subscribe: Posts | Comments      Facebook      Email Steve

Why old people get crotchety

1 comment

Maxine sent me one of those funny lists that make the rounds on social media. This one was “Commandments for Seniors.” Number 4 was: “Your people skills are just fine. It’s your tolerance for idiots that needs work.”

By coincidence, someone told me yesterday that “Old people get crotchety,” she said, the remark clearly aimed at me. It prompted me to wonder what “crotchety” means. I Googled it. The regular Merriam-Webster dictionary says:

subject to whims, crankiness, or ill temper; a crotchety old man, a crotchety critic

The more contemporary Urban Dictionary says:

An adjective used to describe an old person. More specifically, someone who seems to hate life in their ‘golden years’ and feels the need to take it out on others. These are the people who should be sent into the surface of the sun.

Wow. Harsh.

Well, time to put on my thinking cap and reflect on this. All my life, I wanted to be nice. I wanted to be liked. I probably subjugated a lot of my negative feelings towards that end. No matter how angry, resentful or judgmental I felt, I pushed it down, because to express such emotions was inappropriate. And the truth was, for most of my life I was a nice, sunny person.

When you get older, that starts to change. It’s not an overnight thing. You don’t suddenly wake up one morning and find that you’ve become cranky. And yet, it’s true that older people do tend to be crankier than younger people. (Of course, these days everyone is so ready to be insulted that we’ve become a pretty curmudgeonly culture. But old people are more curmudgeonly than most.)

To understand why, re-read #4: “Your people skills are just fine. It’s your tolerance for idiots that needs work.” I’ll speak for myself. “Idiots” are all over the place. The young woman who just moved into my building, for instance. I was nearing the elevator when she was exiting it. She opened the door, saw me, nodded—and then let the door close behind her, without holding it open. Not the biggest sin in the world, but still, it’s the reason why so many old people complain about “Young people these days…”.

Another form of “idiot” are the people who refuse to wear face masks in crowded public spaces, of which Oakland has many. I look into their faces and while I can’t read their minds, it’s human nature to make inferences concerning what people are thinking. And what I see in the minds of unmasked people is arrogance. They’re like walking, talking middle fingers, telling the rest of us to go fuck ourselves. Like I said, idiots.

And then there are Republicans, led by their fuehrer-in-chief. The biggest idiots of them all. I really like America (or the idea of it, because after all, that’s what America is: an idea), and it galls me to see these Republicans systematically crushing my country and trying to make it into a white, straight, male-dominated Christian theocracy. These Republicans are idiots.

Another thing that happens when you get older is you stop caring what people think or say about you. You’ve spent the better part of your life wanting to be thought well of. Like I said, you’ve repressed your negative emotions for decades. And what has it gotten you? Nothing. People are just as idiotic as they’ve ever been, maybe even more so. You know you might not have a lot more time on this Earth before the game is up. You begin to wonder why you’re trying so hard to be nice and polite when what you really want to do is punch some idiot in the face.

Of course, you can’t go around punching idiots in the face. Not advisable! But you don’t have to smile at them anymore and pretend that you don’t know they’re idiots. You give yourself permission to call a spade a spade. If it walks like an idiot and talks like an idiot, then it’s an idiot!

I suppose part of the psychological underpinnings of this is impatience. The world would be such a better place if people acted more kindly and decently and rationally. America seems like it’s spiraling out of control, going to hell in a handbasket, and idiots are running around, doing idiotic things, as if everything were just hunky dory. And you want to say to them, Time is running out! You want to be the Prophet Isaiah, screaming

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes! Cease to do evil! Learn to do well!

But you can’t. You’re just an old man who sees too much and is powerless to make anyone change. So you sigh, and get on with things, and get crotchety. But is it because we “hate life,” as the Urban Dictionary says? That definition was obviously written by a young person. No, we don’t “hate life.” We love life. After experiencing so much of it for so long, we see exactly how wasted so much of life is on Earth, when it could be so glorious. So we get pissed. And that’s okay. One generation passes, another arises, and life goes on. And guess what? If you’re young, I guarantee you that, if you live long enough, you’ll be crotchety too.

Have a nice week!

  1. Francine says:

    Love this!

Leave a Reply


Recent Comments

Recent Posts