Bragging wrongs

“Give many men thine ear but few thy voice.”
— William Shakespeare


Yes, Shakespeare had a good point, which could be applied to bragging. But let’s remember that he lived well before the invention of e-mail, where you can brag to your heart’s content because you can’t see the other person getting more and more annoyed as he or she reads the latest installment of how one of your grandchildren is only in first grade, but reading at 10th grade level, and another, who’s only four, is already doing algebra — when he isn’t playing the violin.

Is it just me? I have found in recent years that some of my friends seem to delight in telling me – either in person or e-mail, and in excruciating detail — the wonderful things they are doing, or their children are doing, or their grandchildren are doing. But I feel awkward telling anyone any of my accomplishments or those of my descendants. Listen, if you feel you have to share all this stuff, do what everyone else is doing: Put it on Facebook, tweet it, or write a blog.


Don’t people get it? There are others who really do want to hear constantly about how your grandson, at the age of five, is a nationally ranked golfer, but I don’t. Actually, there are only three to five people who do: They are your spouse, your incredible grandchild’s parents, and the other grandparents. And that is it!

Yes, my wife and I could go on and on about the great things our grandchildren say and do, but we know that for other people, their limit in hearing this is about 10 seconds or one sentence, whichever comes first.

Face to face, I don’t hear too much grandparental bragging, partly because these days, with our adult children marrying relatively late in life and waiting years to have a baby, quite a few of my friends don’t have grandchildren yet. Some never will, and others will be at least 70 when the first one is born.

This has led me to what I call the “grandparent-as-pet-dog” phenomenon. You know how sad it is when the family dog dies, say at 12 or 14, and your children are so upset that it lived such a short life. Well, you people in your 30s, if you’re not going to have your first baby until your parents are 70 or older, there is a good chance at least one of your parents will be dead by the time your first child reaches 12 or 14. The good news is that your child won’t have to go through the trauma of your decision to put Grandpa to sleep.

But you don’t need to have grandchildren in order to brag. All you need are children. How can it possibly be enough to be filled with pride when your daughter graduates from law school and only share this pride with your spouse? With Facebook and e-mail lists, you can share your prideful joy with the world!

Hey, folks, this is one of the reasons I’m not on Facebook.

At least you aren’t required to look at someone’s Facebook page. You can avoid reading all that parental raving about Mitzi, JD. But what about when you are sitting down to lunch with a friend, as happened to my wife and me years ago, and he proudly tells you his daughter’s salary for her first year at her job. This was more than 15 years ago, and I still remember the number.

My reaction was one of those classic examples of what we say vs. what we’re thinking. I said, “Hey, that’s great!” But what I thought was, “Why the f— are you telling me this? Did I ask?”

However, you don’t even have to have a successful child (or any child, for that matter) in order to brag. You can just go on and on about yourself and the great things you have done and are doing. And I have friends who do this. They will often tell me how great their latest piece of work is. Or how in demand they are all over the globe. What am I supposed to say to this? “Omigod, you are unbelievably wonderful. I’m grateful that you even talk to me.”?

Really, hasn’t anyone ever heard the words “modest” or “humble”?

As I was writing this, I read that the legendary guitarist Doc Watson had just died. I was privileged to hear Doc play on more than one occasion in the 1960s, and he was as great as they come. I do remember him once, after a truly incredible run of notes, say, “Wow, that was good!” But I suspect that was part of his “act.” Apparently, Doc, who was blind from infancy, was always modest about himself and what he did. While the headline for his New York Times obituary read, “Doc Watson, Blind Guitar Wizard Who Influenced Generations, Dies at 89,” near the end of the article were these words: “Quiet and unassuming offstage, Mr. Watson played down his virtuoso guitar playing as nothing more than ‘country pickin.’ He told interviewers that had he not been blind, he would have become an auto mechanic and been just as happy.”

On the other hand, for all I know, he constantly raved about his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren. (Just kidding. We’ll miss you, Doc.)