Copyright is held by the author.
LAST FRIDAY, I sat at the bar with Ed; I met him at Planet Fitness. He bought me my martini and ordered himself a Coors Lite. He said, “How long you been working out?” I started to answer the truth, which is, “I really wouldn’t say what I do is working out. What I do is read Us Weekly while walking on the tread mill,” but he had this look on his face so I stopped mid-sentence. Then silence. He wanted me to be really into working out. I guess everyone has something simmering underneath. I considered not mentioning the baking, but this guy taunted me. I considered saying how good he looks, how fitness keeps me sane, too, how I only eat celery and chia seeds. It might be nice to have a new cover: Fitness Lady.
My Easy Bake Oven, something I received for my seventh Christmas, really changed my life. I made a few cakes in that thing back then, adding the water to the brown powder, mixing it up in my little bowl, smoothing it out with the play spatula, placing it in the little slot, watching it move toward the heat of the one lightbulb to get baked, coming out the other side all nice and solid, cooked through. It satisfied on a deep level, soothed my baser instincts. My dad smiled when I brought him that first small, dark cake. I always made chocolate. “How cute, Patty, how sweet.” My mother smiled too because it kept me from embarrassing or scaring her for an hour. The best part of the Easy Bake was the approval, feeling the way I thought normal kids did, doing and making things that pleased their parents.
I can still smell the wafts of chocolate from that oven. I can also hear my mother yelling at me to make sure I turned it off, “Don’t burn the house down, Patty!” Unlike most kids, I kind of wanted to burn the house down, and Mom knew that. Recently, I heard someone in the elevator at work saying their nine-year-old daughter told someone to fuck off. They called it oppositional something disorder. I’ve got that. Baking with my Easy Bake calmed that, gave me my cover. Nice little girls bake.
Sex is calming, too. I’m pretty good looking, not bad, and, I discovered as I grew up that men other than my father like to hear about me baking. In high school, I would tell a lie to my male teachers about how I baked, even though I didn’t anymore. Cupcakes really turned them on. Perhaps they pictured my ass cheeks as cupcakes, tight little circles, covered in cream. Yes, please! Later, in college, I kept telling the lie about baking. Guys I met down at the bars licked their lips when I told them how I liked mixing and stirring, spreading and frosting. “Do you lick the bowl?” They ALWAYS asked that. Many still do. So predictable.
Men, all men, young, old, black, white, bi, straight, gay, trans — and I’ve had them all – they love to hear about how I like to bake. They think it is so cute. It reminds them of their mommy or their grandma or their aunt or teacher or sister or neighbour growing up, some kind woman who offered them something innocent once. Some fantasy they had about being safe and having a cake. Funny, I have the same fantasy, too; that’s why I tell them the lie in the first place.
Back to Ed. My big moment. I could have given him what he wanted. Told him what he needed to hear, maybe stories about training for a mini triathlon or something. Those hills killed me! I could have helped him with his problem, become what he needed me to be. I could have just said Fuck off, since that is always a legitimate option. I didn’t. I opened my eyes wide and put on my slightly baby voice, “I really, really love to bake, Ed.” As I talked, I sucked on my skinny cocktail straw, pretending to sit at a soda counter at the pharmacy in 1950. I skewered my olive with the straw and popped it in my mouth. Ed exhibited facial signs of being riveted, but also panicked. This guy fears and loves cake. His left eye twitched by the time I finished with all my frosting and spreading talk. I added something too, about how I made the cupcakes for my best friend’s wedding. Ed chugged his Coors Lite. I pictured him jumping up and running out the door, but he surprised me. “Rum and Coke,” he called out to the bartender. He leaned back in his chair, folded his arms across his chest, smiled greedily at me, and got comfy. I breathed in deeply and slowly exhaled, letting myself relax. Oh well.