I’ve got all the makings of a cranky, old man… everything but the front porch. We just sold our big house with a nice porch out front and moved into a rental with only a few cement steps instead. I’ve got no place to sit and wave my fist at passing kids who must be up to no good.
I didn’t have old people in my life much when I was growing up. I’d see old folks out in public--- men and women. I never thought about where they came from, they were just kind of there, like pigeons or dust bunnies.
All four of my grandparents had passed away before I was born. There was a very old woman who was related to me, distantly--- my mom’s aunt. I’d see her once or twice a year, maybe, at family parties. Everyone called her Baba, short for babushka, or grandma in Russian.
These were parties in south side basements with singing and accordion playing. The men laughed and drank highballs while the women danced together, World War II style. Baba didn’t dance. She’d sit happily off to the side, watching, smiling her big, toothless grin. She was the gentle, jolly variety of old person. I have no idea how old she was, could’ve been a couple of hundred years old for all I know.
A friend of mine and I drove down to Ft. Lauderdale one spring during college. His name was Scott Scott (I am not kidding, that’s his name). We took a day trip to Miami and the place was crawling with codgers. Actually, there wasn’t much crawling, there was mostly sitting.
That’s when it hit me: these old people were young once. They would’ve been teenagers in the Roaring 20s, growing up through Prohibition, first to listen to the radio, own a washing machine, or drive a Model T.
I wondered what they looked like when they were thinner or had hair. I mean, they couldn’t’ve always worn powder blue tracksuits. At what point in their personal timeline did they make that a fashion choice? When did they start moving so slowly? When did the “crank” set in?
New York urologist Dr. Ridwan Shabsigh, head of the International Society of Men’s Health chalks it up to lower testosterone. “Testosterone… grows muscles, reduces fat in the body, affects energy, and improves sexual desire,” Shabsigh says. But low testosterone can also cause “low mood and irritability.”
Or “irritable male syndrome” as author Carol Wyer calls it.
Besides low testosterone, and bad knees, older men get cranky, they say, because society doesn’t value anyone over 49. That’s the demographic cutoff: 18-34, 35-49. Any older and you’re “other.” No one cares anymore what you watch, wear, listen to, drive, or eat. But most of all, no one cares what you think.
Right there, that can make a guy cranky.
But two can play at that game; indifference works both ways. I can definitely see there are things going on in the world that don’t pertain to me anymore.
Like the growing controversy over grade school girls in yoga pants. I’d start getting cranky about the subject, muttering to myself. I’d pontificate to my wife, then realize: I really don’t give a shit. I don’t have to. Why should I care about yoga pants? My last kid, Charlie, was in grade school 3, 4 years ago and he doesn’t make a habit of wearing yoga pants.
When the stick-thin, “reality” show “star” goes on Entertainment Tonight to whine about how the Internet thinks she has an eating disorder I don’t have to care because #1: she looks like Olive Oyl and should probably eat a sandwich and #2: I have no idea who she is.
That goes for whether Porkpie hats are still in style and the new fall line up on The CW. I don’t have to care.
I used to see a story on the news and think: “I should react to this event. I’m expected to have an opinion.” Like there’s going to be a quiz. We’re supposed to have opinions about everything, right? You’re either on one side or the other. You gotta pick a side. I mean, whose side are you on? Red or blue, pro or con, there’s no middle ground.
During elections they interview the few people who say they aren’t leaning one way or the other, the “undecided” voters. They’re not the “no opinion” voters. They’ll have an opinion, any minute now.
I’m going to be much happier without an opinion. Like Baba--- at the party, but on the sidelines, grinning from ear to ear.
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