In praise of the Swedish tant

Ok, so I found this super charming book called "De sista tanterna - från husmor till modeikon" by Fatima Bremmer. (How do I translate? It would be something like = the last old ladies - from housewife to fashion icon.) The Swedish word "tant" is not easy to translate. My dictionary suggests "aunt" or "nice lady". It´s what married women were called by children when I grew up. We had two neighbours, both of them tant, but they were tant Ingrid - first name, but still a bit distant to us kids, and tant Lund - last name (noone would ever have thought of calling her tant Dagmar, that would have been unthinkable!) tant, but we were really close to her, she was a true play mate.

Not any more, though. Kids these days call everyone by their first name. Women of my mother´s age, who grew up as the first generation of teenagers, hate being tant-ish, like every generation hates being like their parents.

My grandmother was the quintessential tant, she cared not for fashion, she was thrifty, sensible, she baked, knit socks for all the grand-children, wore patterned polyester dresses, and she had that iconic tant hairdo, which is actually the kind of hair that movie-stars had in the 40´s. Not all old ladies are tant, my mother-in-law does not fall into that category at all, she is just too modern, too fashionable, too changeable. And I suppose some younger women are considered, if not tant then tant-ish, in the sense that they are a bit old-fashioned, conservative, and narrow-minded. Tant is often used that way, as a derogatory term.

I imagine this book would not have been written at all, if tant hadn´t also been rather hip among some young girls. I suppose they are more into the tant-esthetics than the tant-ethics. Personally, I feel a bit like I´m the opposite. I do a lot of things like my grandma would have done, I learned a lot from her, and tant Lund. And tant Kampmann. Great tants, all of them.

It makes me sad to think that in just a few years time women like this will be gone. I think we can learn a lot from them in terms of sensible economics and sustainability. And growing old with a sense of worth.

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