'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
LET’S PUT ANDROPAUSE ON PAUSE
“Hey, good news,” I said to my wife the other day. “I just read an article about middle-aged grumpy men. It turns out we’re grumpy because of a loss of hormones rather than because we’re jerks.”
“Either way you’re still grumpy, right?” she asked. “So why is that good news?”
“Because now it’s not my fault!” I replied cheerfully, and then as soon as I realized I had replied cheerfully I forced myself to frown and grumble just in case she got her hopes up that I might be interested in changing my behavior.
According to psychotherapist Jed Diamond, men begin to experience a decrease in testosterone levels when they reach middle-age, which can result in irritable mood swings, reduced sex drive, loss of muscle strength, and loss of male identity. I have no idea what Dr. Diamond means by “loss of male identity.” By the way, there’s no truth to the rumor that I’ve recently begun to insist that people call me Shirley. That’s a lie. I prefer Jennifer.
Some people refer to this situation as male menopause. But Dr. Diamond points out the “men” part of the word menopause applies only to women. (“Men” means “women”? OK, you’re the doctor, but no wonder there’s an epidemic of male identity problems.)
For men, the correct term is andropause, which sounds like it ought to apply only to guys named Andrew. But apparently it’s for all of us fellas.
Dr. Diamond is the author of the book, “The Irritable Male Syndrome: Managing the Four Key Causes of Aggression and Depression.” Wow, just reading the book title alone is sure to put a guy in a bad mood. Although it is a best-seller, to date all of the books sold were purchased exclusively by women. And who’s surprised? As Diamond notes, when the topic of male grumpiness is brought up for discussion “the chief response with men is denial. They say, ‘No, I’m not irritable, dammit!!’, or, ‘Of course I’m irritable! My wife makes me irritable!’”
I’ve heard the term “grumpy old men.” That phrase was the title of a movie years ago, starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. The first movie was very clever and funny, while the sequel, “Grumpier Old Men,” was so incredibly un-funny I suspect the screenplay was written by a guy caught in the throes of andropause, including the dreaded loss of male identity and a flaccid funnybone.
I always assumed that old men are grumpy because they are forced for some unknown reason, possibly an act of Congress, to wear their pants pulled up to just below their armpits. I know I’d be grumpy if I were forced to do that. Yes dear, you’re right. I mean grumpier. I figured the small percentage of middle-aged guys who act grumpy (97%, to be exact) do so because of the pressures of being middle-aged. At this stage of life our kids are teenagers or in college, which means lots of emotional stress or financial stress or both. In the workplace middle-aged guys either have a great deal of responsibility—which is very stressful—or their careers are at a dead-end and they report to a snotty supervisor who is barely 30—which is very depressing. Also, middle-age is the time when a guy might be, for example, just past his 52nd birthday and he finally starts to realize it is less and less likely the Boston Red Sox will call in need of a crafty left-hander out of the bullpen.
Surely there must be something we can do to put andropause on pause. Yes, there is. And don’t call me Shirley.
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