Social Security - Part 21: Risky Business
Dominick Dunne, Judy and Ronni

Don't Annoy the Pig

“Although people often think of older adults as ornery, they’re actually nicer when they have problems in their relationships. When they do feel upset, they’re more likely to wait to see if things improve than yell or argue.”
- The New York Times, 7 June 2005

That’s a researcher from one of two new studies reporting that older people are not as grumpy or crabby as they are thought to be, and they are also better, according to the studies, at getting along with others than young people.

Although there are good reasons for Crabby Old Lady’s moniker, she has noticed that she’s more likely to let it go in recent years than in the past, at least when disagreements turn up among friends if not politics and the culture at large. And she agrees with the researchers about avoidance too:

“It may be that avoiding problems is good for relationships,” Dr. Birditt said. “Particularly if it’s a personality issue, something unlikely to change, it may be helpful to just ignore it.”

That fortunately, is a lesson Crabby Old Lady learned young: it’s not for nothing that for 20-odd years she has owned a sofa pillow stitched with a saying of Mark Twain’s:

“Never try to teach a pig to sing – it wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

[Thanks to M. Dent for the tip on this story]


I heard about this on NPR while driving. The researcher sounded like such a kind and accepting person as he talked about it too!

But what tickles me is the timing. There are definitely "pigs in the air," which I just had to mention today at my site.

Hah! One of my favorite sayings. I would love to have a pillow with that on it. :-)

I NEED that pillow, Ronni! My husband needs to see that saying every day. Maybe I will have it calligraphied for him (although that will probably not make him quit trying to teach the pig!).

do I have to quit my job now?

Mark Twain didn't make up the pig- teaching aphorism. The character Lazarus Long said it in a book by Robert Heinlein.

P.s. Lazarus Long was an old fellow.

Jive - it's also been attributed to P.G. Wodehouse and a bunch of other people. Since I have a pillow on which it is embroidered citing Mark Twain, I'm sticking with him...

Sorry to contradict you, but Mark Twain in fact did coin the aphorism you mention. Robert Heinlein was a 20th century writer born decades after Twain died. Unless there's a time-travel machine from the 19th century (Star Trek is fiction, by the way) then Mr. Twain's writings predate Heinlein by about a century.

Oh, and both Twain and Heinlein were considered grumpy old men in their day. I sometimes wonder if that is how we old guys are percieved, simply because we become more direct and succinct as we age. I'm definitely more patient and understanding, especially after bringing up two teenagers without killing them!

Sorry for taking nine months to get back to you. I am well aware that Mark Twain predates Robert Heinlein. What is not clear is whether Twain ever said or wrote the saying, internet attributions not withstanding. When Heilein's character Lazarus Long said it in the scifi novel Time Enough For Love, he did not attribute it to Twain or anyone else. Heinlein has a fine reputation. If he were quoting someone, I think he would have said so. I am inclined to believe the saying is original with Heinlein.

I'd go with the fact that Twain predates Heinlen and is known for pithy comments.

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