Happy Birthday, Man Friend

May 15, 2018


“Hey, it’s Chris Ullman. Happy birthday.”

“Thanks, nice of you to remember.”

“You bet. Are you ready for a serenade?”

“Oh, that’s not necessary.”

“No problem. I’m happy to do it.”

“No. I’m fine. It was nice of you to call.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Thanks for thinking of me.”

Hard to believe, for me at least, that not everyone likes being serenaded on their birthday.

What’s odd is that these same men (and it’s always men) are fine being serenaded live in person. It’s live on the phone they don’t like. It’s visceral. There’s no pondering or confusion. “Are you ready for a serenade?” “No!” Pretty straight-forward.

The first time this happened, I was perplexed and a little hurt. By the third time, I sensed a pattern and knew there was something else going one. Best I can tell, it’s not about liking the serenade or not; it’s about comfort, or lack thereof.

My theory is that these men decline the phone serenade because it feels too intimate to have another man whistle for them on the phone. It’s as if my lips, through the magic of modern crystal-clear telecommunications, are close to their ears, faces, and God forbid, their lips! Obviously there’s no spit-swapping going on over the phone; it’s a feeling, a proximity thing. This is psycho-babble at its best, but I can’t think of another reason why they decline.

In each of the cases where men have declined a phone serenade, I’ve whistled for them in person on previous birthdays. In those cases, we were alone in their offices at work when I delivered the serenade. You’d think that would make them even more uncomfortable than a phone call. Maybe it was just harder to turn me down in person than on the phone. I’m tempted to ask these gentlemen about why they declined a phone whistle, but that would probably just compound the discomfort. Instead, I record the serenade and e-mail or text it to them.

The take-away for me is that, when inserting myself into people’s birthday orbit, I need to remember it’s about them and not me. I’m just a happiness delivery device.

(Find this and other stories in my book Find Your Whistle: Simple Gifts Touch Hearts & Change Lives.)