Noodge verb, noun (Yiddish) To nag or pester
I now believe we live by miracles, not improvements. —Garrison Keillor
A classic Mary Tyler Moore episode features an exasperated Lou Grant pushed to his breaking point by news anchor Ted Baxter’s latest gaffe. Barely able restrain himself when confronting the blithe cluelessness of his on air “talent,” Mr. Grant, with mayhem in his heart and a firm grip on Ted’s lapels, glowers at his prey. Initially Lou is too angry to speak. Finally through clenched teeth he snarls, “Ted, you know the way you are?” Ted, still oblivious but fearful of being pounded into the ground like a tent stake, vigorously nods his head. Grant, only slightly appeased but realizing the futility of his rage, entreats, “Don’t be that way!”
Writer Sydney J. Harris suggests that our personality is more than a set of independent traits that can be freely “shopped out” or exchanged. The way we organize and integrate our collection of traits into a complex structure makes up our personality. Changing one trait requires a reorganization of the whole personality. Viewed dynamically, certain defects are the cost we pay for our virtues. An ulcer or migraine may be the price of perfectionism. Our positive traits are often intertwined with the unflattering. A fearless gridiron pass rusher may not be good at waiting for a table in a crowded restaurant. A dedicated research chemist may lack a scintillating wit in social settings.
This is a somewhat fancy rationalization for a behavior I possess that can drive others crazy. I am a noodge. I show JoAnne the Harris article that suggests that being a pest is a core personality trait and that I would not be the “Self” I am without it, and that my identity was fragile. The no-nonsense person that she is suggests that my remaining friends like me despite this trait rather than because of it, and that I better knock it off! I have been known to hector, goad, needle, infer, harass, badger, browbeat, suggest, cajole, bribe, con, plead, hound, annoy, bait, browbeat, pester, tease, torment, plague, flatter, induce, bother, inveigle, urge, coax, and wheedle to get my way. In my defense, I am rarely out to benefit myself directly. I limit my practice to family and close friends. All of them are immune to my charms.
I will not claim to be particularly gifted at managing my own life, but I am savant-like in my understanding of the needs of those around me. Call it a gift, but if you seek to buy a house, select a pet, have a child, plan a vacation, tangle with a family member, choose a college, or make a retirement decision, I am a huge help. Sadly I am not one to accept, “You have given me a lot to think about…thank you!” For me that is not closure, it is merely blood in the water. Polite indecision is an opening. I flash to the salesman’s edict in Glengarry Glen Ross: A.B.C. Always Be Closing.
Pop psychologists would suggest that I must have deep-seated issues of my own that I am avoiding. I have examined my inner life and found it neither troubled, complex, or even interesting. That my closest friends from our Minnesota days are planning a move to California and will soon be house hunting…now that’s entertainment! In the spirit of helpfulness I may have dropped by a few open houses (27), collected some realtor business cards (55), chatted with a neighbor or twelve, and forwarded a couple of listings (114). Mixed in may have been a phone chat or two.
JoAnne is a disciple of the nonintrusive school of quiet support, ready to listen and offer her opinion if solicited. She is more directive with me! “Our friends are able to blah blah blah let them blah blah blah own decision blah blah know better than blah blah blah lived successfully all these years without you blah, blah blah if your advice blah blah blah it’s not your business blah blah blah how would you like it blah blah blah let them blah blah blah!!!”
Talk about clueless!
Tom H. Cook is a now far away writer who misses everything Minnesota except the newly added May snowfall. It is probably no coincidence that his two dogs are noodgey border collies.