Thoughts On My Upcoming 60th (!) Birthday

Okay, fuck it. I’ve decided to celebrate.

To explain why I actually had to decide that: I had a thing happen a few weeks back. Was at a dinner party and a close friend happened to mention the date of my birth right out in public. I was peeved at him for several minutes.

For years now, I haven’t liked people knowing my birthday.

I’ll tell you why. It’s a glitch left over from childhood, but apparently I’m still carrying it around. (I’ve just apologized to my good friend, who puts up with my countless idiotic quirks without complaint.)

You remember Valentine’s Day in elementary school? We all brought valentines to give to friends. We’re talking third grade or so, so gender lines were less sharply drawn, but generally the boys would give them to girls, and girls would give them to boys.

[ If you’re outside the U.S. and are unsure what I’m talking about, “Valentine’s Day” is a juvenile sort of holiday on February 14, during which you express affection for members of the opposite sex by giving them little cards or candy that say “Be My Valentine.” If you’re older, and a guy, it’s a good time to give that special girl a diamond and propose marriage. Observance of the day, which is only loosely based on some sort of recognition of Saint Valentine, supposed patron saint of lovers, is mediated annually by massive corporate marketing that has latched onto the idea like ticks onto a fat artery, each company using it to sell their own particular heart-emblazoned crap.]

There were two kinds of people you might get a valentine from.

There were the actual friends, people you were close to, who would give you one, and it would mean something special and real.

And there was the inevitable Little Miss Perfect, who would give a valentine to everybody. Those meant about as much as the gift of a blank index card. There was no special feeling conveyed, just the observance of a social duty.

She meant well, and I know it. Probably there was a mother somewhere saying “You don’t want all the OTHERS to feel left out, do you? So let’s get one for everybody.”

Cue the sad Awwws: The only valentines I ever got were from the LMPs.

Yes, I admit it. I was not a lovable, attractive little boy. I was bright, socially awkward, and above all, shy. Undemonstrative in any social sense, I did not make friends easily.

There were little girls I got along with quite well later in school life, but those temporary attractions never happened to coincide with Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day was never special to me in the way it seemed special to others.

It was the same with birthdays. I distinctly remember my brothers and best friends having parties on their birthdays, parties where people from outside the family showed up and had cake and brought presents and so forth, but I don’t remember anybody but family at my own “parties.” There were no hats or noisemakers or cameras. My mom baked a cake, put frosting and candles on it, we had dinner (my Jehovah’s Witness father in the room specifically for the dinner, and not the birthday), the cake was brought out with slight fanfare, candles were lit, I blew out the candles and made the obligatory wish. Lights back on, cake cut and distributed, I unwrapped the present and thought “Oh, good, another shirt.” Life went on.

I wanted it to be a special day, as it seemed to be for others. But … shy and perfectionistic, for me it may never have been, even with the best of intentions on the part of everyone else. Probably my expectations would always have exceeded what life was able to deliver.  But still, my memory of birthdays includes almost no fanfare, then or later, that a birthday should inspire.

At some point, all of that drew from me this very childish reaction: If they’re not going to remember and celebrate my birthday, I’m not going to LET them. Somewhere in my 20s, I stopped trying to get people interested in the subject of “Hank’s Birthday,” and even actively started concealing the date.

And I carried that around in my head, working at it, for close to 40 years.


Coming up on 60, though, and taking emphatic notice of my Dad’s recent death, I realize I don’t have forever to get everything done. If I’m going to enjoy all the little bits of being human, I’m going to have to DO them. Now, or very soon.

Besides which … 60 should be noticed, right? Celebrated, fanfared, foofarawed. This is the year you transition into Old Person – or, at least in my case, Grownup.

So: I was born on September 6, 1952 — 1:15 p.m., 9 pounds, 1 ounce, baby boy Fox, Dr. Herbert G. Cull attending. (Wouldn’t you know it? Saturday’s child. I was already marked as one who would work hard for a living. )

Checking the history of the date, this was also the day Canada’s first television station, CBFT-TV, opened in Montreal, so I’m exactly the same age as Canadian television. (Welcome, Canadians, to the modern world, and tomorrow I will introduce you to the historically-recent discovery of shoes.) In movies, 1952 was the year of Singin’ in the Rain and High Noon, as well as the John-Wayne-in-Ireland flick, The Quiet Man.

In just about a week, then, I will officially become 60. (For you Republicans, that’s 60-years-and-9-months.)

I definitely don’t expect presents, or cake. (Fortunately few of my blogger friends know my address. Besides, I recently received a fantastic notebook computer as an out-of-the-blue gift, and I was truly touched by it, my you-know-who-you-are-coblogger.)

On the other hand, a heartfelt “Happy 60th Birthday Hank!” would go well. (Followed by “Okay, okay, we’re getting off your fucking lawn! Jeez, stop being such a bastard!)

From my side, thank you all for reading and commenting. You’re my online family, and I treasure both the writing I get to do and the reactions to it. An extra special thanks to Ed Brayton and PZ Myers for allowing me to come to FtB to blog, and to my other co-bloggers, social firebrands all, for being such a regular inspiration.

