CINCINNATI AND SAUL–WHEN THE BOYFRIEND MET THE FAMILY

or

HOW TO GAIN 10 EASY POUNDS IN ONLY 3 DAYS

by Keith Hoffman

My first hint that my trip home to Ohio was not going to go exactly as planned was a text from my cousin Jenny on my way to the airport.

“Hey Darling. We are expecting snow storm tonight and tomorrow. Snow then ice. Telling people not to travel. Mom cancelled meat tray.”

I naturally went into a full-blown panic.

She cancelled the meat tray?!

The meat tray party at my aunts was one of the major tent poles of my trip home to introduce my boyfriend to the family.

Without the meat tray party…well…. all was clearly lost.

How could this be? Only yesterday a beautiful red cardinal had landed at my window. My mom had loved cardinals when she was alive and it’s the Ohio state bird (it’s also the Indiana and Kentucky state bird—those Midwesterners could have pushed themselves a little harder on the state bird-naming issue ). This cardinal was clearly a sign from my mother that this trip home was was going to be perfect.

CINCARD

(A Visit From Mother? )

I believe in signs and needed this one. It wasn’t that I was afraid of bringing a boyfriend home. I am no spring chicken and my family has accepted my alternative lifestyle since the last century. I brought my now ex home (who for the purposes of this blog I will call “Steve”) early in the ‘90’s and Aunt “Steve” is still a beloved part of the family.

And yet first impressions are important on both sides so approaching this trip with utmost control and rigidity was key. There was no room for improvisation.

Just as I was about to demand that the taxi driver turn around immediately,  my boyfriend Saul calmed me down. He is used to my panicked irrational reactions. Even though we have been together less than a year some already describe him as long-suffering.

Saul convinced me to bravely soldier on with this trip–weather be damned!

When we got to Cincinnati we would make our own meat platter.

CINCINNATI…DAY 1—DEAD RELATIVES AND DEAD PRESIDENTS

Our first stop after we landed was of course Skyline Chili.

We Cincinnatians love our Skyline chili and we push it  to anyone who comes within a five-mile radius of our city like heroin,

Skyline Chili is like no other chili in the world. It has a secret recipe that involves cinnamon, it goes on top of spaghetti and it includes piles and piles of cheese. At Skyline you can order:

A Three Way: Chili and spaghetti with cheese;
A Four Way: Chili and spaghetti with cheese and onions; or
A Five Way: Chili and spaghetti with cheese and onions and beans

I don’t know if the Greek brothers who started Skyline back in 1949 meant to be so provocative or if they just were naive about American sexual lingo but it’s hard not to get titillated every time I order.

The times that I drive home from NYC I know exactly where the first Skyline Chili restaurant is once I get into southern Ohio. Since I have been gluten free for a few years now, I order the cheese conveys with onions and mustard at the drive-thru and finish by licking the bun while sitting in my car. (Perhaps now you can understand why I have been single for so many years before this).

Anyway I was nervous when Saul put on his plastic bib and bit into his first five way. ”Steve” hated Skyline. He just could not see why anyone could possibly like it. (I don’t think “Steve” and I ever recovered from that).

Luckily Saul liked his chili and finished the entire gigantic meal in one sitting

Yet one more sign there may be hope for us yet.

CINCHIL

(Who could Resist a Man in a Plastic Bib?)

Even before our chili was digested (which after all could take a few days) we hit the road in our rental car.

I had decided that if I had only one snow-free day in Cincinnati I would take Saul on a condensed tour of my childhood.

Now taking a tour of my childhood on a cold February day in Cincinnati may not be as fun as you might imagine. (“Steve” used to say they should make a Crayola crayon called Cincinnati Gray to describe the sky of my hometown in winter).

Here is a quick rundown of how how a tour of my childhood goes:

“This is house I lived in when my dad died suddenly when I was only seven”

“Here’s the spot on the playground of my grade school where I used to sit by myself lonely and full of shame while the other kids played Red Rover.”

“This is the home over the Ohio River where I spent some of the happiest years of my life…before it was destroyed by a landslide…”

“Here is the plot of land where my high school was before it was torn down to make room for this parking lot.”

“This is where my mom lived down the block from my sister before they both tragically died within mere months from each other.”

CINEIRICH CINTAYLOR

(From Left To Right:  Place I Last Saw My Father Alive;  Lot Where My Happy High School Memories Were Torn To Pieces By Bulldozers)

You can see why Saul had to take a nap in the front seat of my car at the hometown tomb of William Henry Harrison—whose main distinction as President was that he didn’t wear his coat at his inauguration and caught pneumonia and died after serving the shortest presidency on record. The fun and excitement must have been too much for the poor guy.

CINNAP

(A Captive Audience)

After visiting my aunt and uncle (I can forgive her cancelling the meat platter but I can never forget), we ended the day at my sister-in law Minette’s cozy house where she lived with her husband Jeff

Saul was thrown head first into my family –meeting my brother, my nephew, his wife and two children and other various and assorted relatives all in one sitting.

Meeting family is never the easiest thing in the world and the two of us are both lean towards the sensitive side so we devised a code word at the beginning of the trip in case one of us needed the other’s help in a social situation.

The word we came up with was PETUNIA.  PETUNIA could mean many things such as “I’m really tired can we leave soon?” or “rescue me from your boring uncle” or “This party is lame. Pretend you have a medical emergency so we can leave now!” (NOTE TO SELF: change code word before our next dinner party with someone who may have read this blog).

CINMINN

(One of the Family)

About three quarters of the way through the evening with my family,  Saul looked at me a bit plaintively and whispered PETUNIA. At first I was disappointed because I really thought he should have used the word in a complete sentence to achieve maximum effect but then thought better of criticizing him during his moment of need.

I quickly ascertained that he was exhausted from travelling and reliving the tragedies of my life so after a half hour we went to bed.

So far my family liked Saul and Saul liked chili.

Things were going swimmingly.

CINNPETUNIA

(Petunia)

CINCINNATI…DAY 2–Snow Day

It turns out they were wise to cancel the meat platter.

The snow was coming down in droves.

There was no getting out. There was no one coming to see me.

We were stuck at Minette”s.

*********

Let me tell you about Minette.

Minette is kind funny and generous and…well…I…if you are going to be snowbound somewhere in Cincinnati for the weekend, Minette’s is not a bad place to be stuck. Her only drawback is she that asks a lot of questions, which isn’t awful unless you are watching a movie with her.

“Why is he walking in that house??”
“I don’t know Minette. The movie started 30 seconds ago.”
“Oh okay. Who is that woman he said hello to?”

You get the picture.

I’m glad you like MInette,” I said to Saul later that day.

Is it possible not to like Minette?” was his reply.

********

So our formerly tightly wound scheduled day turned into a lazy lounging day of eating homemade chili (we really like chili in Cincinnati), homemade tomato soup, napping, more chili and tomato soup, more napping, walking in the snowy woods near the house, buying malts at UDF—(UDF malts are another Cincinnati tradition. They are as good as Skyline but with the added benefit of sugar—lots and lots of sugar. Even “Steve” couldn’t argue with UDF malts.).

min4 min3 min2 min CINSNOW4 CINSNOW2 CINSNOW

 (Frolicking in the Snow With Jeff and Minette) 

CINMALT

(Why Cincinnati Has Never Made the ‘Top Thinest City’ List)

After the malts we naturally had to take another nap. Sugar highs are exhausting.

Later we heroically mustered up the energy to watch two movies in Minette and Jeff’s basement on a large screen high def TV sprawled across two overstuffed comfy couches.

After a day like that I didn’t need to hear PETUNIA to know we needed a good nights sleep to recover from all that napping.

CINCINNATI…DAY 3–Get Me To The Church On Time

It was the last day of what was becoming our snowbound getaway and my brother Paul and his girlfriend Donna were able to make the trek across snowy roads to join us. We celebrated their arrival by changing out of our pajamas (a herculean task) and getting another UDF malt.

The streets had cleared up so we reluctantly left Jeff and Minette behind to tour the city even though facing life without them, and their food, entertainment, hospitality and soft bed seemed tragically bleak indeed.

I have to give this Saul guy credit in that he was actually excited to tour Cincinnati That is a rare quality to find in anyone.

We were determined to see the inside of churches before we left the city. We liked looking at churches when we travelled. It had become our “thing”. Some couples like key swapping parties. We liked exploring churches.

Luckily the downtown Catholic cathedra and the Jewish synagogue were right across from each other so we could kill two birds with one stone . First we tried the cathedral and excitedly tugged on the huge wooden doors only to find them locked This seemed inhospitable especially on a Sunday afternoon but the synagogue was right behind us and seemed even more grand and beautiful so we dashed across the street with our hopes high and ran up to the doors and….

Like everything else this weekend,  things weren’t turning out as we planned. In that moment I began to understand the term Rolling with the Punches which if you think about it is a pretty violent and unpleasant thing to have to do.

CINCINNATI…THE LAST HOUR

Paul, Donna, Saul and I wander around a tiny but beautiful church high atop a hill overlooking the beautiful Ohio River. We are the only four people in the church and can’t believe our luck.

In a last ditch effort we had driven to this quaint part of town called Mt. Adams before heading to the airport. I remembered this tiny but locally famous beautiful church from my childhood but surely it would be locked like all the other churches right?

But here we were…inside…the four of us alone. We had this magical little chapel all to ourselves.

