Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I've Fallen...And You Never Call!

Some people think it's possible to live in a perfect world with absolutely no conflict.

I disagree.

It seems to me that conflict is a vital part of human identity. This isn't to say that I like conflict, or that I pursue it, but rather that I think it is central to our development. As we define ourselves, we must define our opposition. In so doing, we choose who, and what, we are not, and thus who, and what, we are.

Now, a lot of people go after obvious targets, like John Wayne Gacy, Adolf Hitler, or George Bush. Personally, I think Bush is much too easy. The only people I know who really support Bush are my ultraconservative aunt and uncle who live on Long Island. To give you an idea of my Aunt's politics, she thinks Attilla the Hun was a liberal pussy.

Anyway, apart from crazy Aunt Libby, I don't know anybody who really believes in Bush. Either they buy into the culture of fear that he's exploited, or they cynically support him because his policies help them financially. However, nobody seems to really believe that he is a good President or a decent leader.

Apart from Crazy Aunt Libby.

So, anyway, back to my original point. Bush is an easy target, and I think that it's time to give him a break, at least for a day or two. I would like to suggest a bigger and better villain: little old ladies.

To be honest, as much as Bush's policies have made my life difficult, they don't irritate me every day. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of little old ladies. Rarely a day goes by that one of these self-obsessed Geritol munchers doesn't nearly run me off the road, slam a door in my face, hijack my afternoon, or otherwise irritate me. And don't even get me started on my mother in law.

Old Lady Discourtesy
Although I have observed and catalogued a wide variety of Evil Old Lady behavior, I find that the vast majority of it fits into a few simple categories. The first is Total Fucking Discourtesy. As a sometime mallwalker, I occasionally find myself crossing paths (literally) with septuagenarians and octogenarians who, like me, are using the mall for exercise. I find that older men are a lot of fun. First off, they tend to be pretty generous about yielding the right of way to a guy wrangling a kid. They smile at me, say "have a nice day," and try to race me. They, of course, fail, as I am Mario Andretti with a Graco stroller.

(Actually, truth be told, they usually win. Give me a break; these are they guys who won World War II.)

Old ladies, on the other hand, cut in front of me, scowl, and generally make my life difficult. My favorite such situation is when I'm trying to get out of the mall, pushing a stroller, clutching a wailing child, juggling a couple of parcels, and trying to deal with one of Hitler's ex-girlfriends who is tapping her toes at me and waiting for me to get the door. For some reason, the idea of helping out a guy in his thirties never seems to work its way across their crania.

The key exception to this was the wonderful old lady who gave me her seat on the New York Subway. Admittedly, I was embarrassed about taking a seat from an older woman, but she got really pushy about it and I caved. As I tend to do when faced with the full force of old-lady power.

Old Lady "Advice"
My wife's mother lives in coastal Oregon. When we visited her home a year ago, I found it to be a beautiful, otherworldly place that had weak gray light that was about as wholesome as watered-down skim milk. After two days there, I was feeling delighfully melancholy, like a character in a gothic novel. Two more days, and i was in the mood to read a Swedish play. After a week, I felt like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Suffice to say, I don't have the necessary personality to become a coastie.

Not that this dissuades my mother in law or her gang. I'm not going to criticize my mother-in-law here. She wants her family near her and doesn't want to move. I, of course, can relate. However, the Greek chorus of AARP-harpies that she surrounds herself with really tweak my nuts. Okay, I understand that, to them, we represent the children who have abandoned them (insert generic pop-psychology excuse here), but when I want advice from a total stranger in her dotage, I'll call Blaze Starr, Liz Renay, or Bettie Page.

Frankly, I've had it with getting guilt trips from old ladies who I don't even know. Yes, yes, I know that it'd be great if my wife and I abandoned our dreams so we could move out to the Oregon coast and work in convenience stores while trying to be cheerful in a place that makes Ingemar Bergman's films look like pop art. It would be wonderful if I could become financially dependent on a mildly insane woman whose feelings toward me and my wife seesaw like Oprah Winfrey's weight. I'm just choosing to stay on the East Coast because I'm an intransigent bastard. So sue me.

Old Lady Drivers
As much as I don't really like driving, I also understand that it must be really hard to surrender one's driver's license. In one fell swoop, you transform yourself from an active, autonomous member of our culture to a passenger, dependent upon bus schedules, cabs, and the whims of others.

It must totally suck.

However, when the time comes, I hope that I will face the loss of my license with equanimity, bravery, and honesty. I hope that I will accept the restriction of my freedom and recognize that nothing lasts forever. I hope that I can be big about the whole thing.

