Complaining about Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney has done his last bit of griping on 60 Minutes. A friend of mine suggested that his retirement creates a job opening for yours truly, the not-so-subtle implication being that I like to complain. I disagree. I don’t like to complain per se, but I don’t shy away from it. I merely speak my mind while others slavishly adhere to the old adage if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Some people take that a step further. I know a woman who doesn’t ask questions because she doesn’t want to risk saying something that might be considered rude or offensive. Since she never knows what that might be, she avoids questions altogether. Finding that out was a revelation. Until then, I assumed that she didn’t like me, because I take the opposite approach. I ask questions to express my interest. I do it to show that I care and want to know what you have to say, what you’ve been up to, and how the world is treating you. I also feel it earns me the right to tell you, in return, how I am, what I’ve been up to and how the world is treating me. I operate on the premise that if I ask you something you’re not comfortable discussing, you will politely decline to answer, or change the subject, either of which works for me.

In the interview 60 Minutes did with Andy Rooney on the occasion of his retirement I learned more about him than I wanted to know. I had always thought of him as a quirky, plainspoken guy, someone who could make being a curmudgeon charming. In real life it seems he was a little low on charm. You can watch the video if you’re interested; I mention it because there is a difference between speaking your mind, and being small-minded. I don’t think I would have liked him very much. And if I’d gotten to spend a few minutes with him, and I’d asked him a few questions, I’d have figured that out pretty quickly.

I will grant you that I am more inquisitive than most, but I’m never malevolently motivated. I’m just plain curious. Lots of people seem to equate curiosity with being rude. If I had a dime for every time I asked a question that someone else thought was inappropriate I’d be a wealthy woman. Ironically, the people I ask the questions of rarely seem discomfited. I have friends who wish they could be more like me, but having been raised to bottle things up inside, they can’t. Then there are the people who use me as their proxy to ask a question they can’t bring themselves to ask, but whose answer they are burning to know.

Do I sound like I’m complaining? I don’t mean to. I’m making an observation about the way people interact with each other socially. Sure it involves some carping, but I do hate it when… Hang on. Sorry about that. I’ll stop here. I don’t want to be the next Andy Rooney. I don’t want my legacy to be that I complained; I want it to be that I expressed interest. What do you think about that?


8 responses to “Complaining about Andy Rooney

  1. I don’t want you to be the next Andy Rooney either! I like and love you just the way you are Judy!

  2. I think there are a few other reasons that some people don’t ask questions. Years ago in graduate school I asked what I thought was an intelligent question. The professor replied, “If you don’t know what Plato meant, then you’re just plain stupid.” Also, there’s often an implied criticism in a question, e.g., “Are you going to replace your [defective] toaster?” or “Do you think your child is hyperactive?” –both suggest that I think some action should be taken. There are probably other hidden messages in many questions, but these are two that come to mind.

    • I wonder if that professor went on to teach math in an elementary school. When I was in sixth grade I asked a question about math and the teacher said, “You should have learned that in third grade,” and then didn’t answer the question! You’d think that would have put me off the whole question thing, but no-o-o. Must be how come I was voted “most argumentative” of my senior class, of over 800 students!

  3. I remember once Andy Rooney complained about all the things people sent him in response to earlier pieces. That made me realize that he wasn’t looking for solutions, just more things to complain about.
    On the other hand, Emily Rooney of WGBH (tv and radio), is one of his children. I like her a lot. So perhaps he has some redeeming qualities.

    • Today the news says he’s in the hospital. I hope it wasn’t a reaction to my post. I’m sure he has redeeming qualities, after all, I did chuckle and groan at his pieces on 60 Minutes for years.

  4. You only complain a little. What I really notice is that you have a unique voice in speaking and writing. In that way, you remind me of Anthony Bourdain, who sounds the same in his books as he does on his TV show. Not everyone can really pull off their own voice. You have a unique perspective on life. So does Andy Rooney, but in a different way. You’d be so much better at it.

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