AND NOW a word for the grouches.

I have a friend who dislikes the Beatles, San Francisco, and ice cream.

Think about that for a minute.

The Beatles, San Francisco, and ice cream.

If you dislike one of the three, okay. I can almost see that. If I try really hard, I can even imagine disliking two of them (although I can’t choose which two). But all three?

Universally beloved icons of their respective worlds -- popular music, cities, food -- and this guy dislikes them all.

In a way, you just have to stand back and admire his list. To a grump, it is art. And not just any art, but Picasso. Da Vinci. Refined. Elevated. Daring.

A masterwork.

Let’s say, for example, that instead of ice cream, he had chosen chipped beef on toast. Rather than the Beatles, the Monkees. And not San Francisco but Washington, D.C.

Who would care? Not people who love chipped beef on toast or the Monkees or even the nation’s capital. Because in the end, they get that theirs are less universally acclaimed.

Ah, but to take on ice cream and San Francisco and the Beatles in one sweeping declaration, as if clearing a table of fine china by waving one’s arm through it. That, my friend … that is something.

This friend came to mind the other day after I read this sentence in a New York Times article about a new glut of worrywartism over the state of American culture: “Joining the circle of curmudgeons this season is Eric G. Wilson, whose ‘Against Happiness’ warns that the ‘American obsession with happiness’ could ‘well lead to a sudden extinction of the creative impulse, that could result in an extermination as horrible as those foreshadowed by global warming and environmental crisis and nuclear proliferation.’ ”

Yes! Finally. A season of curmudgeons.

About time is all I have to say.

IN ANY OBJECTIVE ANALYSIS, it would be revealed that there has been entirely too much focus put on happiness. There are national happiness measurements and academic papers on evaluating happiness, and there’s even something called the Journal of Happiness Studies.

As one who’s partial to the grumpy side of life, I think we’re overdue for some good old-fashioned grousing.

I have been antihappiness since before antihappiness was cool.

When we were first married, my wife said something to me like, “I just want to make you happy.”

“Anything but that,” I replied.

Okay, so I’ll never be called a mush ball.


That is part of the point.

Happiness is all well and good. If you like smiley faces.

A lot of us prefer not to turn our frown upside down. We like our frown just where it is, thank you.

As a friend of my congenitally cheerful wife once said to her: “Jessica, cheer down.”

Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against happiness. I mean, if you’re into that sort of thing.

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.

But, uh, could you keep it down? Thanks.

BY THE WAY, did I say that my buddy dislikes those three things? I meant to say hates them.

The Beatles just gall him. He believes their success was primarily the product of smart marketing.

San Francisco gets under his skin -- too expensive and all that “I left my heart in” romantic claptrap, which, to him, doesn’t capture the city’s reality.

Ice cream doesn’t irritate him; he just doesn’t like it. Something about the texture, as I recall.

I don’t think he was all that crazy about babies, either, now that I think of it.

Babies, though, I don’t know about. He never said anything along those lines. But he didn’t have one, nor was it likely that, as a confirmed middle-aged bachelor, he ever would.

That, of course, doesn’t mean he doesn’t like them. It only means he doesn’t have them. What indicates that he may not like them is that his face became all crinkly whenever a baby made an appearance, as if a foul odor had just wafted into the room. (Which, to give the guy his due, is entirely possible with a baby.)

Forget babies, though. No need to pile on.

The Beatles, San Francisco, and ice cream -- those three are breathtaking enough.

Poetry, really.

I have another friend who gleefully calls himself a misanthrope. The key word there is gleefully.

This guy has more positive energy and is more interested in more things than any 10 happy people.

My theory is that pursuing happiness is a full-time job. You run and run and run and never quite catch it. And then where are you?

That’s right: panting for breath.

Why not conserve all that energy and use it sparingly? Seems to me it would be more efficient that way.

That, in any event, is my glass-is-half-empty view.

My guess is that my Beatles/San Francisco/ice cream–dissing friend would probably hate that theory.

Something about that makes me happy.

Sorry. I just can’t help it.