One of the hardest things about hitting my 20s was suddenly becoming “tante” to many of the kids in church. I went from one of the kids to one of the adults in what felt like an overnight phenomenon!
(If you need a refresher on what a tante is, you can check out my ever-growing glossary! But basically, it’s an older church lady, like saying “auntie” — not old, mind you, but at a certain age you’re middle aged to most kids.)
When you’re lumped in with the tantes, you become the indirect butt of all tante-jokes. And, boy, are there plenty of them!
So I feel like I have to defend us tantes! One of those defensive points is “3o2balak!” (read Jane’s story).
(For the non-Copts, “3obalak” means “until it’s your turn” or “hope it’s your turn soon.” The feminine is 3o2balek. How do you say it with all those numbers? You don’t. One day I’ll podcast this and you can hear it for yourself.)
When I was not married, not a mom, I thought this was a direct criticism of my life. Tantes said, “3obalek,” and I heard, “Hurry up and get married.” I would roll my eyes and say things like “Never, not for another 10 years, tante!”
It takes a tante to know one, so let me explain what “3o2balak” really means. We tantes say 3o2balak from the depths of our joy for the bride and groom (or the new parents, or whatever) and our hope that you will be equally happy in your life. We’re so happy at that moment that it doesn’t really matter if we know you; we love you anyway. Happiness might not come in the same form for you, but we wish it for you nonetheless!
So when a tante says, “3o2balek/3o2balak,” resist the urge to roll your eyes, resist the urge to argue–it’s not meant to be a personal affront. We are wishing you all happiness–however happiness comes for you. Just say thanks and smile and be just as happy for the bride/groom/parents. And spread the love around!
Oh, and while we’re on the topic of tantes… The word is tante. It’s a real word. It’s the French word for aunt. It has an e at the end because it’s feminine. It’s not an Arabization of the English word aunt (we aren’t talking about “barking lots” here). Like saying merci instead of shokran, it’s leftover slang from Egypt’s relationship with France.
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