Fier Thy Words

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Crying Uncle: Having a Niece is Overrated; Little Kids Hide Behind Their Cuteness


by Scott Spinelli

Easily the strangest moment of my life was when I found out I was going to be an uncle. My sister, as it turns out, was going to have a kid.

“Wait a minute, Abbey has sex?”

Gross as it may be, that’s where my first thoughts went. Unless that stork nonsense turns out to be true…But really, the thought of it, to this day, induces a vomit reflex.

But that was almost two years ago. Now, my niece, Julia, is starting to do real human things. You see, my parents were always angry at me for not paying her enough attention. As far as I see it, until she starts doing things the rest of us do such as walk, talk, deal with disappointment, hide secrets from one another or enjoy fine Italian cuisine without spilling it all over yourself, she’s nothing more than a living blob.

Terrible? Maybe, but really, am I supposed to be impressed by something pointing in the general direction of a man, uttering “Pa! Pa!” That’s the true beauty of being that young. Anything you do is akin to reinventing the wheel.

Take, for instance, when you learned how to ride a bike. Before I could actually do it without those helper wheels, I thought I had a better chance of scaling the Himalayas. Could you imagine if your 20-year-old friend couldn’t ride a bike? What was the skill set there anyway? Balance?

I don’t know. I’m just never impressed with little kids. If my sister called me to tell me Julia learned how to write calligraphy, I’d come home to see it. Otherwise, what am I supposed to say?

“Oh my God, she said Pa! So what that she’s pointing at the chair. Pa sits in chairs, sometimes at least, so that’s probably what she was referring to.”

That’s another thing, you can’t make fun of infants, at least those related to you. And, it’s not just because they can’t defend themselves, though I guess it has something to do with it. The real reason comes from one group, the grandparents. My father, specifically, acts like a complete fool. There’s something about having a baby around, almost like a full moon to Michael J. Fox in “Teen Wolf.” Call it the crazy quotient, if you like.

I’ll be in a conversation with him, and he has no qualms about leaving it to get down, hands and knees and grin like an idiot at this infant who can’t even talk. Here I am, a walking, talking adult, and I can’t even hold his attention.

My parents say I’m jealous. Maybe so I do worry though, that I won’t be a good uncle. In the movies, the uncle is always the cool one, the one that takes the niece or nephew to the ball game. The one that buys the niece or nephew the first diseased prostitute. You know, that sort of family stuff.

I look at some of my own uncles. Geez. I’d imagine everyone can relate to this, but I know if there was a prison ran by and for bad uncles, I’d at least have a few jailors and the warden.

Thing is, I don’t even think she knows me. I’m never home, so my two nincompoop brothers are busy stealing prime “Don’t You Remember When” time. Already, her memory of me is fading. I spoke with my sister recently, and she told me Julia calls me “Uncle Cott”. Cute? Maybe to some. I look at it like I’ll be “Uncle Ott” in a few years. Ultimately, phased out.

The other thing I always think about is what she’ll be like when she’s older. Because I’m an infant in my own right, I group her future possibilities into the stereotypical categories I saw on display in high school. Will she be really hot, cheerleader type? How about one of those nerdy girls with no friends who wears make up to convince herself she’s not as big of a loser as she actually is? Or maybe one of those superstar athletes who could beat the snot out of me.

Whatever it is she does become, I can imagine softening my tough-guy stance. I look forward to actually talk to her. Though, I’d imagine I’ll only have a few years to get any good conversation in before I have to take the obligatory, “You’re a Teenage B*tch” break. If she takes after her mother, that’s almost a no-brainer as well. Still, if in the end they come out the same, I’ll be more than happy with that.

Scott Spinelli is a humor columnist for The Daily Orange where his columns appear Thursday. He can be reached at He’d like to send out his best wishes to the girls from DanceWorks.


February 21, 2008 - Posted by | Spinelli

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