We walked around in awe as the winter sun shone through the stained glass from above and candles flickered from corners warming the faces of the saints and virgins from below.

You don’t have to be religious to appreciate and bow to the beauty and grace of a place like this.

As I looked out the window down the frozen river below us, I remembered how I wanted to turn around in the taxi at the beginning of the trip. I was afraid as I saw my wonderful illusion of a perfectly controlled weekend tragically slip trough my tight clutches

I had to change plans, listen to my partner’s needs over my own (well…at least a few times) and although I missed seeing some of my cherished family this time around I got beautiful snow that I didn’t have to shovel, and lots of naps and food and love.

I had to wind and flow like that river to ultimately arrive to this sacred place I now stood with people I cherished.

Besides…as much as I love my family deeply–maybe in the end it’s better they be introduced in small doses.
river

(Coming Up  With Profound River Metaphors in Mt Adams)

THE TRIP HOME–SIGN, SIGN,  EVERYWHERE A SIGN…

If you know me you know I like my signs.

Like I said, the day before my trip I saw a cardinal outside my window.

On the very last day as I was loading my suitcase into the rental car I saw four cardinal’s outside Minette’s window

And on the plane ride home when I asked for club soda or seltzer, the flight attendant told me they were all out.

“The only thing I can offer you is Fresca.”

My mom loved Fresca.

She adored Fresca.

She lived for Fresca until the day she died.

Think what you will but I know she was reminding me that letting go was the way to go.

I ordered two Fresca’s and settled in for the ride.

fresca-tastes-great-in-cans_billboard-ad

(A Sign)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Keith Hoffman is busy trying to control his life.

IF I COULD SAVE TYNE IN  A BOTTLE–A Brave Story of Obsession

By Keith Hoffman

I have successfully stalked Tyne Daly for 35 years.

tyne-daly-cagney-lacey-1981

I am nothing if not loyal to my obsessions.

tyne and me

New York is a great place to live if you want to be close to celebrities.   In Los Angeles you may often see them but they are usually roped off at some fancy event or in a car next to you where you have to scream how much you love them from your window while nearly sideswiping them trying to keep up on the busy freeway.

In NYC they walk around as if they were regular people.

 MY TOP 5 CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS IN NYC

Mid 1980’s: I was newly arrived in the city fresh from my Midwest college and making my living working the register at a trendy housewares store where celebrities such as Richard Gere or Glen Close could often be spotted among the designer teapots and outrageously expensive toothbrush holders. One afternoon  Meryl Streep meandered in to buy some fancy version of Windex.  She was not quite as celebrated as she is now but with Deer Hunter, Sophie’s Choice and the French Lieutenants Woman under her belt she was no slouch either.   I was young and not nearly as sophisticated as I am now. When she approached my register our eyes locked meaningfully.  This was my first big celebrity encounter and I was determined to handle it with style, wit and élan.

“DIRTY WINDOWS HUH?” I shouted at her as she set the window cleaner on the counter.

Then I laughed maniacally at my own wit. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

I’m not sure why I found it funny. I’m not sure Ms. Streep did either.

Still I’d like to think that she looks back at that moment as fondly as I do.

Meryl-Streep-in-Julie--Ju-001

(Meryl Streep is Surprising Domestic!)

Late 80’sSean Penn is walking down the upper West Side and he’s holding someone’s hand. This is excitment enough until I suddenly realize whose hand he is most likely holding at this time in his life.   I literally trace down from his face to his shoulder to his elbow to his forearm to his hand over to the hand it was clasping. Madonna is attached to him in all her pop superstar glory.   Almost as amazing as the sighting was how the crowd on the sidewalk parted before them and then stood looking back in a dazed awe at what they had just witnessed. A friend once told me the same phenomenon happened when she saw Bill and Hillary walking down the street together. A power couple sighting apparently excites even the most jaded New Yorkers.

madonnaSean-donna? Ma-penn?

2003Phillip Seymour Hoffman is sitting on the curb nervously smoking outside the theatre of Long Days Journey Into Night–the play I was about to see him in that very evening.   “I’m going to see you in the play tonight! In only four hours!!” I yelled as I passed by. He smiled and waved shyly at me.

Sure we may be haunted by inner demons but we Hoffman’s are a friendly bunch.

seymour

(Taking A Bow in Long Days Journey (2nd from Left))

2010—I am sitting in a restaurant in the heart of Broadway approximately six feet from Angela Lansbury at the next table. I find it impossible to talk to my dinner companion since my brain can only focus on such thoughts as, “Angela Lansbury is inserting a fork with pasta into her mouth…Angela Lansbury is wiping red sauce from her chin…Angela Lansbury is trying to avoid my intense stare…”

The night got even better as the playwright Neil Simon and then Alec Baldwin both came to eat dinner at the very  same restaurant. And yes even though they sat at different tables, they all acknowledged and said hello each other.   I guess all famous people actually do know each other.

Angela Lansbury;Basil Rathbone

(Angela Has Always Enjoyed A Good Meal)

2013—I spot Susan Sarandon carrying her dry cleaning down West 10th street in Greenwich Village. I have that feeling of “do I know this person?” before realizing she is not a friend but just famous.   This moment is straight out of the “Stars Are Just Like Us” section of Us Magazine.

stars_like_us-01-best

(They Pick Up Drycleaning!)

Of course Tyne is not the only celebrity I’ve stalked. That would be too much pressure on both of us.   We have an open relationship.

 OTHER CELEBRITIES I STALK

 STEVIE NICKS—She is right up there neck and neck with Tyne because she is…well….Stevie Nicks.   I have also loved her since the early 80’s.  I have stuck with her through the cocaine addiction, the Kolonopin addiction and the overweight years.   I loved her when it was uncool to love her.   The only issue with Stevie is she is far less accessible than Tyne. The closest I have come to her is handing her flowers on stage from the audience and accosting her mother outside a concert telling her what a wonderful daughter she raised. (Yes, I knew what Stevie’s mother looked like—I do my research).

One of the more fun parts of loving Stevie Nicks is that fans love to dress up like her at concerts.   No one ever seems to dress up like Tyne at one of her plays.

stevie-nicks-pic

(Life Should Be Viewed Through a Tambourine More Often)

BEATRICE ARTHUR –Beside growing up pining to marry Maude and then later wanting to be one of the Golden Girls (like I suppose any typical red blooded adult male did) , I finally got to say hello to Bea only once after watching her perform her one-woman show shortly before her death.   Not long after I was in Florida at a gay writer’s conference when I heard Bea died.   To this day there is hardly a memory more tragic to me than seeing the grief-stricken, panicked faces of a sea of gay men as the news of her demise spread throughout the large convention room on closing night.

And yes, I realize I have a weird “strong woman” theme going on here indicating possible unresolved Mother issues….

bea arthur(Are you my Mother?)

HILLARY CLINTON – Whatever you think of her politics, hair or outfits, this woman is strong. You can knock her down but she will get right back up like Glen Close in Fatal Attraction or Kathy Bates in Misery.   The only problem with Hilary is any stalking of her is out of the question what with all those pesky Secret Service agents.

hillary

(What Does It Take To Get Some Alone Time With You, Hillary?)

“That is a lot on Keith’s plate,” you may be saying to yourself about now. “How does he manage successfully stalking without getting arrested?”

.4 SIMPLE TIPS ON HOW NOT TO BE A CREEPY STALKER

  •  Only approach your obsession at stage doors after a show.    Never interrupt them during a performance or while they are eating a meal…especially if the meal is breakfast in their own bed.
  •  Ask politely before grabbing them and taking a selfie.
  •  Do NOT push them in front of a taxi and then save their lives at the last minute so they will forever be in your debt.  It could go very badly.
  • Do NOT smell their hair without consent.

By now you are asking yourself….

 WHY IS TYNE DALY WORTHY OF OBSESSION?

Dumb question.

I’m sure you don’t have time to hear about ALL of her great TV and theatre roles so I’ll just name the two greatest:

Cagney and Lacey—As Mary Beth Lacey she was the mom and wife and cop who was tough and maternal both at home and at work and who Emmy winningly nursed her partner Christine Cagney through her alcoholic bottom.

023-cagney-and-lacey-theredlist(Put the Bottle Down!)

(Christine Cagney Hits Rock Bottom–Watch above link and try not to cry.  I dare you.)

Gypsy (Broadway)—She literally spit on me while savagely singing Everything’s Coming Up Roses as the infamous Mama Rose–the ultimate stage mother who turns her daughter into the stripper (a plot that eerily echoed my own life but that is another blog).

gypsy(From My Tyne Collection)

(Rose Turn–Watch This Tony winning Nervous Breakdown Scored to Music  and Try Not To Stand and Applaud At the End–I Dare You.)

And why has she lasted? Why Tyne and not Melanie Griffith or Loni Anderson who I had brief flings of obsession with?

Sure she has won a lot of awards–17 Emmy Nominations with 6 wins; 3 Tony Nominations with 1 win (so far)–but so has Meryl Streep , another great actress who I don’t I obsess over.

christy

Christy–Emmy Win

judging amy

Judging Amy–Emmy  Win

rabbit hole

Rabbit Hole-Tony Nomination

master class

Master Class–Unforgivable Tony Snub

And maybe that’s it—maybe unlike Meryl who everyone (except my mother) loves, I have found my own unique obsession.

Meryl Streep is for the masses.

barsanti-streep-doubt-splsh

(For the Masses)

Tyne is off the beaten track.

