Why I Avoid Human Kindness on My Birthday and Other Tips On Aging

by Keith Hoffman

I am a likable guy 364 days of the year.

But something happens on my birthday that even I don’t understand.

Some passive aggressive monster emerges from within that simultaneously demands yet repels attention confusing my friends and torturing loved ones.   I sometimes wish others could feel how painfully uncomfortable it is when someone wishes me Happy Birthday so they could understand why I have to resist lunging at their throats instead of saying thank you.

It’s not because of my age.

For you millennials terrified of getting older, it can be really cool if you spend thousands of dollars on therapy along the way.  You can actually get to a place where you don’t give a f$&k what others think about you and become fond of and amused by your physical and mental defects.

I mean, yes…I sometimes feel like a total fraud at work convinced my ruse of being “creative” will be found out… and yeah…sometimes I wonder why I am literally climbing walls to find a soul mate (see previous blog)—but every once in awhile without the help of medication I am just messed up enough to have a joyful curiosity about it all.

There are sobering moments:  When that young guy you think is flirting with you calls you “sir” and you realize he is simply being respectful to his elders….

But there is also a lot to be grateful for:

  •  My fear of being the world’s oldest temp almost came true but didn’t.
  • I’m not yet at the age where taking the lid off a coffee cup is an ordeal (although I hope when I am I can be joyfully curious).
  • I’ve outlived my father’s age by over 10 years and now my sister’s by a month.  My family is quite competitive so that’s something.

So why are my birthdays such a challenge?

I’ll admit I had some pretty weird ones as a child—as the youngest member of my family, I was clueless as to why everyone seemed to get a bit out of control during what I thought were innocent celebrations.    When I later heard my sister affectionately reminisce with my mom telling her,  “you were always so good at talking my friends down from bad LSD trips”, a piece of my Innocence Lost Puzzle was snapped snugly into place

cherry cake60’s Drug Party

Maybe I hate the enforced attention.  (I am overwhelmed by all those Facebook Birthday greetings but would be horrified if no one wrote anything.)

I love attention mind you.   Some of you Facebook friends might have guessed that.  But I want to earn it.  I want people to want to pay attention not feel like they have to.  I loathe being tolerated.

The hardest part is these birthdays only come around once a year so I can’t even practice  getting better at it.

30th birthday

My 30th birthday–being tolerated by dear friends.

missy b'day

My cousin not realizing how vulnerable her jugular is at this moment.


Why must they viscously torture me?

But finally I have learned the obvious.  Be true to myself.  I’m an introvert.  I love people but get my energy by being alone.  So no matter how much I think I should be out and about—I prefer tending to my home and writing and reflecting on this day.   And by doing that I am no so intolerable except perhaps to my pets.

And since I’m reflecting–I’l end with a few tips I’ve found has made the journey more relaxing:

  • Whatever age you are be curious about it.  You will never be 27 or 32 or 45 again.  This is your shot.
  • If you’re worried about getting older in your 20’s or 30’s stop it.    That won’t improve in your 40’s and 50’s.
  • Make friends with younger people so they visit you in the nursing home (although my friend Sara insists she is off the hook once I stop recognizing her).
  • Be brave – say yes especially when it scares you-unless you are saying yes to a stranger inviting you into the back of a van.
  • Don’t plan—explore.
  • Be eccentric.   You are not in high school and don’t have to fit in.
  • Volunteer
  • Flirt with the elderly
  • Feed the birds

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Keith Hoffman lives with his artist husband, dog and two cats in the small town Lambertville, New Jersey 72 miles outside of New York City. He has completed a memoir entitled The Summer My Sister Grew Sideburns.

2 thoughts on “Why I Avoid Human Kindness on My Birthday and Other Tips On Aging”

  1. This speaks to me Keith, I too am an aging introvert albeit a lot less adept at managing attention than you (and I mean that in the best possible way)

    Good news is I have spent the money on therapy and no longer give a f#$k what anyone thinks so yay for that as I tack on one more day.


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