David St. Lawrence, who is a man of 70 with an interesting blog of his own, recently emailed a kind note about this blog in which he also took issue with the name of my alter ego:
“I don't think your self-applied appellation of "crabby old lady" suits you, even used in a humorous fashion. In fact, I think you do yourself a disservice referring to yourself that way, because it creates a mindset for yourself that is at variance with the penetrating analysis you bring to so many issues.”
In case anyone else misunderstands, let me tell you about my mindset regarding Crabby Old Lady.
If I was not born ticked off about a whole lot of things, I was a young girl when they began accumulating. This has not always made me the most popular person in the room particularly because, aside from social courtesy which I have almost mastered now, my mouth too often has a mind of its own.
Not infrequently, I am accused of being a cynic, a label I accept if you will agree that cynicism is just the flip side of idealism, both kinds of people disappointed in human behavior. To digress, let me explain what I believe is the genesis of my cynicism.
In sixth grade social studies class, when I was 11 years old and we were learning some of the intricacies of how American government works, the teacher told us that elected officials make decisions based on their evaluation of what will do the most good for the largest number of people. I took that to mean, by extension, that people with other kinds of power operate on the same principle and it got mixed up for me, too, with the physicians’ precept, which I learned around the same time: “first do no harm.” To behave in this manner seemed to me the proper goal of all people, regardless of their power position, and it has been an important guide throughout my life.
It did not take but a couple years to realize that if my teacher really believed what she said, she was delusional. And I have been disappointed ever since, still hoping, a half-century later, someone in power, somewhere, sometime will behave as my teacher explained.
Instead, I have watched politicians of all stripes, corporate executives, low-level bosses, leaders of organized religion, petty bureaucrats and even paltry block association presidents operate entirely in their own self-interest – at least, as much as they can get away with, which is a lot – to the detriment of whatever it is to which they pay lip service.
It is injustice that makes me crabby, and the frequently-voiced admonition to me, “Ronni, life isn’t fair,” ticks me off big-time. Yes, I know that sometimes good plans go awry, and I know that to err is human, but most injustice is deliberate and it pains me that almost no one responsible is ever called to account.
In the early stages of this blog, in which I decided to carve out as my own the area of injustices committed against older people, I wanted a place to separate those complaints from the more general discussion of what aging is really like. I hit on the phrase “Crabby Old Lady” but at first I was nervous about it. After all, crabby old ladies are the ones who won’t return the ball when kids misjudge a throw and it winds up in their yard.
With more thought, I realized it fit if taken literally. I’m old, I’m a woman (if not a lady, in the old-fashioned sense) and I certainly am crabby. Additionally, the phrase lends itself to some humor which Crabby can sometimes muster. And now what has happened is similar to the Remarkable Transformation I wrote about last month in regard to the words “old” and “older.”
Crabby Old Lady has become the repository for my ill temper at injustice, my cynicism and my perhaps foolish hope that just maybe, someday, my sixth grade teacher’s delusion will be vindicated. And now, with steady use over many months, I no longer think of the phrase, crabby old lady, as a pejorative. Comments and emails sent to this blog lead me to believe that many readers have adjusted to my new use of the phrase too.
In an email, Mary Lee Fowler, who runs the Full Fathom Five blog (which you should read if you aren't doing so already) and who is a long-time writing teacher, crystalized my thinking about the difference between Crabby and me better than I had for myself:
“You and Crabby are a great team: Crabby protests and marshalls all kinds of facts to shore up her arguments...Ronni looks into her heart for universal yet near-ineffable truths...”
So you see, David, I don't think my mindset about Crabby Old Lady is "a disservice" to myself at all, although I appreciate your concern. A further benefit for friends who have suffered my rants through the years, is now that I have Crabby to piss and moan for me, I’m not nearly as annoying as I used to be.