Tyne-Daly-Cabaret1-WTF2012-Photo-Steven-Koernig-2-150x150

(Another Shoe-Stopping Performance)

And finally….

MY TOP TYNE ENCOUNTER

I’ve seen her walking down the street with her daughters; I’ve met her countless times backstage (including the time she held my hand while she took off her make -up after Gypsy).   I’ve bought her a Bacardi at a bar…

But there is one encounter just a few years ago that reminded me just how weirdly and crazily and marvelously connected this universe actually is.

It was the day before I was flying to Seattle to host a TV show for the very first time in my life. I was nervous to say the very least. The last time I had preformed for anyone was when I danced a Scottish jig in a kilt in my college production of Brigadoon.

 (nope you are not seeing a video of that).

I was thrilled to have a chance to do something that was so different than anything I had ever done but how was I to know I would be any good?

That particular day I had left for work late (well, later than usual) because my dog had devoured an entire package of heartworm pills. (Apparently it doesn’t hurt them and I’m pretty sure she is immune to heartworms for the rest of her life).   Even though I was already incredibly behind schedule I took the subway that was a little more out of the way because I knew I’d get a seat. During my long ride into the city I nervously fretted and worried I was going to mess up the shoot the next day and waste people’s time–not to mention all that money they were spending to do it. My fretting was morphing into full-fledged panic by the time my subway arrived at my final stop.

I stepped out of the subway and made my way to the stairs when I practically ran into her.

Tyne Daly was standing on the subway platform reading a newspaper.

That was amazing enough but just to top it off she was wearing an outfit covered in orange butterflies.

Now that may seem like nothing to you but orange butterflies were the thing I saw EVERYWHERE after my sister died.

I saw so many orange butterflies I tattooed my right arm with an orange butterfly.

butterfly

I stood on the platform just inches away from Tyne…stunned

The odds that I was on that train platform at that unusual time of day –the same time that she was on that train platform in that part of the huge city after picking out an outfit covered in orange butterflies that morning…well if you were a guy who believes in signs….

Let’s just say I knew I was going to be all right the next day. It was like my sister sent me my favorite entertainer to let me know.

subway 2

subway 

(Yes, These Are Stalker Photos But Can You Blame Me???)

So what does this all mean?

Is Tyne Daly my spirit animal?

Can spirits influence TV and Broadway stars when they need to send messages from beyond?

I don’t know.

I do know that I have found joy in my life by finding my very own unique people, to love.

A few are famous.

Most  barely have an Emmy or an ounce of fame between them (and a few are near recluses) but those people  are the important people in my life.   They are my pack—my circle—who  actually know who I am and who  love me back dearly.

And  even though I may not write about all those  regular souls in my life  as much on Facebook  as I do   about Tyne. You can rest assured  I treasure  them every bit as much.

But every once in a while, is it so bad to find those  people who you admire from afar and who inspire you with their talent or strength   or bravery and who make this somewhat harrowing journey just a little bit  more fun?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Keith Hoffman  is checking his google alerts for the latest Tyne Daly news and seeing the very first preview of her  new Broadway musical   It Shoulda Been You  on March 18th. Please don’t call, text or email him on  that day after 7pm.

it should a been(I smell another Tony!)

 

WHY I SHOULD BE ON A LOT OF PEOPLE’S GRATITUDE LISTS

 ” It is better to give than to receive”

 In the spirit of those wise words I am making a list of why people should be thankful for what I have given them.

  LIST OF PEOPLE WHO NEED TO BE THANKFUL FOR ME

 MY DOG

Although not technically a person my dog should be thankful that I have stayed in the relationship even though she has definitely let herself go.   She also should be thankful that I am messy and drop a lot of food on the floor (which may account for why she has let herself go).

ungrateful sashaUngrateful bitch 

PEOPLE WHO WALK AROUND WITH HUGE GOLF UMBRELLAS ON THE CROWDED NYC STREETS WHILE TEXTING AND SMOKING AT THE SAME TIME

These people should be grateful I don’t murder them like I would like to.

 

TYNE DALY

Should be grateful that as a 64-year-old actress who has struggled with weight, she has a fan that adores her with as much fervor as a tween girl worships Nick Jonas. And she should stop looking afraid for her life every time I approach her.

photo 1-6

If you are such a great actress mask that fear in your eyes!

 

MY CAT

Should be grateful that I have kept her fed, healthy and somewhat groomed (except for that period when I was really depressed) for over 19 years.   Instead she resents me for constantly thwarting her  plots to take care of the “pit bull problem” in the house.  See MY DOG above.

photo-40Plotting

 

BIGFOOT

Should be grateful he has made a killing off of my fame and supposed existence.

photo 2-4Without me he’s nothing

 

PEOPLE IN THE SOUP KITCHEN WHERE I VOLUNTEER

Should be grateful that as somewhat of a celebrity I sometimes show up for photo ops.   People like getting their mashed potatoes scooped by famous people.   (See BIGFOOT above).

photo-41

How was I to know there was a photographer there?

 

PEOPLE AT SALAD BARS WHO STAND IN FRONT OF THE ONE FOOD I DESIRE FOR SEVERAL MINUTES TRYING TO DECIDE IF THEY WANT IT OR NOT

(See PEOPLE WHO WALK AROUND WITH HUGE GOLF UMBRELLAS ON THE CROWDED NYC STREETS WHILE TEXTING AND SMOKING above.)

 

BROADWAY

Should be grateful I have singlehandedly kept it solvent.

 

BIRDS

Should be grateful for me feeding them in my backyard every day.   Although I deeply apologize for those of you who lost loved ones to the neighbor’s evil cat.

 

PEOPLE MAGAZINE

Again not technically a person (although its name implies otherwise)—should be grateful for me reading every issue since it began in 1976 from cover to cover. And I will continue to do so until I die or magazines become extinct.

photo-43

I’m quite good at celebrity trivia 

 

RELATIVES

Should be grateful I’m not litigious.

 

MY FRIENDS AND COWORKERS

My old friends should be grateful we have maintained wonderful friendships through good and bad times, happiness and sadness, closeness and distance.   My new friends should be grateful for the surprise of never knowing when a new and wonderful person may pop up in your life and decide to stick around. My newish friend Sara should be grateful that I’m going to try my best to remember to get legally registered in the state of New York so I can have the honor of marrying her and her fiancé.  (Sara–please remind me to do that on Monday).

MY BOYFRIEND

Should be grateful for oh so many things.   1) For me learning it is not good to wake someone up from a nap yelling constructive criticism at them 2) For getting a screen for my back door so mosquitos stop attacking him while he is relaxing watching TV (who knew there were people who didn’t like that? 3) For providing him with a dog who loves to be petted and a cat who demands to be fed at all hours of the day (Hmmm…. I may need to make the cat sound more gratitude-inducing) 4) For me being smart enough after years and years of being single to recognize a very good thing when I see one.

ALL PEOPLE IN RELATIONSHIPS

Should be grateful I don’t secretly and jealously hate them anymore now that I’m not single.

photo-42Showoffs!

Now some of you may read this and say, “Hey, you should be grateful for all the things you listed.   Sure the people at the salad bar who take too long and the NY pedestrians with golf umbrellas should be killed or at least hurt  but that dog gives you comfort and love. And that cat gives you companionship. And those friends and the soup kitchen and Bigfoot and Tyne Daly and People Magazine are all part of the rich and beautiful patchwork of your life.   And that boyfriend accepts you for who you are even with all your mood swings, pettiness, old animals, and those two annoying loud clocks in your apartment that chime and make bird sounds every hour on the hour.”

“Maybe you’re right,” I’d say. “And who told you about the clocks?”

But I will think about what you said.

My boyfriend (see MY BOYFRIEND above) told me about a group of people he was lucky enough to have lunch with the other day. They weren’t middle class or rich or privileged or well…white people.   They didn’t have all the advantages that I and most of my friends have. But they were kind and they were humble and they were grateful for what they did have.

And when I hear that it reminds me that gratitude and humbleness and kindness is truly the only thing that has ever brought me happiness and joy in this lifetime.

So  for today at least I will be humbly grateful for everything and everyone on the above list.

After all, I suppose there are worse things in life than having to wait a little longer for my lunch or having to gently elbow someone in the ribs to get out of my way on a rainy day.

 Happy Thanksgiving!

 About the Author

 Keith Hoffman wears a sleek raincoat with a hood on stormy days and quickly makes food selections while in a crowded deli.

DATING IN THE TIME OF FACEBOOK

 by Keith Hoffmanphoto 1-5

Some of you might have missed the news that I’m in a relationship.

If you did–do not fear. Facebook has assured me that it will hunt you down in that remote jungle, send a drone to find you on that deserted island or miraculously wake you from that deep coma to deliver the good news.

Little did I know when I pressed that button in the ABOUT section of my profile, the news (complete with a Facebook-created photo montage) would be blasted electronically and aggressively to anyone who has ever had a device that needed to be charged.

I first became curious by the sheer number of responses I got. Loved ones, old school chums, and those Facebook friends you don’t really know how you know wrote to congratulate me. Relatives texted to say they couldn’t believe I was able to find love. Exes sent emails wondering if my dark heart had finally been transplanted. Women wept and gnashed their teeth and tore at their clothing.   My dog confronted me at the door: “Dude… you’re gay?!”

When I got to the office the next day people related stories as if this was a major historical event they had witnessed in their lifetime like the start of a war or an assasination. “I’ll never forget where I was when I heard Keith was in a relationship.”