When you are too old to read speed limit signs, see kids in front of your car, and hit the brakes in an expeditious manner, the time has come to say bye bye to the license. Admit it. Frankly, I think that everyone over the age of seventy should be forced to watch Blood on the Highway and all those other New Jersey State Department of Transportation splatter flicks on a yearly basis. After all, if terror works on the teenagers, why wouldn't it work on the oldsters?

Clingy Behavior
A while back, Matt posted the "I've fallen and I can't get up!" commercial that ran in the 1980's. For those of you who've forgotten this obnoxious little cultural artifact, take a peek:

Did you notice the self-satisfied grin on the face of the spokesperson/Yoda lookalike? You can practically hear her thoughts: "You think that you can escape me? You think that moving out of the house, driving two hours away, and marrying a big-haired Dolly Parson impersonator will sever the bonds between mother and son? Think again, buster! I've got you on a short leash, and Lifecall is the choke-chain. I'm one broken hip away from having you back in this house. With me. Forever."

Seriously, I see a Norman Bates thing developing here.

Maybe my thoughts on old ladies are tainted by my own experiences, but I've never really bought into the "old ladies are sweet and frail" ideal. My grandmothers--both of them--were manipulative and power-hungry people players who could have given J. Edgar Hoover a run for his money. Having watched them use every tool at their disposal to control the people around them, the idea of a selfless dearheart who bakes cookies just doesn't work for me.

I can understand loneliness and need, but what is it about little old ladies that makes them more clingy than a pregnant hooker at the fall of Saigon? Perhaps the best manifestation of this is what my wife and I call the "Old Lady Death Grip." This is where an old woman seizes your arm and clutches it like it's the last piece of flotsam coming off the Titanic. While dealing with whatever problem said old lady has put before you, you're twisting your arm all over the place, trying to get her to let go in the futile hope that you'll be able to restore feeling to your fingertips.

Honestly, do they teach this Vulcan pinching technique at bridge club meetings or something? Almost every old lady I know has it down pat, and it drives me crazy. In what parallel universe is it acceptable to latch on to a total stranger like that?

This isn't to say that I've never met a cool old lady. The yenta who gave me her subway seat, for example, is in my personal pantheon of great old ladies. Ditto all the babcias in Poland who, I swear to God, rule the world. I'm sure Mother Theresa had her moments. However, I would have to say that, overall, old ladies have been skating by on looks and reputation for far too long. But I'm on to them. As much as they might try to play off the whole frailty thing, I know the score. Sometimes, pure evil has blue hair.

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  • Ahhh, Misanthropster's mildly insane mother...she was a cranky old woman when she was in her 40's, too, as I'm sure you're aware. A different breed, that one.

    I remember when she told me, after I'd had my jaw wired shut for 5 weeks following surgery and had lost a rather alarming amount of weight, that I'd sure be a knockout if I only lost 5 pounds. She was right, you know.

    By Blogger Mrs Pinchloaf, At January 17, 2007 at 8:28 AM  

  • I can't wait to be an old lady. I'm going to get one of those carts to push around. Also, I'm going to start washing plastic plates to use again, just like my grandma.

    By Blogger mist1, At January 17, 2007 at 8:56 AM  

  • I already dress like a crazy old Asian lady in the garden with tall socks, flip-flops, goucho pants, and sunhat. A couple more years, I'm gonna start shaking my fist at the youngins that drive too fast and dirt clods at the cats who try to use my flower beds as litter boxes.

    By Blogger Lee, At January 17, 2007 at 10:40 AM  

  • I already tell wippersnappers to pipe down and quick drivin so fast. And as for the vulcan pinch - Just as toddlers all know that arms up wiggle that gets them out of adults hands, all old ladies know that technique.

    By Blogger Pickled Olives, At January 17, 2007 at 12:53 PM  

  • You have crossed the Great Divide in the hopes of re-establishing equality. It's been nice knowing you, and I wish you the best of luck. The devil wears blue hair you know.

    By Blogger The CEO, At January 17, 2007 at 1:00 PM  

  • Mrs. Pinchloaf-
    Misanthropster's mother is usually correct. Which doesn't change the fact that she's kind of loony.

    Or you can get one of the little electric scooters and run people off the sidewalk.

    Something to look forward to!

    As a, well, cranky old bastard, I completely understand your tendencies. Just don't do the arm trick!

    What demon bastard has been teaching them? That's what I want to know!

    Desperate times call for desperate measures!

