A grouch reflects on his youth. And grumbles the entire time.

December 6, 2008

There is a grouchy old man living in our house who looks exactly like me.

A  close friend once noted that, once you turn 50, you’re allowed to say whatever you want, because younger generations will just ignore you anyway. That verbal freedom explains why my father, who seemed so quiet when I was growing up, now stops strangers in malls to chat. And don’t even get him started on Las Vegas.

The symptoms of early onslaught of terminal grouchiness have been evident for some time now, no matter how much I’ve tried to ignore them. There was that one incident in the Mitre 10 Mega store, for instance, where, after one intense discussion, every security officer in the building suddenly decided they needed to be in the same aisle as me. 

But  that wasn’t my fault. No, really.

I simply had an acute desire to comprehend why one kitchen faucet cost $40 and another one — which looked exactly the same to my non-plumber eyes — cost closer to $100. The clerk had no immediate  answer for me, which I assumed was due to a lack of hearing on her part, and so had no choice but to repeat the question in a much louder voice.

And, yes, maybe I did ask one too many times, but I put that down to simple case of curiosity.

So yesterday I’m talking to a neighbour, a young fellow in his 20s who has been slaving away in his back yard in an effort to one day produce a lawn. It was hot work and he’d doffed his shirt, as you do. In the middle of a conversation about how we would all soon be enjoying a barbecue on his new grass, I suddenly veered off topic.

Me: Is that a nipple ring?

Him: Yes.

Me: You know you’re setting a bad example for your infant daughter, don’t you?

And that’s when it hit me: Oh, Christ, I’ve gotten old.

I suddenly flashed back to the early ’70s. A family gathering. One of my brothers, then in his late teens, had just had his ear pierced. A relative — a grouchy old man, in fact — reached over, gave the ring a good tug, much to my brother’s distress, and demanded, “What the hell is this?”

At that exact moment, I vowed to never pull that kind of shit when I grew older. I also vowed to never hate another generation’s music — a vow that was severely taxed during the disco craze — or hair styles or clothes.

I’d never had one of my ears nearly mangled, but had certainly endured my share of suspicious stares back in the day when I wore my hair long and shampoo was for pussies. Adults regarded me with furrowed brows and sour expressions, as if I had just smoked my body weight in mary-jane and was preparing to violate their daughters and rip off their Perry Como eight-tracks and they weren’t sure where the shotgun was and if it would be loaded when they found it.

I wouldn’t show that ugly face to a teenager, I vowed, no matter what I thought of their faux-hawks or neck tattoos or skateboards or shit-box cars racing up and down the quiet residential street in front of my house at 10 p.m. on a Friday night, goddamnit.

Of course, back then (OK, way back then), youth had a good reason for rebellion and it wasn’t just because our parents were tight-ass bastards who hated Elvis and The Stones. Back then, there was a war to protest against and civil rights to initiate and times to a-change. (Granted, growing up in Canada kept me off the front lines of all the unrest happening south of me, but revolution was in the air, man, and we all breathed it.)

What are kids protesting against now? Oh, right, Lil Wayne is still looking for his first Grammy. Absolutely shocking!

So, yeah, I guess you kind of grow into grouchiness, much like you grow out of your hair. That’s no excuse, of course. So, if my neighbour is reading this blog, I apologize. The nipple ring looks just fine. I especially like how it glints when the late-afternoon sun catches it.

Now bugger off and leave me alone.

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