I was deep in slumber until my phone and computer alerted me awake.” (This one was related to me with a bit of hostility)

“I was telling my wife our marriage was over until we read about you on our phone and realized love can indeed conquer all!”

“I was washing my clothes thinking it was just another ordinary day when….”

Some people casually remarked that this is a new feature on Facebook.   Mind you there was no warning…no “by pressing this button you agree to feel vulnerable on a national scale”.  Nope,  I lightly touched my finger on my screen and BOOM.

Now please don’t in any way get me wrong.

I really like this guy a lot. This is the first guy in 17 years that I’ve liked like this. This guy is a good guy. Any man who can still be in a good humor when I  accidentally rent a romantic getaway for two that turns out to be a tiny room crammed with four bunk beds and a card table is a man that makes my heart skip a beat. This is a man worth taking some risks for.

And yes we mutually decided to change our statuses—kind of like the old days when the jock gave his sweetheart his varsity jacket—sweet and romantic and fun.

And maybe some friends would check our pages and smile and wish us well.

But such an aggressively public announcement?

I know. I know what you are all thinking. I have tirelessly blogged about my sad searches for love through matchmakers, online dating and rock climbing so why would this be an issue?

I guess it comes down to what it means to me…and I believe  to him….to be IN A RELATIONSHIP.

It means we are going to focus on creating a space…a sacred space….a private space that is our own.  A space that feels safe and kind—so that our beat-up and bruised but still sweet and hopeful hearts can find rest and healing and trust with each other.

I’m  guessing this is not what Facebook had in mind.

But that’s okay.

Although I am sorry I may have awoken you from your nap,  I have no regrets.

I’m committed to go down the rapids with its dangerous rocks and its enveloping beauty and relish every single minute of it.

And hopefully you won’t be getting a message that KEITH IS SINGLE along with a photo montage of me looking sad and weepy any time in the near or far future.

 

About the Author:

Keith Hoffman is in a relationship.

photo 2-3

THE RAVENLUNATIC’S ADVENTURES IN DATING PART 3: THE MATCHMAKER

I had high hopes as I made my way though the bustling streets of New York City on my way to meet the professional matchmaker.

I loved Hello Dolly (although I think we can ALL agree Barbra Streisand was miscast in the movie version) so I anticipated some big brassy diva in a feathered hat singing to me about the joys of love in front of a chorus of dancing waiters.

hellodolly3

Matchmaking was so much more festive back in the day

Perhaps I should have felt ashamed and desperate that I had resorted to paying someone else to find my soul mate—a task that should really be my responsibility– but I was just being realistic.     People of a certain age have a harder time on the dating market.   When your OK Cupid bio includes phrases such as “hate when those annoying neighborhood kids play on my front lawn” and “they don’t sing ‘em like Judy and Doris anymore”, and your shirtless selfie is thought of as “brave”, you need to start getting little creative.

Some doubt crept in my brain when I entered the office–a nondescript and small space with none of the charm of a hat shop in Yonkers.

16

This is sadly NOT what I saw when the elevator doors opened. 

The matchmaker who I will refer to as “G” was nice enough. (I will refrain from revealing his name since he owes me one more match and I don’t want to piss him off so  that he sets me up on a coffee date with charming murderer in retaliation).

As G extolled the virtues of using his services instead of a depersonalized online dating site or…God forbid…kismet, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something very familiar about him.

Suddenly he stopped in mid-spiel.

“Did you live in New York in the 80’s?”

“Yes,” I replied not sure what this had to do with my attractibility but wiling to give him any ammunition he needed.

“And did you work out at the West Side Y on 63rd?”

“Um…yes…”

I began to wonder if this guy was a matchmaker or a psychic.

“We met there in our twenties.   You walked me home one night. I lived in the Ansonia Building on the Upper West Side.”

“Oh right.   The Ansonia.   In the West 70’s…”

And before that sentence was out of my mouth it all came flooding back:  The friendly meeting over squat thrusts….the walk home on that balmy summer night…me flirtatiously telling him I had always wanted to see an apartment in the Ansonia…that glass of wine….

I had had a fling with this very same matchmaker over twenty years earlier.

“Oh….”

I didn’t know how to fill the awkward silence.   Should I quietly leave?   Nothing says DAMANGED GOODS like a tramp from the 80’s.   I prayed I was on the top of my game during our illicit encounter or he would surely make a note in my profile.

Personality: Funnyish

Background: German Irish

Bedroom Technique: Lazy and easily distracted by the TV

08ansonia.span 

The site of my 80’s indiscretion

G smiled at me almost lasciviously.

“I remember what great shape you were in. Your body was amazing!”

“Why yes,” I replied uncomfortably. “And it hasn’t changed at all!”

I wished I had worn a kaftan to drape over the flaws of this clearly not 20-something body.

But after getting through that awkwardness,  G assured me he could find me a match.    For an exorbitant price I was going to be set up on three single dates and three group dates.

Like a young Jewish  girl  with her heart full of hope in Fiddler on the Roof I was ready for the Matchmaker to make me a match.

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Beatrice Arthur as the Matchmaker in the the original Broadway production of Fiddler  (no really…it is)

GROUP DATE # 1

A group date is not as lascivious as it sounds–like the lesbian party I was invited to on Gay Pride Weekend that my straight boxing trainer begged to attend with me, the title is way more salacious than the actual event.

A few days after my interview I was sent an email invitation to join seven other perfect strangers at a restaurant at 7 o’clock Tuesday evening.

The matchmaker had told me that I came off as very confident and self-assured.   Maybe that was what he said to everyone instead of “you are a hopeless bitter mess but I need your money to pay for my summer home.”. All I knew for sure was if he was being truthful he may have changed his opinion if he observed me walking to diner with a churning stomach and knotted intestines.

What if I had to use the restroom in the middle of meal??   Maybe I better do a preemptory stop beforehand in a hotel restroom.

In theory this was a great idea.

Then I washed my hands and accidentally splashed water all over my crotch.

It was 7:03 and dinner was at 7:00.

I somehow had to get my crotch under the hand dryer (stupid paper-saving hotel) while looking casual as people continually entered the busy bathroom.

At 7:09 I finally got the wet spot faded enough so that if I folded my hands over my crotch demurely and shifted my hips to the left while entering the dark restaurant letting the sun backlight me, I just might avoid the label of “the guy who peed his pants” in everyone’s report back to the matchmaker

As I sat down at the table with the rest of the guys, my fears that it would either be a table of inferior reptiles or superior supermodels were quickly put to rest.   It was a table of good looking but not intimidatingly so nice guys.

Things were looking up.

Conversation flowed easily and I felt I held my own as I peppered it with witty bon mots tossed from my side of the table (this is a skill I honed by growing up in a sarcastic family of five where you had to keep up with the cleverness or be chewed up and left behind in the dust) As the evening progressed I mentally checked off each guy’s datability as I scanned the circle from left to right…YES, YES, NO, MAYBE, NO, YES.   It was kind of fun—like a game—until I realized they must be playing the exact same game on me.

Surely I was on all of their YES lists right!?

Oh how sad that I would have to reject some of them.   I hoped they’d recover and eventually find love of their own.   Damn this curse of being funny and sexily charming.

Suddenly one of the guys (my number one YES) asked what each of our Chinese New Year signs were.   This seemed like an innocent “what’s your horoscope?” type ice breaker until I announced I didn’t know mine and was told the only way to find out was to reveal the year of my birth.

All eyes at the table peered at me intently   I could lie but what would be the point?   I believe that on a date you should be yourself warts and all. Why try to make yourself seem  better when you want someone who likes you as you are? These guys were lucky I hadn’t shown up in my long johns—the outfit they would be see me wearing the most if things worked out.

So I took a deep breath and blurted out the year I was born.

I’m pretty sure there were audible gasps.

Now look….it’s great when people tell you you don’t look your age and that they just cannot believe how old you are.   But by professing they can’t believe how old you are they are also saying they can’t believe how old you are. After the fifth or sixth “I can’t believe it” you start to think they are expecting an orderly in a white suit to approach the table and feed you Cream of Wheat while wiping your drool.

The only secret to my fairly presentable appearance at this advanced age is my mother insisting to her gay son that no matter what happens in life one simply must moisturize every day.   Whether I was depressed, terminally ill or a POW I must never forget the importance of Oil of Olay.

charlies-angels-1-300

You can bet these girls moisturized even in prison

Finally the table calmed down and I left dinner looking forward to the busy social dating calendar I was certain lay in the future.

####

Not a single one put me down as a match.

Not one.

Maybe I chewed with my mouth open?

Maybe I had body odor or bad breath?

Maybe I’m not as funny as I think…or too loud…or my crotch spot was noticed?

Or maybe I am too old.

The youngest in the group was in his late 30’s and the rest were in their 40’s but I had the gall to creep over that 50 mark.

It is an ultimate betrayal to many young people I know—getting old. It is a scary reminder that no matter how much we pretend we won’t…we are all going to die one day.

Not a sexy reminder on a group date.

But that’s okay. They are of course allowed to date someone their own age.   Maybe it’s just my issue with growing old.

On 4th of July weekend I was in the Pines area of Fire Island– not a place you would expect to find me.

First of all it is an island, which sounds to me like one big party you can’t easily leave.

Second of all it is loud, crowded and drunk  which are three things I spend most of my time trying to avoid.

