I am driving myself crazy, and it’s all because of stuff I say now that sounds eerily like the stuff said by the old men in the neighborhoods where I grew up. It really bothers me, but my saving grace is that I know I am not alone and that I can get help.
Some of you may be suffering the same problem and not know it. But, when it is made clear to you, probably by someone you love, the hurt and shame that will wash over you will be difficult to bear.
Here are some tell-tale signs that drew me to the conclusion that I need some sort of intervention:
Usually, when someone asks me, “How are you?” I will respond with the extremely clever “Well, as long as I’m north of dirt, I’m fine.”
Immediately, the person and I yuk it up because that’s a good and creative line. “That’s pretty good, Ed, I’ll have to use that,” is often the response I get.
Here are some other phrases that I use too often now:
“Man, I remember when … ” or, “The kids today just don’t know how easy they have it. … ”
And, the big one, “I would have never done that when I was his age.”
That’s horrible. Please stop me from saying those things. I want to stop, but I just don’t know how. I don’t want to be that guy. You know him. I knew him when I was younger and I pledged to myself that would never be “The Old Guy!”
I remember there was “The Old Guy” in each of my neighborhoods. My music was always too loud for him, he didn’t like my clothes or he would intentionally mispronounce my nickname because it made me sound like a bad person.
More than anything, “The Old Guy” would bore you to tears always talking about his aching back, knees, ankles, feet and how hard he worked “all of my life.” Then he would lament about how his “sugar” (actually diabetes) was causing problems.
Just a few years prior to becoming “The Old Man” you would hear him say, “I’m going to do this” and “I plan to do that.” But, once he officially became “The Old Guy,” everything turned to “When I used to …” and, “They don’t make ’em like that anymore.”
I have noticed that the “When I used to ... .” phrase is slowly creeping into my vernacular.
To top it off, my son has already accused me of developing a lot of “The Old Guy” tendencies, such as my choice in nondescript clothes, shoes and my occasional lament “Well, back in my day ... . ” The truth is, I have never said that, but he feels it helps his effort to antagonize me. I usually laugh him off, but it’s like a heavy drug user unwilling to admit he has a problem.
But, my son’s strongest and most-damning statement is that he suggests that it is inevitable that I will become a full-blown “The Old Guy.”
Shame on him. I will fight this thing. Maybe there is a “The Old Guy” self-help group or 12-step plan that I can do. He should help me, and I will not give in to this because I remember when. …
Ed Pratt is a former Advocate editor. He is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.