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Who's Your Grandma? These Days, Nobody Is

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If women of the baby-boom generation have it their way, it's quite possible the word "Grandma" will be purged from our vocabulary. For Mother's Day, commentator Rebekah Sanderlin has noticed a surprising number of grandmothers choosing to go by more glamorous names like Li-Li, Gigi and Queenie.


And we share some other thoughts on family this Mother's Day. Commentator Rebekah Sanderlin has observed that the "me generation" has become the "Mimi(ph)" generation.

Ms. REBEKAH SANDERLIN (Journalist): In my family, we have two Mimi's, a Callie(ph), a Pitty Pat(ph), a Doodah(ph), and a Marmy(ph). These are not little dogs. These are grown women, women who collectively own about a dozen businesses. One is a lawyer; another is an Oxford-educated psychologist. These are women who spent most of the '80s wearing shoulder padded power suits and talking about glass ceilings. Now, they coo with delight when toddlers call them by their ridiculous names.

There's not a grandma, granny, or Meema(ph) in sight, not even a big mama. We do have a big daddy, though. He's married to Pitty Pat. The new grandpas I know don't seem so determined to part with tradition. Most are perfectly content to go by papa or pa pop. My own son has a plain old grand daddy.

But to women of a certain age, grandma just won't do. Maybe the silly names are another boomer trend, like disco, asymmetrical hairstyles, Botox and spray tans. After all, with grandkids named Madison, Tyler and Haley, why shouldn't grandmothers go by Mimi.

Grandma sounds too old, they say. Shrugging off convention once again, despite the fact that a lot of them are actually older than their own parents were when they became grandparents. Granny is someone who knits, bakes casseroles, and goes to prayer meetings. Mimi, well, Mimi owns Wonderbras in seven colors, and is more likely to dance on a bar than to walk with a cane.

I can't blame them for choosing Mimi over Meema. Mimi sounds French. It sounds glamorous. Mimi is a tanned, skinny woman in a floppy hat with a little dog and a fabulous purse. Meema, well, Meema crochets a mean Afghan and uses a secret ingredient in her chicken soup.

When my mother first became a grandmother at age 46, she quickly announced that no one was allowed to call her granny. We weren't surprised. This is the same woman who has been nursing a midlife crisis for the past 25 years. The same woman who at age 34 traded in her wood-paneled station wagon for a Z28 Camaro, with T-tops and four bucket seats despite having a family of five to drive around. She even taught us to unfasten the T-tops and slide each one into car's hatchback trunk, while we wait in the carpool lane at school. None of us expected Mom to grow old gracefully.

What has surprised me though is that there are so many others out there like her. None other than Nancy Pelosi goes by Mimi. Goldie Hawn famously named herself Glamma(ph) when she became a grandma. And a quick survey of my friends with children reveals a Juju(ph), a Nan(ph), a Lili, a Geegee(ph), a Gigi and a Queenie. Baby boomers just refuse to think of themselves as old.

A former disco diva is not going to answer to a toothless moniker like granny. And it would seem like a waste to spend thousands of dollars on Botox, only to go by Meema. These women have been defying stereotypes for decades. Their generation brought us rock 'n' roll, and they're not about to listen to it in their rocking chairs.

LYDEN: Rebekah Sanderlin is a journalist based in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

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