And finally most of the boys on the island are barely clad with flat washboard stomachs.

I know I shouldn’t hate guys with washboard abs. I understand that it takes a lot of work and discipline to attain them , but it’s just not what I look for in a guy. I see bodies with zero percent body fat and think of all that gym time that could have been spent reading, or volunteering or calling your mom….so yes, I suppose I do judge them.

6a00d8341cdd0d53ef017ee9ab5322970d-320wiCall your mother!

My work is not to judge—I get it—and when I’m in that world I start to judge myself more than anyone.   These 50-something “abs” are never going to resemble a washboard unless I either dedicate every waking hour to this goal or do some creative shading with body paint.

I’m reminded of when my mother in her later years was for all intents and purposes immobile and she lamented over the fact that she could no longer go for walks with my sister and me. “You had your time….” I tried to helpfully tell her.      I guess my stomach had its time as well.

The frustration of these Fire Island gatherings is that if you don’t have the “perfect” body it is very hard to get anyone’s attention.   “I’m currently reading Shakespeare’s Henry the IV Part 2” is not going to get me lucky.

2a7ca9408119deef664bd20df06a2b79  Isn’t Dickens to die for?

So is this it?

Is my value diminished past the point of no return?

Deep in my heart I know the answer.

Aging is not failing.

It is sometimes scary but from what I can tell people who face their fears lead the most interesting lives.

And my value does come not my body.

And every damn lesson I have learned in life boils down to one thing: Let go.

And believe you me aging is just one big effing letting go.

I just saw Life As It Is about Roger Ebert (a beautiful film about life, love, movies and death).   Ebert met his wife at the age of 50. He told her he had spent half his life waiting for her and he wasn’t going to let her go.

A friend of mine met her husband in her late 40’s. She said she had seen what was out there during her long years of dating since the demise of her first marriage and wasn’t ever going to be wondering if there was anyone better.

I saw the groundedness in both of their relationship and knew that if I were to have one more love of my own it had to be that or nothing.

So maybe too old for some is just right for others.

And maybe the Native Americans were right about revering the wise elders.

native_american_elder

Is that a peace pipe in your pocket or are you happy to see me?

And possibly there is some silly man out there who will have the chutzpah to find me by hook, crook or matchmaker.

Until then I will enjoy being exactly where I am.

And of course moisturize every day.

 

SISTER MAURA AND THE SEVEN DWARFS: A True Story

by Keith Hoffman

There were a lot of secrets in my family.

Most conversations of my childhood started with phrases like, “Now don’t tell your brother this …” or “Grandma doesn’t need to know what just happened…”

In fact we had an entire range of secrets: little secrets like when my mom slipped me an extra $20 in my pocket when I went to the movies; medium secrets usually involving funny smelling smoke that would inevitably waft through the vents into my lonely bedroom from our family room below where my mom and older siblings hung out late at night (was that extra $20 some sort of guilt payoff?); and then the very big secrets like ….well…at least two of them are so big I am not supposed to reveal them while certain parties are still alive. Let’s just say if I can outlive  a couple more relatives there is a whopper of a blog to come.

After I grew up, my boyfriend Steve referred to my family as The Landmines, since he could never keep track of all the things he wasn’t allowed to say in front of whom which inevitably led to family drama every time he opened his mouth.

By that point I was a pro at artfully concealing the truth but in fifth grade I was still learning the ropes.

Luckily I dodged a lot of awkward conversations at school because I was so unpopular no one had the slightest curiosity to ask me any personal questions.

No one except for Miss Axe.

Miss Axe was my sixth-grade teacher. She was a stout woman with very short hair who had never married and most likely had a few secrets of her own.   She had taught my older siblings and often asked about them.  But as my family moved farther away from our Father Knows Best phase and closer to our Mother Smokes Pot period my responses to her queries became increasingly vague.

Yet the family secrets kept piling up and the chasm between me and what I perceived as the “normal” world felt like it was growing impossibly wide. A tiny hope began to grow inside my heart that Miss Axe could somehow build a bridge.

Although I already had a secret crush on her, I discovered just how incredibly kind Miss Axe  was after the “Sister Maura and the Seven Dwarfs” incident.

Of all the bitter and angry nuns who taught me throughout my Catholic school years, Sister Maura—a round, buck-toothed, bespeckled woman—was the bitterest and angriest. Her one redeeming quality was that, on most days, she preferred reminiscing about her childhood to teaching. She seemed to have loved her life before the convent, and I couldn’t understand why she had given it all up. I’m not sure she understood either, but she seemed to work through her confusion with frequent and energetic outbursts of uncontrolled rage aimed squarely at her students.

The only passion that made Sister Maura forget her miserable chaste life was her music.

Each spring, sixth graders from several schools participated in a citywide music concert that was the highlight of Sister Maura’s school year. Somehow I was one of the students that had been selected by the angry old nun to sing in the choir of an operatic version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

DebbieSingingNunNothing like Sister Maura

I was thrilled.

Those of us fortunate enough to be among The Chosen were excused from our regular classes three times a week to practice. I couldn’t help feeling special as part of the elite group that Sister Maura had handpicked to represent St. Jude Elementary School at a big downtown event.

I was hardly a singer but this was another secret that I seemed to be able to keep under wraps. Perhaps as a way of saying “I’m sorry for striking down your father with a heart attack at one of the most crucial periods in your childhood development,” God had miraculously helped me get through my singing audition on key. For once I wasn’t the last to be chosen for a team, and I strongly sensed that this was going to be a major turning point in my life.

A week before the concert, Sister Maura, obsessed with the perfection of her young choir, pretty much yanked us out of every class so she could have us all to herself. She was focused, driven, and perhaps even a wee bit demented.

As we valiantly sang through final rehearsals, I imagined the thrill of being up on stage in front of hundreds of people in the new white shirt and black tie my proud mother had bought for me.

We were in the middle of singing a particularly intricate part of the opera when, without warning, Sister Maura slammed both hands down. “WHO IS SINGING OFF-KEY?” she bellowed.

We sat in bewildered silence, wondering whether or not this question was rhetorical.

Meanwhile, Sister Maura seethed with homicidal rage.

She insisted we individually sing the line from the opera that had so affronted her sensitive ears.

One by one, we went down the row starting with Cindy Wilson.

Who is coming through the dark night now?”

Cindy looked at Sister Maura anxiously.

“Next!”

Who is coming through the dark night now?” Mindy Hofzinger belted out confidently.

“Next!”

Who is coming through the dark night now?”

As my turn came closer, I began sweating profusely and forgetting everything I had never known about singing.

Who is coming through the dark night now?”

There were only two kids left before me.

“Please, God let one of them sing off-key so we can end this torture. Please, God … ruin their lives instead of mine this time.”

It was around this point that I seemed to completely lose my hearing. As if viewing an eerie silent movie, I watched two classmates mouth the words to the song before they sat down, smiling in relief.

Now it was my turn.

Sister Maura narrowed her eyes and focused on me.

All heads turned expectantly.

Where were my spontaneous vomiting skills when I needed them?

I took a deep breath. “Don’t fail me God. Please?”

Who is coming through the dark night now?”

I looked at Sister Maura.

She looked at me.

I looked at her.

She looked at me.

More silence.

“Get out.”

Those were the first words I could hear again even though she had said them in a whispered hiss.

“Get out of this room. Get out of this choir. GET OUT OF MY SIGHT NOW!”

I wanted to say to that if she gave me another chance … that maybe if she worked with me a little after rehearsal …

She stood with her arm stretched out and her pudgy index finger pointing at the door.

“OUT! NOW!”

Attempting to appear dignified, I quietly placed my music book on my seat, held my chin up high, and began to walk out.

Although God had been kind enough to restore my hearing, He now seemed to have removed my ability to walk. I put one foot shakily in front of the other and tentatively made my way to the outside hall as if walking on narrow plank made of quicksand. I focused all my concentration on trying to remain upright until I began to wonder if I could speed up this painful process by getting on my hands and knees and crawling to the door.

Finally I made it to the hallway.

The metal door slammed behind me as I heard the muffled sounds of the piano starting up again.

Who is coming through the dark night now?”

********

I arrived at the classroom full of noisy non-singing losers and slunk back to my desk. As I sat silently among my happily chattering classmates, I thought about the moment when poor Sister Maura would find out that I had taken my own life by swallowing barbiturates, booze, and absinthe.

I knew I could rummage up the barbiturates and booze from my house but where exactly did one obtain absinthe?

Before I had a chance to map out my tragic plan in my head, the nun at the front of my classroom loudly declared she was sick and tired of all the talking and that perhaps if we wrote SILENCE IS GOLDEN five hundred times on a sheet of paper with No. 2 lead pencils we’d learn to keep our mouths shut.

As I wearily rummaged through my book bag and pulled out a chewed-up pencil, I decided then and there that I hated nuns and I definitely detested dwarves.

barsanti-streep-doubt-splsh

I mean really…what’s to love?

********

When Miss Axe heard about my unfortunate misadventures in choir, she offered to take me to the concert as her guest.

I was conflicted. I wanted to move on with my life and put Snow White and those creepy little people behind me, but no teacher had ever shown any interest in getting to know me outside the classroom. I was starved for attention and willing to attend the stupid opera to get it.

On the day of the concert, Miss Axe asked for my address and informed me she would pick me up at my house. After school, I impatiently waited for her on the front steps of my porch feeling excited and scared.

