Pussycat or Grouch?


When we’re really paying attention we don’t always see what we expect. Or sometimes we get blinding glimpses of the obvious, even about ourselves. I’ve noticed recently that I can be really stubborn. And I wonder whether under pressure I could be labeled a curmudgeon (a sexist and ageist term if there ever was one, the full equivalent of the B word applied to women).   It’s so easy for us to use sweeping labels which dismiss everything valuable about the person in one pronouncement, the same way the word brat did when we were kids.

What triggered this musing was a recent experience at the airport. I was waiting to board a flight, and passed the time observing a gate agent talking to an obviously bright, well-dressed, older passenger who was sitting in a wheelchair waiting to be boarded.  I can only assume the gate agent made some invisible connection between mobility limitations and loss of thinking capacity, because she kept calling the passenger Honey, Darling, and Dear as well as frequently thanking her for her patience. The passenger finally looked over at me and rolled her eyes.  She won my award for Most Patient Person of the Day but not for the reason the gate agent thought.

All of this got me to thinking.  What are the situations in which Pussycat Me could turn into a temporarily difficult much older person?

  1. I have a low tolerance for being jollied along, particularly being called Honey and Dear and George by people much younger than myself.
  2. There is small likelihood I will be passive about much of anything I really care about.  Ever.  And this could become much more public as I get older.
  3. I have a powerful need for meaningful creativity. Without it, I get grumpy.
  4. My tolerance for other’s ways of doing things differently is huge but I’m not necessarily interested in changing the ways I do things in my own house.
  5. It will be a dark and stormy day when I accept the mere likelihood that someone will be taking more responsibility for me than I do.
  6. When everyone has laboriously discussed the possibilities for a social event and we’ve voted and made a plan that’s now lodged in my head, I hate it when someone has a “better idea” and then we blow up everything that has gone before as if it never happened.

Case in Point #1: I grit my teeth and sit on my temper when a food server, gate agent, or call center customer service representative half my age or less uses terms of endearment, calls me by my first name, or talks to me like I’m a slow 7- or 90-year-old.  I prefer “sir,” which seems both professional and crisp.

Case in Point #2: Someone was recently rude to my wife.  Trust me, she can take care of herself.  And I wasn’t even there when it happened. Nevertheless, I, who don’t have much of a temper on an average day, was instantly stoned on a deadly organic cocktail of testosterone and anger.   Visions of delivering a tongue lashing followed by dismemberment through a thousand tiny cuts stomped through my head.  Obviously I stood down fairly quickly, but what will my much later years be like if temper becomes a part of my aging?

Case in Point #3: I’m a creative project guy, at my happiest when I am writing or crafting something new.  Origination I love.  Remodeling not so much.  For my much later years to be really high quality I will need to hang onto my curiosity, my love of writing and speaking, my ability to take a close look at what’s really going on, and my sense of humor.  I recently had a mopey time when I finished a project and couldn’t start the new one yet.  It was only one day of misery, but it sure got my attention.

Case in Point #4: A group of friends all agreed, laboriously, on which restaurant we were going to.  I was delegated to make the reservation and to drive.  Partway there someone in the back seat had a “much better” idea.   I completely ignored that blockhead and kept on driving to the original choice.  How will I handle this kind of thing when I’m much older?

Case in Point #5: It’s my ridiculously out of date notion that someone selling me a retail product should actually know enough about it to answer my questions.  When I am comparing three possible options I may occasionally need a recommendation.  And I am having occasional difficulty letting go of my in-person retail experience expectations.

And what about you? What will make you easy or difficult in your much later years?

6 responses to “Pussycat or Grouch?”

  1. Peter Doris says:

    Losing my ability to speak and reason.
    Losing the ability to listen closely to what others are saying.
    Losing the joy of rising early in the morning, fixing a cup of coffee and contemplating what the shape of my day looks like.
    Losing the ability to walk.

    • George Schofield says:

      Thanks, Peter. In the weaving of life small, seemingly personal freedoms and rituals can be what makes it all worthwhile.

  2. David Lubert says:

    I would say losing my ability for mobility in that if I am unable to move away from a situation or simply to walk away from anything that would annoy me or anger me. Sometimes it is better to just walk away than to deal with someone’s rudeness or lack of respect.

    • George Schofield says:

      Great response. Mobility is more than motion. It can also be real time freedom to choose. Thanks, David.

  3. Jari Searns says:

    Well George, as usual, you’ve got me thinking and as I reflect on my life and recent reactions to the world around me, I find that my patience gets severely affected when I experience rudeness in others regardless of their age… such as when at a stop sign the person who arrived second decides that they should go before you…it’s not only rude, it’s happening more and more and it makes me VERY angry! As I drive alone a great deal I can vent my anger with some delightful if indelicate verbiage expressed rather loudly (with closed windows of course) and that always makes me feel better!

    • George Schofield says:

      Hi Jari

      Sometimes not always, I suspect there is a fork in the road after 50 and we somehow choose to be more or less gracious as we age. I know you chose gracious.


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