I was going to start this post off by saying ‘I chose to write An Auntie at a Birthday Party because…’, but really, I didn’t have much choice in it at all. Once I started thinking about the theme of generation gaps, my mind instantly walked me to my aunties.
Growing up, I learnt everything I could about love from them, listened intently to their stories of the men in their lives, the disappointments - ranging from cancelled dates to butterfly stitches - and I thought that by the time my late teens hit, I’d walk into love an expert. Of course, I was wrong in the wildest sense. I still found myself locked in bathrooms, ducking from plates, and double texting.
With this in mind, I wanted to write a piece that highlighted the way in which we play with love when we’re young. The way we call it towards us at parties, dream rosily of picking out furniture together, without having a true understanding of what the other face of love can look like. It seemed fitting that in An Auntie at a Birthday Party, it would be a violent, knee jerk reaction from a woman older than all of us, that gives a glimpse of what is, perhaps, to come; and an insight into what her generation of women has suffered.
In the last stanza, I used the reaction of all the girls in the bar staring at their hands and then back at the woman’s as a tool, intended to symbolise the shock you feel when you realise that something you’ve seen happen to others could very well happen to you. In this example, that realisation is of the lengths that some women have had to go through to defend themselves from their partners, a comment on power dynamics, and the psychological ticks that can be left behind. It was important to me to make a point of calling all the external characters in the poem ‘girls’ or ‘boys’ and the auntie ‘woman’, because I really wanted to make it clear that this was a lesson to be learnt from someone who has lived.
Here, the auntie, representing the generation above, steps in to prevent the angered boyfriend from harming the young girl. I think, in some ways, the years of aunties sharing their stories with me as I grew were an attempt at prevention such as this. So this poem isn’t a piece that points out the difference in generations as a gaping void, but actually as a mirror to step in front of and learn a little about the future we so readily believe is miles away, and the realities that we dismiss.