In my own life, and in my online life, some really good things are coming.

For one thing, I’m toying with changing the name and the focus of my blog (sort of apropos, anniversary-wise, since last week marked one full year of  FtB blogging; When the Earth Moves from Aug. 24, 2011, is still a pretty good piece of writing), all of it based on the idea behind the First Person Revolutionary series I’m currently writing on.

I’ll have Part 4 up today or tomorrow, and it will begin.

By the way, I’m celebrating by going on my first-ever whale-watching tour out of Gloucester, Massachusetts. There might be lobster and a little single-malt scotch after. I’ll have pics when I get back, either on Facebook or my Flickr site.

Onward to the rest of my 30,000 days.

Reimagining the Conceptual Foundation of Atheism
Catholic Church Flexing Muscle in U.S. Hospitals
Beta Culture: Being Grownups on Planet Earth
The Book of Good Living: How to Avoid Being Killed By A Train
  • StevoR

    Happy birthday Hank! 60 eh? I’d never have guessed. (Raised beer salute.)

  • Daniel Fincke

    I had a few years of pouting about no one recognizing my birthday until I just started taking my mom’s approach which is to actively throw your own birthday parties. And, lo and behold, people did care after all. Just as a single adult, one cannot count on others to take the initiative as most of us could as a kid. So, as weird as it feels to announce to others “Come Celebrate Me!!!” there are others happy to do so if invited.

  • MH

    I’m pretty sure that that sort of V-Day was mandated when I was in elementary school — you had to bring valentines for everyone, so nobody got left out.

  • douglaslm

    Happy Birthday

    *moving quickly off the lawn*

  • Onamission5

    Imagine if you can that your birthday happens to fall on VD, and the life long heap of baggage that goes with. Whee, birthday baggage, not half as fun as birthday presents.

    Happy upcoming day of Birth to you, Hank, and many happy returns! May your lobster be large, your drinks be tasty, and whale sightings may you have aplenty.

  • TB at BlueCollarWorkman

    Haha, well happy birthday! It’s nice that you’re airing it out this year and letting people know.

    What’s funny is how long it took for me to understand “(For you Republicans, that’s 60-years-and-9-months)”. I kept wondering why republicans get an extra 9 months and if their birth certificates look different. And then *bing!* light bulb. Oh I get it. Lol, funny joke, man. :-) (and ridiculous all the dumb ways I tried to figure it out, haha)

  • Barbara Steele

    When my son reached adulthood, he revealed that he had never enjoyed his birthday. One reason was that it was on January 11. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and then his birthday. People were all celebrated out. The other reason was the “birthday spankings and the pinch to grow on” he received when he was small. I had no idea he was getting a lot of these. Why do we torture kids under the pretense of celebration!

    • Daniel Fincke

      Why do we torture kids under the pretense of celebration!

      It’s an ancient human principle. As Nietzsche put it, “To see others suffer does one good, to make others suffer even more: this is a hard saying but an ancient, mighty, human, all-too-human principle [....] Without cruelty there is no festival.”

      • Barbara Steele

        That just about sums it up.

  • kennypo65

    Happy birthday, Hank. Hope it’s a good one, enjoy the whales and the scotch, but try not to drink too much of it. Hangovers for us old guys can be a real bitch.

  • Neil

    You gotta start enjoying sometime! Happy Birthday, Hank! I’ve been reading your stuff since I first saw you at UTI a few years back. Everyone who blogs has their political schtick or chosen point of view, but the down-to-earth personal honesty of your writing just gets to me, and I thank you for it!

    Maybe it’s because you are within 3 weeks of being the same age as my mom- and like her, are one of the people from that age group that seems to have bothered to actually LEARN the lessons life has brought to you.

    Best wishes.

  • machintelligence

    An early Happy Birthday and a welcome to the ranks of the crusty old farts, from someone who joined them a few years ago.

  • RW Ahrens

    [leaning precariously over the edge of the lawn]

    Happy Birthday, Hank!

    (Mine’s the 22nd, you beat me by a couple of weeks.)

  • grumpyoldfart

    On more than one occasion I’ve gone past my birthday anniversary without even noticing. A couple of days later; “Oh shit, I’m a year older!”

  • ednaz

    Happy Birthday Hank! Whale watching – how fun! What an excellent way to spend your birthday!

    Hope you have many many many many many more.

  • catlover

    Congratulations on the upcoming completion of your 60th trip around the sun! I really enjoy your blogs, and am glad you told us what your birthday was, so we could wish you the best on this important milestone. Hope your day is marvelous!

  • ‘Tis Himself

    Young punk kid. I got you beat by four and a half years so you can get off MY lawn.

    And I rarely let people know when my birthday is because it’s April 1st. Yeah, that’s right, I was born on April Fool’s Day. I’ve been listening to the same bad jokes, “must have fooled your mother, har har har” etc., for over 60 years. So you get a little sympathy from me, but not a lot.

  • MG Myers

    Happy Upcoming Birthday, Hank! You make the world a better place by being YOU!!!

  • Hank Fox

    Thank you all for the birthday wishes!

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