2017-10-13 / Commentary

Grumpy Old Man Status

40–Something

I may have turned a significant corner in my descent into grumpy old man status. At least, that’s what my wife tells me.

There are many contributing factors, but one recent epiphany stands alone.

The most gleeful gentleman, no matter the age, could be turned into a sourpuss by the aging injustice that is the rapid disappearance of hair on the head and the rapid appearance of hair in the ears. While the ever expanding bald spot on the crown of my head and my ever-increasing reliance on trimmers does not exactly put me in a good mood, that’s not really what’s pushed me into my newfound state of mind.

Neither is the fact that it takes me several minutes to find the appropriate distance to hold a menu from my face so I can actually read it. I may be slightly irritated by the time it takes my eyes to finally achieve that focusing sweet spot and locate that one meal that won’t keep me up all night with heartburn, but I’m not a grumpy old man because of that.

And I don’t think I’m a grumpy old man because of my reliance on Advil or because it takes me about six months to get in shape and about six minutes to get out of shape. No, I’m not the slightest bit bitter about any of that. The one thing that’s made the little missus promote me to grumpy old man status is that I no longer have a tolerance for loud children...including my own.

I went through various stages to get here.

Of course, I used to be that kid crying in the theater or having a fit in the grocery store, but I don’t remember anything other than being the perfect little angel child, so I’m going with that. My mother may say otherwise, but she’s not writing this column.

As a young adult, I was probably so self-centered and concerned about my own little world I didn’t even notice what was going on around me. I could have been standing in the middle of a nursery and been more worried about my feathered hair and Member’s Only jacket than multitudes of screaming babies.

Then I became a parent, and suddenly, I was like a secret service agent trying not to be noticed but springing into action at the first hint of a cry whisking my children away from the disapproving glares of those within earshot.

As my children got older, I almost welcomed the sound of crying children because of the euphoric relief I experienced knowing it wasn’t one of my own. Then I got a little older and my euphoria turned to sympathy...

“Oh yeah,” I would think, “I feel you Dad-of-a- Screaming-Infant. Been there; done that.”

But then something changed. Maybe the hairs fleeing my head are taking my tolerance levels with them because my euphoria is long gone and so is my empathy for the parents of loud children. Ironically, I could easily still be that parent. My kids are all teenagers—not exactly an age group known for silence.

But what can I say? I’ve descended to the stage of life that has me crying at the little criers. I’m not going to glare at anybody, but I may whine a little if a baby ruins my dinner or movie. My wife says that officially makes me a grumpy old man.

I’ll turn 48 later this month. Is that old enough to be a grumpy old man? It’s not like I’m John Gustafson pining for Anne Margret and hiding dead fish in the back of Max Goldman’s SUV. I just may have forgotten what it’s like to have small children, and that’s not fair to my young parental brethren.

So, I will try to fight my newfound status, but I can’t make any promises especially if my bald spot keeps growing.

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