Paul Starke: Last weekend, some friends of Melissa's came over with their son, who's about Luke's age. They're nice enough people, although when my wife makes these "family playdates," I usually lie my way out of it by saying I have to go to a blood drive. Great excuse, by the way. Anyhow, I forgot to do that this time, so here I was, hanging out with this couple and their toddler.
At one point in the afternoon, something curious happened: this guy -- whose only connection to me was that my wife and his wife used to work in the same office -- was telling his son Daniel to give me a high-five or something, but said it thusly: "Daniel, go give Uncle Paul a high-five!" You see the weird part, right? "Uncle" Paul? I've met this guy maybe eight times in my life. I've met his kid, like, twice. All of a sudden I'm his uncle? We're that close? Really?!?
Don't get me wrong: when I was a kid, there were a handful of my parents' friends who were elevated to "Uncle" or "Aunt" status despite their lack of any shared bloodlines. So I'm not opposed to that moniker. I just think there should be some ground rules before dropping the "U" bomb.
• Both couples need to be in agreement, and have this discussion beforehand. You can't just unilaterally declare someone to be your kids' uncle. I used to date this girl who, after we went out a few times, started referring to me as her "boyfriend" in mixed company. That was annoying, and didn't last long. Same thing applies here.
• You have to have known each other for at least 15 years. My best friend in high school is an uncle to my kid. Again, not some dude whose wife happened to share a cubicle with my wife for 11 months.
• In addition to blood relatives, no more than four people can be honorary aunts and uncles. Otherwise, it cheapens the whole honor. It's kind of like the wild card in baseball -- you shouldn't make the playoffs if you don't win the division. Wait, I just realized that my wife won't understand that analogy. You know how the Academy Awards are going from 5 Best Picture nominees to 10 this year? Having too many casual aunts and uncles is sort of like that. I don't think "Transformers 2" should get nominated for Best Picture, and I don't think Luke should be obligated to call this tool his uncle.
Gotta go -- late for the blood drive.
|Paul Starke is an Emmy-winning TV producer, and a co-writer of the #1 New York Times bestseller, "An Inconvenient Book."|