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Uncles don’t get enough respect. Trust me, I know. I’m about to be one.
See, my sister-in-law is marrying a very good guy with two adorable little boys, aged 6-ish and 8-ish (real uncles never know your actual age; it’s part of the uncle mystique). Thus, I’m about to become an insta-uncle to these boys.
Which, frankly, is way harder than becoming an insta-mom. I mean, a mom just gets to be all lovey-dovey and supportive, but for an uncle? Well, it’s different. The expectations for exemplary uncle-ing have just been set so high. Where would the world be without uncles?
We wouldn’t be patriotic (Uncle Sam). We wouldn’t be eccentric (Uncle Leo). We wouldn’t be tolerant (Uncle Tom). We wouldn’t be tragic (Uncle Vanya). We wouldn’t have anyone with rough-but-wise advice to guide us through sticky situations (Uncles Ben, Buck and Junior). We wouldn’t know how to adequately convey amazement (“Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle”), finality (“Bob’s your uncle”) or surrender (“Uncle! Uncle!”). And who would die and leave us obscene piles of money (Scrooge and Pennybags)?
An uncle plays an important role in every child’s life. Why, if it weren’t for Uncles Joey and Jesse, Full House would have just been Marginally Occupied House. And if it weren’t for mean Uncle Vernon, Harry Potter might have grown up a regular, peaceful British lad, unaware of the magic inside him.
That’s right. Even awful uncles have value.
Which is why I’m so stressed about becoming one. I really want to set a good (or bad) standard of uncle-dom for these two little guys. When I look back on all the things my uncles did for me, I’m overwhelmed.
In fact, my uncles taught me . . .
. . . that playing basketball is a lot easier if you learn how to get really good at jabbing people with your elbows, instead of focusing on developing those overrated skills, like shooting and dribbling.
. . . that everything tastes better with salt.
. . . that, when the pronunciation of a word is in doubt, mess it up on purpose. I mean, really badly. That way, everyone thinks you’re just kidding, instead of thinking you’re kind of dumb.
. . . that smoking a turkey is not as cool as it sounds, nor as illegal.
. . . that, if you’re at a football game, and it’s so cold that the obscenities coming out of the players’ mouths freeze and fall to the ground, there’s no better solution for warmth than putting a couple of hot dogs in your armpits (this actually happened).
. . . that the moon landing was faked, which is why that “Brownies on the Moon” ice cream flavor doesn’t sound as tasty as “Brownies on the Nevada Sound Stage.”
. . . that words like “#$#$!” and “Lickety-$*#@-split” are surprisingly multifaceted, but can only be used when your mother isn’t around.
. . . that ice fishing works better when fish are present. Also, ice.
. . . what the word “avuncular” means. Which I thought was very nice of him. (You’ll get that one later).
. . . that if you’re going to raise a pig, you should just name it “Sizzle,” for the sake of acceptance.
. . . that if you make fun of yourself first, you beat everyone else to it.
. . . that you can just toss the grass clippings over the back fence, unless your aunt is around, in which case, that’s unacceptable, and you need to bag them.
. . . that volunteering to “go get more plastic cups” is an easy way to check the score when everyone is watching Ice Age 3 instead of the Super Bowl.
. . . that profanities, as well as most bodily functions, are only appropriate during civilized conversation if they are really, really funny.
. . . and that the best topping for a bratwurst is another bratwurst.