Grumpy new man instead of a grumpy old man

By Dick Wolfsie

I’m about to turn 75. I’ve always wanted to be a grumpy old man. Over the years, I thought I had made a lot of headway in this area, especially in the getting older part, which is easy. I also found myself getting progressively grumpier, as well. Or so I thought.

My father was a grumpy old man by the time he was 60 and I always admired my dad, so I aspired to be just like him. But I wanted to do it even sooner. Remember, 60 is the new 50. Or is it 50 is the new 60? Whatever.

I first tried to be a grumpy old man when I was in my 40s. But sadly, people mistook my crankiness for wittiness. I complained to the manager at Kroger that their entrance and exit doors were on the wrong sides. “I’ll never shop here again,” I told him. “I don’t know if I’m coming or going.” That’s pure old man stuff, don’t you think? But did he call me grumpy? No, he burst out laughing—and told me I should have used that line on TV.

In my 50s, my crabbiness got me nowhere. I once protested to a couple of Girl Scouts who came to the door selling cookies that their product was too high in sugar and that eating S’mores would shoot my lipids through the roof. Their mothers called and thanked me, saying this was a good health lesson for eleven-year-olds. Maybe I shouldn’t have bought three boxes.

I did everything I could to acquire the label grumpy old man before my time. Nothing worked. I don’t know how my dad did it with such ease. It was a gift.

Last year, I complained to some of my neighbors about their unkempt lawns.  I fussed at others who were putting their garbage out at the curb two days early, and I put my foot down about kids making a ruckus shooting hoops on Sunday mornings when I was trying to sleep.  This had codger written all over it. They made me president of the homeowner’s association.

I was starting to get worried. When does one officially become a grumpy old man? I combed all my AARP magazines for a few hints, but their publication seemed more interested in readers avoiding this label than celebrating it. I called the periodical to grumble about their lack of coverage on this, and complained to one of the editors in the most crotchety way I knew how. “We welcome your feedback,” she told me. “Please call again.”

The problem here is that most people won’t call you a grumpy old man to your face. They just think it.

“Did you get my email birthday card, Dick?” asked my friend David, a few days after my 74th birthday.

“Yes, I did. I find email greeting cards annoying. They lack creativity and it takes forever for them to download.”

“Why, you, you…”

“Go on David, say it. Say it, please!”

“Okay, you, you…you probably have a good point. I should have taken the time to go to the store and buy you a nice Hallmark card, instead.”

Even my closest friends won’t cooperate.

Maybe part of the problem here is that I don’t have the right “look.”  I’m going to stop trimming my nose hair and start hoisting my pants up to my ribcage. That might help.

Dick Wolfsie spent his career sharing his humor, stories and video essays on television, radio and in newspapers. His columns appear weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at [email protected]