I was excited because a real-life teacher was actually coming to my home.

I was scared because a real-life teacher was actually coming to my home.

My first hurdle of the evening was to keep her from actually walking through the front door. No matter what, I told myself, she was to get no further than my driveway. If she wanted to use the bathroom, I would inform her we had lost it in the tornado a few years back.

Secrets were hard to keep if you let somebody in.

I sat on those front porch steps diligently keeping watch.

When she finally pulled into the driveway, I urgently screamed a goodbye through the screen door from over my shoulder, raced down the stairs, and nimbly leapt into her front seat.

Miss Axe seemed surprised at first but recovered with a friendly “Well, you look all dressed up!”

Drive! Drive!” I wanted to scream. I already knew my new clip-on tie looked dashing and had no time for pleasantries.

“We have some time. I thought I’d say …”

“Nobody’s home” I firmly explained cutting her off at the pass.

Miss Axe peered up at my front windows where the sounds of Neil Young blared out. Someone started singing along to “Southern Man.”

“Oh for God’s sake, woman! Step on the accelerator!”

I couldn’t actually say that so instead I muttered something about hoping we’d get a good seat at the concert. Miss Axe finally took the hint and reluctantly backed out of the driveway.

As we drove further from my family, I began to relax. Miss Axe and I talked about movies,  TV shows,  animals and my favorite subjects at school and she and actually seemed interested in what I had to say. A grownup that was not too wrapped up in grief, guilt, a pot fog, or a nun’s habit had finally found time to notice me. I felt interesting and important.

At the concert, I tried not to cringe—or heave—when I heard the curious dwarves operatically wonder, Who is coming through the dark night now? I wanted to heckle, “It’s Snow White, you goddamned morons!” but demonstrated maturity and restraint since I wasn’t sure if one could go to jail for heckling 5th graders.

 

800px-Snow_White_and_the_Seven_Dwarfs_1

If you think about it, the whole story is just creepy

On the way home, we stopped at White Castle and I could barely cease talking long enough to swallow down my five cheeseburgers. I had so many opinions about life that no one had heard since my preschool days when I shadowed my mother around as she did housework, and I was not going to let Miss Axe slip away without subjecting her to each and every one of them.

As we walked back to the car in the White Castle parking lot, Miss Axe placed her arm around my shoulder.

I wanted so desperately to hold her hand but feared that I was too old for such a childish action.

We headed toward home and I fell into an easy, exhausted quiet while listening to the hum of car engine. I had made it through the concert debacle and had come out with something much better than Sister’s Maura’s approval.

I was about to doze off when Miss Axe jarred my serenity with a seemingly innocent question.

“So, how are things at home?

I shifted into high alert. Up until this point I had kept things at surface level but now she was trying to slip past the perimeter.

“Great. Everything’s great!!” I said a little too enthusiastically.

“Has your family  been doing okay since your dad died?”

“I think so,” I replied lamely.

Had this woman learned her questioning techniques from the Spanish Inquisitors?

“Well, if you ever want to talk …”

I wanted to talk. I wanted blab everything. I wanted to ask her how to keep up with everything changing around me too  fast for me to keep up with. I wanted to know if she could help me know to not be an outsider in my own home. I wanted to tell Miss Axe about my feelings. More than anything, I wanted to ask her how I should feel. I’d had so many mixed-up emotions jumbled inside me pounding at my chest and stomach desperate to finally get out….

But I couldn’t.

I would be betraying my family.

And they were all I had.

“Okay,” I finally mumbled as I focused intently out the window.

We rode for the rest of the trip in a new kind of silence.

All my secrets were wrapped up tightly and safe.

And I felt more alone than I ever had in my entire.

 

NEXT: A secret revealed.

 

TAKE MY MOTHER….PLEASE! 10 Tales of a Boy and His Mom

by Keith Hoffman

THE MOMENT I WAKE UP

I loved watching her put on make-up.

I would sit in the bathroom and jammer away while she stood in front of the mirror.   My mother was not one of those women who just threw on eyeliner and concealer and whisked out the door.  Her morning routine was a serious time commitment,  and to my young eyes the transformation was magical.

I don’t know how my mom even got out of bed after losing her husband at 43-years-old but she had five kids to raise from the ages of 17 to 7 (me) so I guess she didn’t have much of a choice.

The word people usually used  to describe my mother was “survivor” but she was more than that.   My mom was beautiful and strong and glamorous.  Men fell all over themselves to try to get her attention but she wanted no part of them.  Her volatile and passionate marriage to my father apparently had been enough.

“Men only want one thing,” she would often say to me.

I wasn’t sure what the one thing was but from the look on her face I could tell it was not good.  And I was determined I was never going to be like those men who wanted that one thing from women.

Make-up was a huge part of my mother’s life.    She became a top selling Avon lady to support her family (this was the early 70’s and widowed housewives were not exactly sought after in the work place.)  And by the time I was a teenager she was the top salesperson at the McAlpins Department Store make-up counter in downtown Cincinnati.

I loved visiting her on my lunch breaks from my summer job as the roast beef slicer at Roy Rogers.

She would paint the faces of frumpy insecure ladies making them look beautiful.

But none of them were as beautiful as my mother.

My beautiful picture

My made up Mother–Mcalpins Department Store in the early 80’s

 THE PHANTOM WITCH OF THE OPERA

But that make up was concealing a few things….

My widowed hardworking mom had her bad days too.

We kids were a messy lot and somewhat out of control.

It wasn’t the big things about her children like drugs or drinking or homosexuality that threw her over the brink.  She handled those issues with aplomb.

She hated the mess.   She would leave anonymous notes around under a threatening nom de plume to try to get us to stop making the mess.

Put your dirty clothes in the hamper!!

The Phantom Witch

 And then there were the dirty dishes.

She hated the dirty dishes.

They were the tipping point.

They undid her every time.

One Saturday morning when I heard her slamming things around the kitchen and cursing angrily I knew we were in for a bad day.

The rest of my siblings knew it too.   And luckily some of them also knew how to drive.  We hightailed it out of the house before she had the chance to corner us and  we escaped to local park.

We had no concrete plan except to avoid our mother’s dark angry unreachable mood so we hiked aimlessly until the sun went down.

As we pulled into the driveway  worn out and exhausted, we heard music from my brother’s organ loudly playing from every door and window of the house.  I had seen enough scary movies to know organ music could only portend certain danger.

We climbed out of the car with trepidation and crept into the pitch-dark house.

In the shadows we saw our mother playing The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down in an almost trance-like state with her back to us.

That was weird enough but nothing could prepare us for what we saw when our eyes adjusted to the dark.   Our shag carpet was covered in what looked like thousands of pieces of multi-colored plastic shards.

Apparently she had smashed every plate and cup we owned.

That was certainly one way to solve the dirty-dishes-in–the-sink problem.

christmasThe Phantom Witch at Christmas

BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO

In my early 20’s I lived in New York City.

My mother knew I was gay but we didn’t really talk about it  much.

When I had finally sprung the news when I was in college her reply was,   “I suspected but hoped it wasn’t true.”

First of all, I wasn’t surprised she had suspected.

If my love for Julie Andrews and Beatrice Arthur wasn’t enough  of a clue then maybe the Playgirl she found under my mattress that I insisted had been left by my sister was.   (My sister had moved out a year earlier).

But the second part of her response was more problematic.   Why did she hope it wasn’t true I was gay?

“Because I don’t want your life to be harder”

Okay, that was an acceptable response although I  could have pointed out that she was straight and her life was no bed of roses.

But after I had moved away we kind of avoided the topic.   I hadn’t told her I had fallen madly in love with a playwright since I wanted to avoid any  awkward conversations until after I was living with him for several years.   The first she heard about him was when I called her crying inconsolably after our  painful break up on the streets of the East Village.   I could barely speak through my pain-wracked sobs but my mom comforted me anyway  just as she had done when I fell off my bike as a little boy.

As much as I I had fought  to forge my independant life out of my mother’s purview, the truth was she knew me to the core.   And for that afternoon at least I was glad of it.

I don’t know if she was shocked or surprised by the  call but she nevertheless rose to the occasion and stayed on and comforted me for over an hour assuring me I would live to love again.

Like I said it was the big things she didn’t sweat.

And at least now we could both bond over those damn men who only wanted one thing.

A CALL A DAY KEEP THE MORTICIAN AWAY

My strong mother’s body began to betray her later in life and this spirited woman began to become more and more housebound.   My sister who lived down the block became her caretaker—a role she both protected fiercely and resentfully lorded over her brothers.

To ease my sister load along with my own guilt I began calling my mom every day on my long commute to work.

Some days went pretty well and we continued our mother/son relationship that started those many mornings I watched her put her face on in the bathroom mirror.

Some made me want to cross the yellow divider line on the highway to end the phone call and my life.

Those calls went something like this:

 “Do you know what movie I saw last night?”

“Um, no Mother.”

“The one with that actor I like.”

“Yea…I’ll need more information….”

“The one who is always in the movies with that actress.”

“Still need more info.”

“The actress with the eyes!  You know who I’m talking about!”

 She began to depend on these calls.   I couldn’t miss them even when I was traveling and running from one plane to another in the airport.

“Hi, I have to make my connect and can’t talk long.”

“Okay honey.  How is Houston?”

“I don’t know, Mother.  I’m in the airport for about 15 minutes.”

‘Oh okay. How was the food on the plane?”