    Age is no excuse for poor behavior!

    Viva la Revolucion!

    By Blogger Crankster, At January 17, 2007 at 6:32 PM  

  • The arm trick? Is that where I make farting noises in front of my children?

    By Blogger Lee, At January 17, 2007 at 8:33 PM  

  • Remind me to never become a little old lady. You actually are describing paragons of virtue compared to my mother in law. I knew her 30 years ago and she was just as insane, rude, ill tempered, and as bad a driver, so I don't think you can really blame age. I put a lot of post up about her on my family blog, which of course, she doesn't read thank god. You can see one story at

    By Blogger Spellbound, At January 17, 2007 at 11:52 PM  

  • Oh ho ho ho I hate these bitches with every fibre of my being - Don’t get me started! They are the very generation that slapped manners into their children and now at the sign of a few grey hairs they seem to think it a licence to do what ever they damn well please. I would like to think the logans run decree will catch on soon if they keep it up. Wouldn’t you just love to grab them by the scruff of the neck when they are in the middle of their bad manners and scream with a hurricane force ‘What the fuck do you think you are playing at you wizen old hatchet!!’ but hey that’s just me - one of these days Ill do it so help me!

    By Blogger Judith, At January 18, 2007 at 4:27 AM  

  • I too have often observed evil old lady behavior. And you're correct, old men tend to be more cheerful after years and years of grumpiness.

    I fucking hate old women. Dried up coochies. No good to society. Why don't we put 'em all in a big barn somewhere and set in on fire?

    By Blogger Matt, At January 18, 2007 at 1:20 PM  

  • Crankster, you'll know when it's time for the cleansing, if you know what I mean....

    By Blogger Matt, At January 18, 2007 at 1:28 PM  

  • I'm with Mist...while I can certainly wait...I do look forward to being a crotchety old woman...but I want a cane so I can smack people with it. I hope I'm like my grandma was...having a drink everynight and just plain fun. she never drove!

    By Blogger Claudia, At January 18, 2007 at 2:26 PM  

  • Lee-
    No, it's where you latch on to the fleshy part of the upper arm, working your talons in to the muscle while the person you've attacked attempts to escape.

    Arm farts, on the other hand, are strongly encouraged!

    Your mother-in-law is definitely a supreme example of a horrid old lady! That story was a riot!

    I read your response aloud to my wife. We both went into painful laughing mode. Thank you!

    I'll wait for the sign.

    The eagle has landed. The fat man walks alone.

    You sound more like Misanthropster's grandmother, a crazy old lady who raised hell until she died. More power to you!

    By Blogger Crankster, At January 18, 2007 at 7:04 PM  

  • You wrote this post about me didn't you. Get outta my yard ya rotten little bastard!


    By Blogger Just D, At January 18, 2007 at 8:00 PM  

  • Nicely said, Crankster. And Polish chicks rule, whatever the age.

    By Anonymous John, At January 19, 2007 at 2:48 AM  

  • Glad to be of service you and your lovely wife should visit my profile and check out my interests for a giggle :OP

    By Blogger Judith, At January 19, 2007 at 6:22 AM  

  • D-
    Please...tell me you're not an arm-pincher!

    Couldn't agree more. God bless Polish chicks!

    Outstanding--and they deserve it, too! Although I gotta say--Solaris? You really liked that one?

    By Blogger Crankster, At January 19, 2007 at 8:01 AM  

  • I think I may have fallen in love with the music rather than the film itself crankster I had it playing non stop when I came home with my new daughter/first born the music is so emotive it would melt a whores heart.

    By Blogger Judith, At January 19, 2007 at 9:02 AM  

  • I'm with you on the music. I think it might have been the movie's only saving grace.

    Although I did like Jeremy Davies. Did you see him as Manson?

    By Blogger Crankster, At January 19, 2007 at 11:50 PM  

  • This is the generation who suffered post-war austerity but missed
    out on the sexual revolution. They were raised to believe their
    only ambition should be marriage and what a disappointment that
    turned out to be! They've lived their whole lives vicariously,
    firstly through their husbands and then through their children. Now
    their husbands are dead and their children have moved away and a
    lifetime of lavender-scented frustration and bitterness are being

    I could almost feel sorry for them if they weren't so judgemental.


    By Blogger Glamourpuss, At January 24, 2007 at 5:25 AM  

  • Puss-
    Beautifully said. I particularly liked "lavender-scented frustration and bitterness."

    By Blogger Crankster, At January 24, 2007 at 8:27 AM  

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