They reprimand little kids for running too fast; complain about the way young people dress; yell at sales clerks who don't pay attention to them; loudly voice their opinions whether they are asked for them or not; and go through life in a general state of irritability, prepared to strike back at the slightest sign of misbehavior in others. They are the grumpy old women, and I have always feared becoming one of them.

Yet I feel it happening to me, resist it as I might. I am always ready to give the world around me a piece of my mind (and believe me, I can't spare even a piece). I am easily aggravated and I don't hold back on letting the aggravator know how I feel.

That young woman who went through the door in front of me and let it slam in my face as if I weren't there? Where formerly I would fantasize about making a citizen's arrest for rudeness, now I glare and say "Thanks," my voice dripping with sarcasm. As for the guy who took up two parking spaces with his fancy car -- instead of just shaking my head in disgust, if I catch sight of him now I glare and point, indicating my disgust at his greed. I'm telling you, I get very cranky.

It seems inevitable that at some point in their 50s, formerly accommodating ladies, peacemakers and soothers, get grumpy. I've noticed friends who used to be easy-going in a state of vigilance for transgressions against them. They don't hesitate to speak out now when someone does them wrong. One of them just called a fellow rower a word synonymous with donkey-butt because he wouldn't make room for her on the dock. This is a lovely woman who, before grumpiness set in, would have laughed at the inconsiderate behavior of others.

Is it hormones that whip up our anger? The dreaded "change" has traditionally been blamed for crankiness in females over 50. I think, however, that, though the hormones might trigger the change in our outlook, we hold on to our grumpiness as if it's a new skill that we want to cultivate.

As we age, we've noticed that the game has shifted. The things that used to serve us in the past don't work so well anymore. Most of the women I know were never Mean Girls. We were Nice Girls. We were pleasers. We placed a high priority on being liked and likeable, spending much of our time making sure that the people around us were happy. We didn't want to give offense or hurt anyone's feelings. We believed that being nice was the most important quality there was for a girl, besides being pretty. We worked hard at both attributes from the time we learned how to smile

We have also been the nurturers. Besides being mothers and wives (husbands require a great deal of nurturing) we tended to take care of everyone around us. We had an extra sweater if someone was cold, tissues in our pocketbooks, and Advils for anyone with a headache. We provided meals for the sick; rides for anyone who was stranded; and pep talks for the discouraged.

After 40 or 50 years, however, being nice, pretty, and nurturing just don't work so well anymore. We've gotten worn out with the constant effort to be liked. And no matter how hard we try to look good, we just aren't going to have the same appeal that we once did. Sometimes, we feel overlooked because we are not as pretty, as strong, or as fast as we used to be. We have found that we need to develop new strengths.

As mature folk, it's time to call in the qualities like wisdom, experience, judgment, honesty, and spirit. As we transition from the stage in which if we were mostly concerned with how others saw us to the stage in which our own sense of self has become important, we may hit a few bumps along the way.

As we let go of that compelling need to be liked, we have found that we can let go of the Nice Girl. So sometimes we may go too far in the other direction. Sometimes we may grumble, complain, and snap at the slightest offense. We will find our equilibrium.

In the meantime, it is kind of a relief to give in to a bad mood once in a while. It feels pretty good to tell someone exactly what you think. We have found a certain freedom in being grumpy. Don't worry -- we are still those nice girls underneath. We may snap at you, but we'll apologize afterwards. And we'll probably bake you a cake to make up for hurting your feelings.

Carol Randel shares her "Random Thoughts" every other Friday.