“I’ve told you they don’t feed people on planes anymore.  Food on a plane is now potato chips.”

“Mmmm…those sound good.”

“I have to go now..”

“Okay, take some pictures of Houston while you’re there!”

“Mother is making me crazy!!” I would text my sister as I settled into my seat.    “Welcome to my life,” she’d inevitable reply.

But still I called her every day.

Somewhere along the line in our relationship I had gone from the protected to the protector.

shoeShe loved that actress with the eyes

RHYMES WITH PHANTOM WITCH

 My sister was in a coma in a hospital room down the hall.

My family was in agony.

My brother and I were sent to get food, which we discovered was not an easy feat in the middle of the night in Cincinnati.   I had been home a week and this coma thing just wouldn’t let up.    It was getting on my nerves.

My mom had been a trooper heroically getting to the hospital every morning  even though she could barely get around her apartment on her good days.   She complained about her tongue hurting a lot though.   This was just the latest in what was now a long line of awful ailments that had befallen her.

Finally my brother and I found Skyline Chili, a Cincinnati staple, open in the middle of the night and were on our way back to that horrible hospital with food in tow.

When we arrived I walked up to my mom and gently unwrapped her chili dog as she sat watching from her wheelchair.   “Need anything else?” I sweetly asked with the utmost compassion.

She summoned the most martyred look ever undertaken by any human being in history.

“Not that I have to eat,” she replied “but it would have been nice if you had brought something that didn’t burn my tongue.”

I looked at her in shock.

And I responded with the only thing one could say in such a situation.

“Bitch!”

And with that I stormed down the hall and out of the hospital.

Yes, that’s right.

I called my ailing mother whose daughter was down the hall deep in a coma a bitch.

And yes, I realize no matter how many soup kitchens I volunteer at  I will go to hell for this.

I paced outside upset with my mother, upset about my sister, guilty and ashamed and hungry for that Skyline Chili I had left behind.  My only solace was that if my sister woke up she would definitely understand  the whole “bitch” thing although she would also remind me to be nicer to our aging mother.

Finally an hour and a half later I went back inside and walked sheepishly up to her.

“You didn’t have to call me a bitch.”

“Maybe not.” I replied begrudgingly.

And we forgave each other.

Because we had known each other an awful long time.

And because that is what families do.

no pictures My long time companion

I DON’T WANT NO HUGS

 It was the day of my sister’s funeral.

We had all somehow managed to get through the unthinkable.  We had watched our adored sister, daughter and friend die right in front of us.  Not only had we let it happen but had somehow accepted it—at least in that moment.   We had let go of her because she seemed determined to move on without us but we were beat up and bruised  from the surrender.

And now we had to memorialize her.   It was all so surreal.

My mom, still the survivor, silently put on her make up.  But now instead of standing proudly in front of  her bathroom mirror she sat hunched in a chair peering into a magnified one.

Later my brother Paul drove us to the cemetery as  I sat in the back seat behind my mom with my ex-boyfriend Steve.  Steve and I remained good friends   and he  adored my mom even though she never forgave him for me breaking up with him.

Suddenly my mom  broke the weighted silence in the car.

“I want no one to hug me at the memorial,” she announced with grim determination.

I wanted to reach up and throttle her.

Now not only did I have to get through this memorial  in one piece but had to announce to everyone withn earshot that the lady in the wheelchair was not accepting hugs.  I was furious with her and I was furious with my sister for leaving me with this to deal with on my own.

“Don’t you worry about that,” Steve assured her.    “I’ll run interference for you.  I’ll tackle them if they get to close.

God bless him.

Neither my mom nor I  comfort nor be comforted by each other.  This was just too awful.   We could get through it together but that was about it.   We needed other people’s help.  We needed Steve to appease her and prevent me from committing matricide.

And by the way she let a lot of  people hug her that day.

steve

Mother and Steve during the period she accepted hugs

A VERY MERYL CHRISTMAS

 What bothered me most about my mom was how smug she was about hating Meryl Streep.

Our phone conversations would go something like this….

“I saw Bridges of Madison County last night and Meryl Streep was great. ”“Oh!?  Did she take acting lessons??”

At some point I believe she started hating her just to drive her youngest son to madness.

I came home for Christmas, four months after Julie died to endure  the holiday together.  I had gotten “screeners’ from a friend–movies that were up for awards that were sent out to voters.  We both decided we detested  Anne Hathaway which can be quite a strong bond between any  mother and gay son.

In fact we were having a nice holiday together with just me and her and my brother Paul.   We didn’t have to pretend we were doing better than we were.  We could be sad and kind and try to hold each other together even though we were all in jagged broken pieces like those plates my mom had crushed so many years ago.

It seemed like the perfect opportunity to prove once and for all that Meryl Streep was the most amazing actress in the world.

Right?

So I went to Target and bought Devil Wears Prada.

Everyone loves Devil Wears Prada.

Right?

I could tell early on Mother was not going to cooperate.

She didn’t laugh at the right moments and her silence unnerved me.

The movie seemed endless.

I wanted to tell Meryl to step up her performance—land the jokes better.

By the closing credits I was soaked in flop sweat.

I nervously pressed “eject”.

Silence.

“I’m sorry but I just didn’t see any acting,” she finally said not sorry at all.

I had a fantasy of buying  the hottest Skyline Chili possible and surprising her with it like  Joan Crawford surprised Bette Davis with a rat  for dinner in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. 

But I didn’t.

I let her have this victory.

No matter how  mistaken  it was.

jewishA young Streepaphobe

IN KEITH I TRUST

She had survived a messed up childhood, a bad divorce, a husband dying and horrendous health later in life and she had done it with a strong  stubborn loving soul.

But she really wasn’t very interested in surviving her daughter’s death.

I knew she wasn’t getting better so what was I supposed to hope for?

It was the end of my Christmas visit.   Paul and I had done our best but our Mother could barely get off the couch, open a can of food by herself or make it to the bathroom in time.  She loved her tiny apartment and her fiercely devoted cat and she was determined not to leave.

But she had too.   I couldn’t leave her here.  It wasn’t right.

“Mother, you can’t stay here.  You need to go to the hospital.”

This was her biggest fear in the world after one of her children dying.  She had always made each one of us promise  repeatedly that she would not  end up in  a nursing home.    And a hospital was just one step closer.

But I looked her in the eye and I said it.

And my stubborn, determined Meryl-hating mother looked back at me almost meekly.

And it punched me in the heart.

“Okay,” she replied without a hint of fight.

She trusted me.  I was her youngest son.  We had gone through so much together and she trusted that I was right.

If only I knew that I was.

Later as she was being carried out on a stretcher from her beloved home,  my brother accused me of flirting with the cute paramedic.

We cope with awful moments the best way we know how.

ASHES ASHES WE ALL FALL DOWN

“I want my ashes scattered in my ocean!”

None of us kids ever knew when our Mother came into ownership of the Pacific.

Paul, Steve and I went to Santa Barbara on a late September day to perform the final act of love for her.

I waited for my brother to visit me in LA as I was sure I would drown in a tragic water accident doing it myself.

She had died a month after Christmas in the hospital.  She had always hated February and died on the last day of January. She at least had the dignity of going  out on her own time.

We found a remote area and climbed out on  the rocks.

As Steve watched from the beach we grabbed handfuls of ashes from plastic bags and flung them into  the air.  A wind gust scooped them up and they  swirled like a tornado up to the sky.

We laughed delightedly.

Our mother was free of her failing body.    Her spirit could dance again.

“How is heaven?” I wanted to yell up to her.   How was the food on the plane ride there??”

ashes

SHE’S BAAACK

 My mom has been gone almost five years but there are times I still miss her.

Like now for instance when I get  a  really huge splinter in my finger that I can’t seem to get out and I want to call her to ask what I should do.

I remember that she used to use a sterilized needle to get them out when I was a kid  but I can’t find one in my disorganized apartment that I’m currently turning upside down.

I come across the box of her ashes that I had not tossed in her ocean  kept for myself.  Desperate, I place my profusely bleeding hand on it.

“Please Mother…help me.”

A few minutes later I am rummaging  one more time through my sock drawer and find one of those metal buttons you pin on your shirt  hidden in the corner.   With a little sterilization that needle on the back will work just fine.  I pick up the button and turn it over.

It is a button that belonged to my Mother.

bitch

Even with a splinter in my finger and my life’s blood draining out of me I have to laugh.

 

 

Out of My Comfort and Time Zone: Pre-Travel Anxiety

by Keith Hoffman

I don’t have much of a problem going outside my comfort zone–probably because I spent most of my childhood outside my comfort zone.

So when my friend Nelson invited me to visit him in Peru it didn’t take me long to take him up on this offer.

Getting out of my comfort zone is not the issue—it’s everything that transpires before.

My pre-travel anxiety is a lot like my birthday anxiety—especially in that most people simply tell me the solution is to “just relax and have fun!!”

To me this is like telling a passenger on the Titanic to enjoy viewing the wonderful variety of fish in the ocean while they are plummeting to their watery graves.

It’s just not that easy.

julie-carmel2

Doris Day in a little known movie about Pre-Travel Anxiety

Every time I plan a trip I decide there is a lot to get done before I get on that plane.   I’m not talking about updating my passport and buying a new carry on bag.   I suddenly feel the compulsion to accomplish everything I have not accomplished in my lifetime in that week before travel.

