I am a curmudgeon. According to Miriam-Webster, a curmudgeon is a crusty, ill-tempered and usually old man. Synonyms include bear, bellyacher, complainer, crab, crank, croaker, crosspatch, grouch, fusser, grouser, growler, grump, murmurer, mutterer, sourpuss and whiner. I had to look up crosspatch, which is a synonym for grouch. I’ll accept most of these attributes but I take exception to bear and croaker. I maintain that I am NOT a “surly, uncouth, burly or shambling person.” I feel that I am presentable enough and, while I mutter and murmur, I definitely DON’T croak.
I am a curmudgeon-at-large, not because I have escaped from an institution (although my close acquaintances would beg to differ) but rather because I will bellyache, complain, crab and whine about any subject at all. I am neither the first nor the most notable of curmudgeons but I would definitely qualify for a curmudgeon conference, if they ever held one. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t give you a tax break for being one – those bastards.
I am a writing curmudgeon-at-large because when I get the urge to bellyache, I find that readers are more willing to read my gripes than listeners are willing to hear my gripes. I also confer upon myself the ability to complain in complete sentences, a dwindling art about which I will also grouse.
Curmudgeonry has a long list of notables – Ambrose Bierce, W.C. Fields, Mark Twain, H. L. Mencken, George Carlin, William F. Buckley, William Safire, Andy Rooney – to name a few. Today, the internet produces Alan McCright (“not for the weak-kneed, the dull-witted or the weeny-minded”) and Herschel Gordon Lewis (“skewer[ing] the foibles of direct marketing copy”). While the dictionary definition is male, I would say that curmudgeonry is not exclusively male – Dorothy Parker, for example, would probably have accepted the title.
Being a curmudgeon-at-large doesn’t get you much – I mentioned that there are no tax breaks – and no one really cares, which allows you one more opportunity to complain. I believe that you do not become a curmudgeon; you are born one and wait for old age to express yourself. I remember being a child: I didn’t like it. I was anxious to grow up. Once I grew up, I found that I had to fend for myself which made me even more anxious.
Curmudgeonry is not a curse; it is a talent and a gift. To a curmudgeon, the glass is neither half full nor half empty: In the words of George Carlin, the glass is twice as large as it has to be. To a curmudgeon, the only answer to the pabulum of “Have a nice day” is “Sorry, I have other plans.” If Publishers Clearing House appeared at my door with a check for one million dollars, I would ask what took them so long. I wish that waiters would stop interrupting my meal to ask “How is everything?” It’s fine and could be better if you would stop interrupting.
So what should I write about – world events, global warming, the debt crisis? No, I will write about the things that really shape our daily lives like “How do I always get in the slowest checkout line?” or “Why can’t they stop telemarketers?” or “What sort of fiend created those stupid plastic tags on your newly bought clothes that escape your eye only to stab you in the neck when you’re wearing the item of clothing?”
It’s a tough job but someone has to do it. Viva le Curmudgeon!