When I used the word “curmudgeon” in my previous post, I had an apparently uncommon definition in mind: unflinching truth teller. I’ve actually taken minute pleasure in thinking of myself that way ever since, in the not-so-long ago I asked my new boss what my new role on the team would be and, knowing me, he said “curmudgeon?”. I had to hunt a bit to find a definition that wasn’t the Andy Rooney-esque “crusty, ill-tempered, old man”, but I kind of liked this one:
…Nature, having failed to equip them with a servicable denial mechanism, has endowed them with astute perception and sly wit.
Curmudgeons are mockers and debunkers whose bitterness is a symptom rather than a disease. They can’t compromise their standards and can’t manage the suspension of disbelief necessary for feigned cheerfulness. Their awareness is a curse.
Perhaps curmudgeons have gotten a bad rap in the same way that the messenger is blamed for the message: They have the temerity to comment on the human condition without apology. They not only refuse to applaud mediocrity, they howl it down with morose glee. Their versions of the truth unsettle us, and we hold it against them, even though they soften it with humor.
- JON WINOKUR