When I am an Old Woman, I’m Going to be Grumpy

grumpy old woman
Ellen Padnos
Ellen Padnos

Inspiration hits you at the strangest times. The stars aligned Thursday morning: an early-wake up by Annie, two days without a shower (forgive me, she’s 18 months old), a week without yoga, and a 12-year-old on line at the bagel store. I placed my order and smiled while he fooled around with his mom and dad until it was his turn to order. “Parmesan bagel with cream cheese,” he said bruskly to the smiling Noah’s clerk.

No please. No thank you. Not the slightest bit of appreciation or gratitude.

How is it possible that his mother or father, who were standing right, there didn’t jump in and say something? What’s wrong with these people?

In describing my late grandmother, I share a funny little story. Several years ago we were sitting around talking and the topic of global warming came up. A normally sharp and opinionated woman, she completely zoned out of the conversation. When I tried to engage her in the discussion, she simply said: “It doesn’t matter. I’ll be dead.”

She was totally right. And after years of being disappointed with her reaction, today I finally understand it.

When we are young – I’m not exactly sure what “young” is, but let’s say under 30 — we have the energy and idealism to be positive. We’re gung ho, optimistic and believe we can make a difference. (My husband points out that’s why political campaigns so heavily leverage “younger” volunteers – older people are too jaded and cynical.) Once we reach our 30s, we’ve experienced enough that everything isn’t simply sunshine and roses. We now have real responsibilities – kids, a mortgage, college to save for, etc. But we’re still looking ahead to the future with optimism, some of it for ourselves and some because we see the world again through the eyes of a child.

As foolish as it may sound, at 38 years old, I still believe I can change the world – either from actions I do myself, or by raising kids who think about making the world better. That’s also part of why I’m so excited about being part of MeaningfulWomen.com!

I was so tempted to say something – to correct the boy’s manners – but I bit my tongue, waited for my order, and left without a word.

I stop myself from saying things all of the time….Let’s face it, guys wearing fedoras and sunglasses indoors looks dumb. And overweight people wearing skinny jeans or other tight clothes is not a good look.

Fast-forward 25+ years, I’ll say something.

Want to know how I know?

Because being nice and withholding judgment takes energy. And when I’m older and my feet hurt or my back aches, it’ll take more of my energy to do the routine things I take for granted today. So I probably won’t have the energy to bite my tongue.

I also have to imagine that by the time I’m in my 60s or 70s, I’ll have seen enough to feel very comfortable calling people out on their $#^+ or saying exactly what’s on my mind. Just as my grandmother did.

So tomorrow, maybe even later today after a warm shower, I’ll again have the energy to smile. I’ll go back to the natural optimist that I am and I’ll continue to cultivate the confidence I need to be my best self. But for a moment, it’s nice to understand my grandmother a bit better and appreciate I’m at the moment in my life where I still believe I can make a difference.

Click here to see more articles on MeaningfulWomen.com by Ellen Padnos.

Ellen Padnos lives in Manhattan Beach, CA with her husband, Ben, her children Anthony (5), and Annie (18 months), and her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Lola. You can also follow her on Twitter (@ellenpadnos).


  1. Ha. I TOTALLY agree. There are days I have a strong desire to change the world, implement new policies, motivate, delegate, take names and roll heads . . . and then other days, just too exhausted to care. I like your grandma.

  2. Great article! I can absolutely relate. After going through menopause a couple of years ago, I find it impossible to bite my tongue. The truth just wants to pop out, and I’m finding that the more I speak my truth, the more (most) people respect me. And I certainly feel better about myself.
    I say, go for the grumpiness! The truth can set us free and change the world in a positive way.

  3. I believe we women can change the world without judging, shaming or blaming. The kid learned everything he’s got from mommy and daddy. It takes a conscious focus to communicate our thoughts/beliefs and it has to be done gently. People are so very prickly and defensive–making it difficult for them to hear anyone. No matter how old I become, I will let people know what I think.
    P.S. I do pick my battles (if you can call them that).

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