Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Virtue of Being a Grumpy Old Man

When I was a teenager, I had a poster on my wall of W.C. Fields shooting pool. A line from the film "My Little Chickadee""Anything worth having is worth cheating for" — appeared next to him.

I remember that poster, which was one of many on my bedroom wall. I don't remember when or where I got it, but I'm reasonably sure I got it where people tended to get such things in those days — a record store.

I drew no special meaning from the poster. I simply liked W.C. Fields, who had been dead for a long time before I was born. But he seemed — in what must have been a wave of nostalgia — to be making a comeback in the public consciousness when I was young.

I don't know if I was caught up in this wave of nostalgia. I just know that, when I saw the poster, I had to have it.

But perhaps we are only starting to understand the life lesson Fields had for us.

BBC News reports that feeling grumpy is good for your health.

Honest. And the study sounds like it would melt even Fields' heart.

Apparently, an Australian psychologist says that "miserable people are better at decision–making and less gullible," the BBC reports. And that seems to make sense — to me, at least — the way the BBC explains the findings.

The article doesn't mention whether being grumpy may actually help you live longer, but wouldn't that be a logical conclusion? Perhaps — but you couldn't prove it using Fields (who was perhaps the most famously grumpy old man of all time) as Exhibit A. He died of a stomach ulcer at the age of 66.

I wonder if Lewis Black, now 61, is on track to become the reigning grumpy old man. Even if he outlives Fields, he'll have a long way to go to match Fields for longevity.

He left home at the age of 11 and embarked on a career that lasted more than half a century.

But he always seemed like a grumpy old man to me.

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