If you’re still with me, prepare for bittersweet — lemonade instead of sweet tea. I hope to write real, which challenges me, since I was born and reared in the Deep South where many females learned to speak sparingly, stay slim, look pretty, purr politely and please men. Thankfully, I got over most of that. Besides, what good would most of that do since recent research shows that as men age they get grumpier than women!
My co-worker, Melissa Snyder, wrote a column last weekend that enlightened me about how people turn out as they get older. Her shocking research pointed out that many people get grumpier as the years pile up, but that men who reach their 60s are four times grumpier than women. Talk about grumpy old men!
Just to be fair, I’ll admit to female grumpiness. I’ve already confessed to getting grumpy over slithering snakes, dry turkey, flying in airplanes and breakdowns in communication. Add to that list medical debt, itchy mascara, power failures, reckless speeders and rude tailgaters.
But, what I really pondered after reading Melissa’s column is that few of us, at least in America, really have very much to be grumpy about. In some places, like the Sudan, people sweep up floors for food, hoping to find grains of rice or other edibles. Often, they end up eating mostly dirt. If you don’t believe me, do a search on “machine gun preacher.” So, when I speak of many Americans not having much to gripe about, I’m not speaking of the truly grief-stricken. People who really suffer deserve to be ill-tempered, outraged, sad or whatever they happen to feel as they try to deal with life’s inevitable sorrows. They need our compassion and empathy.
So, it makes me a little sorrowful when we Americans are grumpy for no good reason. I shouldn’t get grouchy just because of less-than-perfect dinners or when the power goes off for a little while. But why don’t more men feel the same way as they get older? Why are the men four times grouchier?
Are these men annoyed because their Stupendous Utility Vehicles drink too much gasoline? Sniff, sniff.
Are they alarmed because illegal immigrants frequent the local convenience store? Boo-hoo. Are they aware that aliens and strangers could be angels? Do they realize that some people cross a border because they can’t figure out another way to feed themselves or their families? Might the grumpies do the same if their own children looked at them with hungry eyes? Perhaps.
Are grumpy old men going to blow a gasket because their team doesn’t win the Super Bowl? Grab the tissues!
Are they upset because they didn’t make as much money or win the eye candy they thought they would back in the day? Many people don’t reach all their goals or fulfill all their dreams so maybe we should get over ourselves. Here’s a hankie.
Do angry males get ticked off because they see a displaced or misguided soul on the street begging for money? I’ve heard the well-heeled say, “Don’t give that bum money. He’ll just spend it on wine.” Maybe so, but I’m not accustomed to interviewing poor people before I give them a few bucks.
Are old men mad because their sons and daughters got some tats or a hole in the nose? I understand getting upset about body art, but I also ask myself why do young people feel the need to paint and poke themselves so much? Ouch.
Are grumpy old men grumpy because their lifelong pursuit of happiness didn’t turn out so happily? Does God Almighty say happiness is to be the human pursuit? I don’t think so. Not that I’ve attained them, but God said holiness is to be our goal, along with peace.
I can’t spend too much time wondering why old men are so grumpy these days or I might get four times grumpier myself. Still, I hear so much about unhappy, grumpy men, especially from women who’ve experienced living with one or being dropped by one. What happens? Does the older man suddenly look up one day and (gasp!) see that his wife of decades is older too? Does he wince when he looks and sees that her once firm body is now saggy in some places? Does he say to himself, “The kids are grown now. I’m done with her?”
Does he remember that (as the saying goes) love is sometimes “everything we go through together?” Some men remember and some men don’t. The forgetful ones leave the wives of their youths for the greener grass, which may or may not stay green. And some women contribute greatly to their old-age demise.
Still, as the late Westwood Baptist pastor Bob Bell once told my mother, one of the saddest sights he ever saw during his pastorate was when an older man who had lost his family came to church at Christmastime. The man would look as if he wondered what happened to the not-so-bad life he once had as he sat alone in the church pew. Older men (and women) don’t have to stay grumpy. With God, sweet tea and more are usually available, especially during the holidays. God cares when nobody else does.