Thursday, November 13, 2014


Last week, I had breakfast with two fellow expatriates (Jack and Didi) at my secret breakfast spot.

During our wide-ranging conversation, Jack announced he had a perfect one-word descriptor for me.  I was hoping it might be "raconteur."  Nope.  It was "curmudgeon."

I didn't protest.  Even though the word smacks of Walter Matthau and canes waved over heads on the front lawn, there are worse things to be called.

Before the day was out, Jack emailed me a link to a site with the intriguing title: "How to Become a Full-Fledged Curmudgeon."  The piece read like one of those trendy books that allow everyone to call themselves an introvert no matter how extroverted their personalities are in practice.

After all, we are slipping into a world where everyone is free to create his own reality -- and the rest of us are expected to go along with it, no matter how nutty it is.  Today I will be Napoleon and defeat the Austrian army.  Or maybe I will be Josephine.

After looking over the list that Jack sent me, with its 14 characteristics (who writes a list with 14 points?), I decided I just might be a curmudgeon.  But, then, so would Mother Teresa and Gandhi.

So, here is Jack's list, heavily edited by Mexpatriate.  What remains of the list could hardly be called plagiarism.  More like emasculation.

Without further ado.  Here it is.  "Mexpatriate's Guide to Complete Curmugosity."

Have you finally given up on becoming a wealthy celebrity worshiped by the masses because even your sad life seems more interesting than theirs?  If so, you may have a future as a curmudgeon.

If you are thinking grumpy old men, you just need to adjust your own flawed reality about what a curmudgeon is.  Gender and age are irrelevant.  Curmudgeons are actually supremely independent thinkers, very wise, and have excellent senses of humor.  (Just like we writers who seem to have learned our prose style from the horoscope page in the local newspaper.)

1. Curmudgeons are not pleasers. Nor are we crabby.  We have no interest in being liked or popular as an end in itself.  We tell the truth, and some people don't like that.

If a restaurant owner inquires about our meal, we will not hide behind niceties.  If the girl at church with the screechy voice asks a curmudgeon what he thinks of her singing, he will tell her the truth.  Curmudgeons assume that adults who ask these questions want truthful, adult responses. 

There is no need to be mean in the telling of truth.  But there is good in truth, and falsity in simply being nice. 

2. Curmudgeons do not follow "trends" or fashions.  If you want to be a curmudgeon, try this exercise: If a popular media figure says something is great, say you don't care for it.  If most of the people around you like a television show, gadget, or movie, tell them it bores you.  You may need to try forcing yourself not to like what is popular until you learn to think independently.   Then, you will be a curmudgeon. 

3. Curmudgeons do not like new things.  Every curmudgeon is surrounded by comfortable, old things.  T-shirts that are barely held together.  Pants with enough worn spots to qualify for a Department of Agriculture erosion grant.  Curmudgeons love attics -- or anyplace where old things can be found.  Old almost always trumps new.

4. Curmudgeons do not participate in group activities.  Inviting a curmudgeon to a party, a reunion, or a Men's fellowship retreat is risky behavior.  Curmudgeons are not attuned to group-thinking.  Party chatter and stark truthfulness are almost always strangers to one another.  A curmudgeon will not be found near a fitness center aerobics class.  Instead, look for them crowded int the sauna.

5. Curmudgeons tend to own pets.  This should not surprise anyone.  And the pet is usually a dog.  A dog that will bark and snarl at all potential visitors. That gives the owner-curmudgeon the rare opportunity to look like the sociable one.  The same way that slightly over-weight people like to hang around with even-heavier people. 

6. Curmudgeons are not angry people.  Yelling at people is a symptom of a control freak who has just discovered that the world does not respond to their silly levers of control.  Curmudgeons see no point in anger.  It almost always gets in the way of truth-telling.
7. Curmudgeons do not argue.  Curmudgeons learned long ago that when confronting people who are acting stupid that the legs of a curmudgeon still work.  Walking away is the best antidote to the contagion of idiocy.

8. Curmudgeons like to tell good stories; and people like to listen.  There is something primal about the person who can evoke the spirit of the clan campfire.  A true curmudgeon avoids boredom and repetition.  And always knows that an ironic twist trumps predictability.
9. Curmudgeons have excellent senses of humor.  A top-rated curmudgen will have chckled at 5 impossible things before breakfast.  And will then share those tales with the people he runs across in the day.  (See #8 above.)

So, there is the Mexpatriate Curmudgeon List.  With all due respect to Jack for passing along the original piece, after reading it (and then chopping it to bits and reconstructing it), the characteristics sound familiar.

But they still strike me as being a "raconteur."

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