We weren’t boyfriend and girlfriend. We didn’t even really date. To be cheeky, after our disaster, I used to call him my “ex-nothing.”
First I saw him around, and then we drank and slept together, and then we talked and went out to dinner, then we slept together, and then one night he slept in my bed but wouldn’t touch me, then I wrote him a long letter, then we didn’t talk, then we talked and slept together, then we didn’t talk, then we talked and kissed, then we didn’t talk. The time, adult-years of it, melts into one long string of silences and noise. I was a mess and utterly invested in him from the get-go. I would have called it love at first sight, if it had worked out at all.
I can’t even work myself up to embarrassed. If anything, I’m bashful. (Bashful is less serious than embarrassed. It’s flirty, blushing, eyes darting up from that downcast glance, smiling.) See, I know that lady straight up doesn’t give a fuck. She once ate hot cookies off my floor.
We spend a lot of time telling each other not to feel guilty. It’s the foundation of our friendship. Don’t feel guilty about every last slight. Don’t feel guilty about the things you can’t control. Don’t feel guilty about being who you are.
And the broken cake, honest to god, isn’t some kind of passive-aggression. I did a little kid thing, a dumb thing, trying to get the cake out of the pan. It’s not always easy to get a cake out of a pan! And it broke. I made two 13×9 Pyrexes, and they both broke.
My boyfriend wanted to make the mess into cake balls, but that would destroy the texture. This cake is light like pillows or clouds or angel farts. It floats out of your hand.
I decided to just ice it together as best I could. I made cream cheese frosting for the outside, and mixed it with homemade jam for the inside. When the cracks in the top looked sad, I dusted them with purple sugar.
It’s a sloppy cake, for a girl whose nights of being sloppy drunk are fewer and farther between.
She’s 27. Getting married this year. Starting a new job, too. And fixing up her first house. Some days she can’t have happy hour because she has to do grown-up things.
I brought it to the party because I knew that people would eat it with their hands. They furtively swiped at the frosting and grabbed the fallen chunks off the foiled cookie sheet.
It was a massive cake for a not-so-massive party. The birthday girl got to take a good chunk home. She texted me this morning to say “…May have licked all the icing off before (my fiancé) woke up.”
Over at ThinkProgress, Alyssa Rosenberg offers an optimistic take on Betty Draper Francis’ hopes for season six of Mad Men:
“You go to college. You meet a boy. You drop out. You get married. Struggle for a year in New York while he learns to tie a tie and then move to the country and just start the whole disaster over,” Sandy, the teenaged violinist who’s been living with Betty and Henry Francis, tells Betty over a midnight snack during the first episode of the sixth season. Betty’s reaction is telling—not anger, precisely, but frustration. “That’s an arrogant exaggeration,” she tells Sandy. But it’s also the first time someone has but the trajectory of Betty Hofstadt’s life, with all of its disappointments and wasted potential, in an actual context and acknowledged to her that her choices are shaped by larger expectations, rather than simply telling her that she’s a selfish, immature brat. Lots of fans dislike Betty, whether she’s been Draper or Francis. But Betty’s story in the season premiere left me hoping that Mad Men might finally be recognizing bigger plans for her, that just as Don’s found himself at sea and Peggy and Joan have, through very different means, found places for themselves in the changing world, the sixties might finally reach Betty Hofstadt deep inside her cellophane prison.
. . .
What this means, and whether Betty will continue to look for Sandy, or return to the kind of surrender to the easiest route that’s always been her trademark, remain open questions. But the fact that they’re posed at all gives me hopes for this season, and for Betty. Of all the characters on Mad Men, Betty, for all of her initial privilege, has had the longest road to travel towards self-actualization. She has none of the freedom that accrues to Don as a man, none of the independence that comes from working to support herself decently that’s empowered Joan, none of the identifiable talents that propelled Peggy out of the typing pool and into Freddy Rumsen’s office. Her only value is as an ornament, her only skills in attracting men. Betty’s been trained to be oriented outwards, and she has to learn to identify her own desires before she can even begin to pursue them. I don’t know what Mad Men has planned for her. But I’m as excited to see if Betty will experience a more radical makeover than the kind that can be purchased in a salon as I am to finally learn if Don Draper is the man falling stylishly and fatally out of a skyscraper window.