June 1, 2007


Having Your Cake and Eating it Too

by Arlena de Bruin

It wasn’t long ago when I was sitting on a patio somewhere with a girlfriend and commiserating over the tribulations of dating in the new millennium when the subject came up.

“Why,” she asks me, lips pouty with that distinctive Merlot tinge, “can I not have my cake and eat it too?”

It was a legitimate question. In fact, legitimate enough for me to ponder for days. What do you do when you have the cake clearly in view but you really want to eat it too?

First of all, whoever coined the phrase “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” should be catapulted to the top ranks of the Sisterhood of Martyrdom. I mean, really, think about it… what kind of self-sacrificing, self-deprecating statement is that?

Let’s reflect on this contradiction a bit further. I have some cake, but I really shouldn’t eat it because…?

It’s a legitimate reason to ponder.

Why must we insist on wallowing in a trough of self denial? Because cakes (not unlike crusts) were never meant to be eaten; they’re only a garnish? Because the Ding Dong/Twinkie empire is merely a front for diet-drug conspirators who morph us into pill-popping, metabolism-boosting junkies? Because somewhere in Vanity Fair it says eating a slice of triple-layer, butter-icing, pound cake will net us a rump like Roseanne?

My opinion: if you’re an enterprising and savvy enough woman to get your hands on a chocolate éclair, why wouldn’t you eat it too?

Perhaps I should put this into perspective. Would you pour yourself a glass of Robert Mondovi Reserve Chardonnay and then use it to re-root your spider-plant? Would you sell your first-born for a pair of Jimmy Choo Panther slingbacks and feed them to your dog? Would you pre-order the Pay-Per-View Sports Action channel for the honeymoon suite on your wedding night?

According to one source, the adage “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” was actually a proverb that was recorded in a book of proverbs by John Heywood in 1546. (Apparently Mr. Heywood has never had a spiritual experience gorging on chocolate fudge cake with six-inch layered icing.) And according to my research, it appears that the saying has continued to evolve over the past few centuries. For example, some variations have been: You can’t eat your cake and have it too. (Well, that’s kinda stating the obvious!) Eat your cake and have the crumbs in bed with you. (When applied to dating, this might have considerable influence.) Or my personal favorite: Why not just bake two cakes?

Case in point: some cakes are absolutely magnificent to look at… a six-tier wedding cake, a replica of a Louis Vuitton handbag sculpted in birthday cake, a confectionary centerpiece of art. Then there’s cake that you just want to slam your face into and inhale like a Hoover Self-Propelled WindTunnel Upright™. It tastes good. It feels good. And if you can make it to the end of the day without going into a diabetic coma then you’re doing, in my sticky opinion, what God had intended.

To be truthful, I’m really not one to talk. I found my cake. I moved in with my cake. I married my cake. I pick my cake’s dirty socks off the bedroom floor. I wash my cake’s toothpaste gob out of the sink. I understand that my cake’s idea of foreplay is watching a rousing 4-3 win hockey game in double overtime.

So, can something be said for patisserie-pounding abstinence? It’s clearly a reason for pause. I turn to my girlfriend and knock back the rest of the Merlot. “Maybe cake should be left to the realms of window shopping.”

Arlena de Bruin is a published humor columnist, freelance writer and novelist who has the ability to find laughter in even the most mundane of life experiences. She lives in BC, Canada with her husband, her seventeen-year-old stepdaughter and twin nine-year-old sons. (If you don’t think that’s a recipe for therapy, then you haven’t lived in a house with three boys and a teenager!) Arlena’s philosophy: life is comedy in motion… there’s never a disaster you can’t find humor in! Her column has appeared in newspapers, magazines and on the Web. She is presently looking for a publisher for her first novel, From Indigo to Eden. For more of Arlena’s anecdotes please visit the regular Columnist sections of www.castanet.net and www.ilovekelowna.com.