 KEITH’S TYPICAL PRE-TRAVEL TO DO LIST

  • Paint the bedroom a seductive color
  • Get checked for melanoma
  • Go to the dentist for that slight ache that is probably tooth cancer
  • Read Proust
  • Settle down into a long term committed relationship.

The small details such as packing get pushed into the background until a half hour before my taxi arrives.

slide_291558_2328699_original

Pre-Travel Anxiety is one of the few things Judy Garland did not suffer from.

And on top of that there is just so much that can go wrong between now  and getting on that plane.

THINGS THAT CAN GO WRONG

  • Tooth Cancer (with no time for chemo before boarding)
  • Melanoma (see above)
  • A pet could die
  • My place could burn down
  • A pet could die while my place is burning down
  • Lose my passport
  • Credit cards stolen (that happened the day before a trip)
  • Show up to the airport on the wrong day (happened)
  • Miss the plane because I have to use the bathroom just as they make the boarding call  (happened—sorry again Steve)
  • Arrested by security for unknowingly smuggling drugs that someone slipped into my backpack or orifice

airport

Like Dean Martin I am a wreck by the time I get on that plane

Oh!  And my flight could get cancelled at 11pm the night before the morning I am leaving.

That happened just this week…..

TUESDAY April 15, 2014—11:05 PM

I receive an email with a “Very Important Message” from Jet Blue informing me me my flight is cancelled.   They aren’t exaggerating.  This is certainly a very important message.

Oddly when things do go wrong I become very Zen (aka numb).   The email says to call Jet Blue to reschedule so I do as I am told.  The recording tells me the hold time is longer than usual and to please be patient.

WEDNESDAY April 16, 2014 12:10 AM

Again, they aren’t exaggerating.

Over an hour later I am still listening to the hold music which I can only assume is the same mix of easy listening Bryan Adams/Céline Dion songs that is played in hell.   Does anyone really need to hear Everything I Do I Do it For You again?  In this day and age why can’t I program the hold music to what I want to hear?  Maybe I could choose a little NPR to learn something while I wait?   I can’t even play Candy Crush for fear I will accidentally hit the wrong button and disconnect sending me to the back of the interminable hold line.

So I keep waiting.

WEDNESDAY April 16, 2014 12:50 AM

It begins to snow outside even though it is April and I’ve already moved all my plants outside to the back yard.

Mother Nature doesn’t give a s#*t.

I race outside in my long johns rescuing my potted plants with one hand while clutching my phone listening to Rod Stewart wonder if I think he’s sexy with the other.

Not tonight, Rod.  I’m in no mood.

WEDNESDAY April 16, 2014 1:20 AM

I am dozing next to my phone and hear a real live voice.

“Jet Blue may I help you?”

“Yes, yes, please don’t hang up!!” I yell frantically as I sit up and fumble to take the phone off speaker without accidentally hanging up.  I feel like a man on a dessert island who has spotted a rescue plane and desperately fears it will fly past him leaving him to die.

“Hi,” I say trying to be cheerful reminding myself that this man was most likely busy with other customers while making me wait so long– and not playing Words With Friends as I have been angrily fantasizing.

“My flight was cancelled and I’d like to get on a new one.”

“Great,” he answers equally cheerfully.   “I can get you on a flight on Friday.”

Friday???  But this is Tuesday….or rather Wednesday now…a new day has begun since I first got on this call.

“Um…it’s my vacation,” I tell him certain he will see the error of his ways.

Oh your vacation!  I didn’t realize.  We’ll get an extra plane up and running right away!

 But it doesn’t happen that way.  For the next ten minutes I try everything.  I flirt, cajole, mildly threat, and play the victim.     I stop short of asking, “Do you know who I am?” since unless he is a devoted fan of Bigfoot he probably doesn’t.

And just like that my long planned trip to Peru is  shifted by two days.

And most remarkably even though something went wrong pre-trip –I have lived though it basically unscathed.

And I am absolutely certain there is some great spiritual lesson in this.

If only I didn’t have so much to get done before I fly in two days.

And there is so much that could go wrong….

airplane-movie

Once that flight takes off the fun can begin

NEXT UP:   THE MOMENT I REALIZED IN THE AIRPORT PERU SPEAKS A DIFFERENT LANGUAGE I FORGOT TO LEARN.

 

LIZA WITH "Z" NOT JESUS WITH AN "S"

(Everything You Wanted To Know About Keith But Were Afraid to Ask)

by Keith Hoffman

Author’s Note:  Some names have been changed in order to protect those who hath not sinned

My mother must have sensed something was different about me.

Let’s just say I remember exactly where I was when I heard Judy Garland died.

I was watching an episode of Batman with my favorite villain Catwoman  (played by Julie Newmar not those cheap imitators Lee Meriwether or Eartha Kitt).

 

batman j newmar tumblr_mmurc9KPQy1r2hegjo1_500       Yes

Catwoman     No

KittCat

Progressive and daring casting choice but no

I immediately leapt up from in front of our new color TV and ran out to the front yard where my mother was weeding in her two-piece bathing suit.

“Mother! Mother!  Judy Garland!  She’s dead!” I screamed as I ran into her arms and wept.

“Oh, Mother,” I blurted between sobs. “If only I had met her, I could have helped her be happy!”

At the age of eight I was a child prodigy at being codependent.

Perhaps my mom hadn’t quite figured it out.   Maybe she told herself that lots of little boys loved Judy Garland.  She was in The Wizard of Oz for Pete’s sake–nothing alternative life-stylish about that.

But that evening when I belted “Smile, Though Your Heart is Aching” using my sister’s curling iron as a microphone, she must have deep down suspected I was a member of a brotherhood of men that I didn’t even yet know existed–the same brothers who would historically rebel at The Stonewall Inn in New York City only six days later changing the course of my life.

It’s not like she didn’t have other clues:

  • While other boys my age followed the careers of Johnny Bench and Pete Rose from my city’s beloved Reds team, I pretended our mop was Cher doing one of her solo numbers wearing a stunning Bob Mackie gown.

83fe45b329a060d11dd4915c532ab138I could never get my mop’s  hair this straight

mop  Move over Sonny and Cher

  • I once stood up and screamed “YES!” accompanied by a fist pump when Mitzi Gaynor, the actress/singer/dancer from the movies South Pacific and White Christmas executed an impossibly high kick while over the age of 50 on her annual variety special.

mitzi

My role model on how to age with pizazz

  • I often twirled around our back yard for hours playing Maria from Sound of Music singing that the hills were alive for all our neighbors to see from behind their curtains.
  • And finally this question during my pre-pubescence:  “Mother, do you ever worry  Liza will follow the same tragic path as Judy?”

Maybe my mom was so preoccupied with supporting and raising her entire brood of five kids by herself—the majority of whom were in their turbulent teenage years—that she found it difficult to focus on any one of our specific issues.

Plus she no clue about Bobby Summers.

Bobby Summers was one of the coolest kids in my 8th Grade class.

Bobby Summers was so cool he got to play Jesus in our Catholic school’s Passion Play.

That’s how cool Bobby Summers was.

I was jealous of Bobby Summers at first. I was sure I would be a better Jesus than he could ever be.  But instead I was cast as the Good Thief.

The Good Thief hung on the cross to Jesus’ left and defended him from the Bad Thief hanging to his right.   I was Jesus’ second banana— the Ethel to his Lucy; the Rhoda to his Mary; the Louise to his Thelma.

I got to know Bobby Summers as we rehearsed carrying our heavy wooden crosses up the school auditorium aisle while classmates playing the angry crowd jeered and taunted us (personally this was not very different from my daily experience on the playground so I felt right at home). I couldn’t ignore how cute Bobby Summers looked in his crown of thorns—and when I defended him as we hung from our crosses—deep in my soul I really, really meant it.

“Leave him alone. Can’t you see he’s in pain?” I bellowed with dramatic intensity as if I were Meryl Streep proclaiming I was the French Lieutenant’s whore.

I was Jesus’ savior and I would have been Bobby Summers guy forever if he had only asked me.

the-french-lieutenants-woman-meryl-streep A fellow thespian

Yet I still somehow didn’t associate these feelings with sex.

I had read about the homosexual lifestyle and wanted no part of it.

One night I had crept downstairs and snuck my mother’s copy of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) from the back of her bookcase up to my bedroom since there was a lot I wanted to know about sex but was afraid to ask.

And I paid close attention to the chapter on homosexuality.

According to the book, miserable men picked up other miserable men in bowling alley restrooms when they weren’t busy living sad pathetic lonely frustrated lives.

My heart sank and my stomach twisted and knotted.

This was horrible news.

This was not what I wanted for myself at all.

cover

The original copy stolen from the bookcase–and what did my mom want to know about sex anyway?

food

 This explains why it’s so  hard to keep the weight off.  

club foot

We’re here!  We’re clubfooted!  Get used to it!

bowling

Will I  have to rent the tacky shoes?

I told myself these feelings for Bobby Summers were just a phase like when I used to sit in the big green chair in our living and hit the back of my head repeatedly against the cushion for hours at time (medicating children was not in vogue yet).

I was going marry Cindy Hall and have four kids.

And we would only go to bowling alleys to bowl.

I was going to be normal just like everyone else.

FamilyBowling-Photo

Nothing abnormal happening here!

And yet …

…it was hard to forget how cute Bobby Summers looked as he hung from the cross dying for my sins.

 

 

Keith Hoffman will be performing his pieces at Western Bowl every Thursday at 8pm in August.

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.

blowing

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