I’m still stuck on Marci, the chicken-soup-for-no-reason lady. She’s selling happiness, and I always need some of that. I think I’ll make her my Happy Ho for this holiday season. Ho Ho Ho!
But deep down, I’ll still be grumpy.
One day when I was a young teen, I was sitting in the back seat while my mom drove me and my brother Eric somewhere. Eric’s three years older than me and, like much of my family, struggles with grumpiness. (Don’t tell him I’m saying this. It’ll make him grumpy).
Back in high school, I remember Eric being angry a lot. I don’t think any of us in the Pennington house were especially upbeat, but Eric was capable of raging out impressively. I, on the other hand, was a cheerful angel. This particular day in the car, I thought everything was fine. But then I spotted a pair of eyes staring at me fixedly. It was Eric, giving me the stare-down via the rear view mirror. He wasn’t even bothering to turn around. He said nothing.
I stared back, considering the situation. He was looking increasingly angry, the furrows over his brow getting deeper and more twisted with each passing second, flames starting to spew. Aw shit, I thought, as I moved toward irate. Eric’s about to blow. What the hell had I done? Why was he glaring at me?? Why was he always picking fights with me like this???
The car went over a bump, the mirror jiggled, and I realized I was staring at myself.
It was a humiliating epiphany. I slunk down in the back seat, sullen and silent. I’ve never lived this moment down in my own mind; in fact I’ve thought of it often through the years, whenever I ponder the boundaries of hypocrisy and self-awareness. Grumpy is my birthright. Like many peeps, my brothers and I grew up with Archie Bunker as our dad, only no laugh track or great writing. Also we didn’t get mild and silly Edith. My mom was an intelligent, driven, raging lunatic in her own right, all 4-foot-11-inches of her passionate Korean soul barreling us down like an exploding volcano as we serpentined desperately through the days.
I’ve lost my train of thought. Right. As the years pass, I’m increasingly aware that SEEING I had the same crazy-ass angry eyes as Eric was a gift. I realized that I had to do something about it.
Since then, I’ve worked pretty hard on owning my grumpy. Like addiction, keeping an upper hand on grumpiness is a daily battle. One needs all the help one can get. So if you ever catch me taking my grumpy too seriously, please do something to lend a hand–mock me, head slap me, give me a laxative, tell me to f** off. Whatever it takes.
It’s funny, because I am sure this is you…your voice is so real…and yet, way back in HS, you never seemed grumpy to me. Serious, dedicated, smart, funny…but not grumpy. Perhaps I didn’t know you well enough….but maybe there’s some truth to my perspective, too.
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