Getting older & getting grumpier
FROM THE WEST SACRAMENTO NEWS-LEDGER NEWSPAPER — SEPT 26, 2012 —
I was having a somewhat heated conversation with a friend the other night when she suddenly got right in my face and blurted out, “You know, Daryl, you’re getting to be a grumpy old man!”
“What?” I exclaimed with a smile, sure that she was just putting me on.
“I’m not kidding,” she said with conviction, “you really are turning into one of those grumpy old men that no one wants to be around. What are you going to do next, drag out an empty chair and start calling the President of the United States names?”
Later that evening, still not quite able to grasp the fact that I had just been compared to the Jack Lemons, Walter Matthaus, and Clint Eastwoods of the world, I decided to get out my trusty Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate dictionary and look up the word `grumpy’. Among other unflattering words, it defined grumpy as “moody, cross, surly, and prone to fits of sulkiness and ill humor.”
Then, to make matters worse, I decided to use the Internet to further explore the world of grumpiness, only to run across an article that said part of the reason that men get grumpy as they get older is that their brains start to shrink as they age. More specifically, the article said, “As men age, they lose brain tissue at almost three times the rate of women, curbing their memory, concentration and reasoning power and often turning them into grumpy old men.”
The article was penned by Ruben Gur, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and he believes he has found evidence that shrinking brains may make men grumpier than women because some of the tissue loss is in the left frontal region, which controls such things as attention span, abstract reasoning, mental flexibility, inhibition of impulses and memory. He theorizes that men lose more tissue because they have lower blood flow than women, particularly in the frontal lobe region. To compound matters, women’s brains metabolism – the rate at which the brain breaks down sugar – slows as they age, but men’s brains keep working at a vigorous pace, leaving men with a lot more toxic byproducts in their brains than women, which is also one of the reasons women live on average ten more years than men, and apparently hardly get grumpy at all.
So, having discovered that grumpiness is indeed something that men are prone to getting, I decided to ask my thirty-something daughter if she has been noticing any changes in my behavior now that I am well into my 60s.
“What do you mean?” she asked me with caution.
“Well,” I explained, “I’ve been reading about how men get grumpier as they age, while women pretty much stay the same. So would you say that I’m not as nice as I used to be, compared with your mother for instance?”
“But mom’s always been nicer than you,” my daughter said matter-of-factly.
“Well, then let me put it another way. Do you think I’m more moody, sulky, or ill-humored than I used to be?”
“But Dad, you’ve always been moody and sulky. In fact, Mamu (the nickname my grandchildren call my mother) once told me that you’ve been that way since you were a little kid. She said you hardly ever smiled when you were young and always loved to be off by yourself, kind of lost in your own world. She said your twin sister was always the life of the party, while you were kind of a downer every time you walked into a room.”
“My own mother said that?”
“Now,” continued my daughter, obviously on a roll, “as for you being ill-humored, I don’t think I would go as far as calling you that, but I do have to admit it still amazes me that you write a humor column for the News-Ledger. I mean, you’re about the most serious person I know, and you’re really not very funny at all. In fact, when I read some of your columns, I can’t really believe they are written by the same strict and scary man who raised me.”
“I was strict and scary?”
“Are you kidding? Don’t you remember the time you told me and my brothers that if we ever did drugs you would take us out in the backyard and shoot us?”
“Now I never said anything like that.”
“Well, it may not have been those exact words, but it sure came across that way!”
“So, then you’re saying that I’ve always been more or less a grumpy old man?”
“And that I’ve haven’t been getting worse now that I’m in my 60s.”
“Not that I’ve really noticed.”
“Good! That’s a load off my mind!”
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Copyright News-Ledger 2012