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I remember sitting my two eldest children down when they were teenagers and watching the TV program Grumpy Old Men. From moaning about mobile phones to ranting about rising house prices, everyone from Jeremy Clarkson to Bob Geldof and from Rick Stein to Rick Wakeman were paid money to be curmudgeonly on camera – all sardonically narrated by Geoffrey Palmer.
At the end of the program I asked my children what they thought about the views they’d watched. I had expected them to have a younger, modern attitude and to disagree with most of what they’d seen. Interestingly, they actually agreed with it. The key difference is that they don’t go around saying it.
Do we grow to be grumpy?
Is grumpiness an age thing? Has my inner grump always been there? I don’t know, but I can see an interesting contradiction.
When we’re younger, we either just tend to swear at things more, or just not be bothered by them at all.
As we’ve got older, most of us have mellowed: we become more easy-going and accepting of others. We also become more comfortable in our own skin. We don’t feel the need for change, don’t want to change and maybe can’t change. So we’re less worried about what others think of us: and maybe that’s why we’re not so worried about revealing our inner grump.
My mum used to say about someone we knew “He’s only happy when he’s grumpy”. There was a lot of truth in it. We all get grumpy about stuff: we can be up in one area of our life and down in another – up at home, down at work, up with health or down with happiness.
Dump the grump
Knowing what makes you grumpy makes it easier to dump the grump. I know that I can get grumpy – mostly either because I’m hungry – but not really admitting to it – or feeling uncomfortably hot due to the weather or because the heat has been whacked up at home.
I get bothered when I get hot: I was once sat in a motel room while working in America in my twenties. It was the weekend, I didn’t have a care in the world and no-one was disturbing me – but I was grumpy.
I realised that it was because of the heat: it could be 80°C by 8 o’clock in the morning over there in the summer. As soon as I realised it was the heat, I put the rattling air con on. Within 10 mins the room became lovely and chilled – just like my mood.
Grumpiness goes hand in hand with cynicism
So I’m both more mellow and grumpy as I’ve got older and wiser. But along with wisdom and experience, comes cynicism trotting not far behind. Maybe it’s because we’ve seen it before with things that have happened in our lives or in the world. Do we trust politicians less than we used to? Probably. Are we more resigned to the fact that we still need them to sort out problems? Without doubt.
You become a sage with age.
As well as being grumpy and cynical, we’ve now at the age to give some quiet words of wisdom or experience. So if a situation arises with a colleague at work or with a friend or member of the family who is in a dilemma, then we can help with a bit of quiet advice – but never in a preachy way. And the great thing about advice – from anyone at any age – is that it’s only advice: it’s not up to you whether they take it and act on it. You can’t live their life for them. You can only guide and gently nudge them along what you believe to be the right path.
So if you’re feeling like a grumpy old man, be happy in the thought that you’re able to advise and guide – and maybe partly that’s because with all your experience of life, you can be both cynical as well as a wise old sage.