. You do indeed trump us all, so far, yaar.

  35. In Zimbabwe’s Shona culture, we also refer to cousin-brothers and cousin-sisters. I do think it’s kind of cool that we call our father’s brothers, “Big Father” or “Little Father” depending on whether they’re older or younger than our father. Same with “Big Mother” and “Little Mother”, though I forget those refer too.

    Revolution, my (Pakistani) cousins use those names for their aunts and uncles, too! But I don’t know any other Pakistani families that do the same, so perhaps it’s just my cousins. They call their mother’s big sister vaddi ummy [Big Mother] and their father’s older brother vadda abbaji [Big Father].

  36. My uncles (dad’s brothers), my parents and my mom’s dad got “lesser” respect.

    That’s interesting, and I’ve observed similar things in my own family. For example, my mom refers to her brothers (much older than her) as “neenga” (i.e. Aap), but her father as “nee” (i.e. Tum).

    Also, my spouse uses “nee” for his mother, but “neenga” for his dad.

  37. Try explaining everyone that you had the same last name as your husband before you got married. Its pointless. The question always comes back “Are you sure you are not related?” Duh, no – there is about a billion of us all over the world with the same last name (Mistry) and no we are not all related!

  38. I’ve been a ‘chachaji’ (‘uncle’) since I was eleven years old. By the time my parents were married, they each had nieces and nephews that were in their teens. My father, at 32, married a little late (while his older sister was married around 19, and she was several years older than him). And on the other side, my mother’s eldest sister, my eldest aunt, was 16 years older than my mother, and probably just 14 years or so younger than my maternal grandmother, and my aunt also married earlier in her life than my mother did.

    So, as my eldest cousins began having kids, I became, successively, either a mama or a chacha, all before I had reached my teens. It was the effect of small-town to big-town migration, rapid forced change, within a generation, to developments in the economy, education, professional environment, female entry into the workforce, etc. The social adjustment from all that, and more, is still under way, and we are all dealing with its effects…

  39. for me it’s not the 40 some cousins (mom has 55 firsts), or the numerous 2nd cousins who are 5-8 years old than me that’s hard to explain, it’s all the first cousin marriages. Granted most of these took place in the context of of my diaspora-strewn family where you might never see some of your first cousins, but there is such an ‘ick’ factor involved in ANY explanation of this phenomenon to literally anybody raised in the US. Anybody else have this problem?

  40. n Zimbabwe’s Shona culture, we also refer to cousin-brothers and cousin-sisters. I do think it’s kind of cool that we call our father’s brothers, “Big Father” or “Little Father” depending on whether they’re older or younger than our father. Same with “Big Mother” and “Little Mother”, though I forget those refer too. (Patriarchy divvies up honorifics by the Y chromosome once again ;)

    Also true in Karnataka. Chikkappa (little father) and doddappa (big father) are the younger and elder paternal uncles. Similarly chikkamma and doddamma.

    In Kannada, the word for nephew is the same as the word for son-in-law (aLyaa). Up until recently, it was normal for a guy to marry his mom’s brother’s daughter. Hence, the term was valid. Even now, in quite a few SOuth Indian communities, the maternal uncle “gives away” the bride (his niece) – akin to signing away his “rights”. :-)

  41. Revolution, my (Pakistani) cousins use those names for their aunts and uncles, too! But I don’t know any other Pakistani families that do the same, so perhaps it’s just my cousins. They call their mother’s big sister vaddi ummy [Big Mother] and their father’s older brother vadda abbaji [Big Father].

    yasmine Further examples of awesome parallels in our one big human family! :) Baba mudiki (Little Father), Baba mukuru (Big Father) Amai guru (Big Mother) and Amai mudiki (little mother)…Aw, I feel so brown right now, it’s like turning cartwheels of cultural joy! :)

  42. It’s the same in most southern languages, I think…”big father/mother” and “little father/mother” for your parents’ older and younger siblings respectively. I suppose the names make a lot more sense if you consider how the extended family would have all lived together at one point.

    I also like that Indian languages have different words for “aunt”, as in your father’s brother’s wife has a different name/title than your father’s sister. It makes it easy to immediately know who someone is referring to, without any additional questions.

  43. SDM, that explanation made so much more sense than 90% of what I’ve been told! If people had just said it’s about moving up/down or side/side on the family tree, it woulda been a lot easier to comprehend!

    I used to have the hardest time explaining how I had so many aunts and uncles on my mom’s side given that my mom has only one biological sister and one biological brother. Whew.

  44. Further examples of awesome parallels in our one big human family! :) Baba mudiki (Little Father), Baba mukuru (Big Father) Amai guru (Big Mother) and Amai mudiki (little mother)…Aw, I feel so brown right now, it’s like turning cartwheels of cultural joy! :)

    Similar patterns in Swahili: Baba Mkubwa / Baba Mdogo (Big/Small Uncle – older/younger than father) and Mama Mkubwa / Mama Mdogo (Big/Small Aunt – older/younger than mother – though also used for co-wife rankings in polygamous families)

  45. For example, my mom refers to her brothers (much older than her) as “neenga” (i.e. Aap), but her father as “nee” (i.e. Tum).

    I called my dad “ada”. It scandalized everyone, but he thought it was adorable. :)

  46. i’m the same – still don’t understand the ‘removed’ thing as far as cousins go. and the ‘first, second cousin’ scenario – when i was a kid i thought it was an order-of-preference thing.