daily preciousness

Friday, May 19, 2000

bakery cake

In an hour, I will go to school. I will put on dress socks and suede shoes and a casual shirt to conform with contemporary standards of male dress.

How about clipping my nails? I'll do that, too. And I'll probably comb my hair, which has grown thick and slightly mad professor-ish.

In 45 minutes, I will meet the relations of my friends and classmates. "Pleased to meet you," I will tell them, as I quickly forget their names. At this point, I will say to myself, in the corner of my mind, "I want to thank the Academy. I want to thank my parents. And, above all, I want to thank Allah. For giving me good hair and the self-confidence to share that fact with the world."

I comb my hair. Grab my wallet, breathmints, glasses and keys.

In 30 minutes, I will prepare and set up the graduation reception for my grad school. My friends are matriculating onward and upward.

It is like the Little Death that the French speak of, but only this time, in an academic sense. I shall bring sugary cake to go with the lime-green punch. Sadly, it will be a form of gustatory assault: a terrible crime against good taste.

Thankfully, the reception is for elderly parents who *enjoy* this type of nasty bakery-tasting atrocity, so I can forego the biting criticism of he food, considering the audience.

In 10 minutes, I will poison a multitude of people. This foul mode of cultural food poisoning is called "bakery cake" and its main purpose is social, not practical, in nature. It is conceived, created, prepared, frosted, delivered and presented in order for people to crowd around it with tiny paper plates and plastic forks. The people will encircle the cake, like the tribes of Africa once preyed upon wild game. They will surround it on all sides, greedily finding the choicest cuts. "I want a corner piece," a grandmother will whisper. "I want a center section," the handicapped veteran will instruct. "I don't want any purple icing," the 12-year-old cousin will demand.

And once this ritual has been performed to everyone's satisfaction, the next one will commence: It is the cake texture/color/thematic appropriateness analysis and icing consistency/amount/flavor/color critique.

In 5 minutes, strangers will pour each other punch from the frosted glass bowl into little plastic cups (whose color contrasts nicely with the cake). Thanks will be offered, paper napkins pressed fastidiously against brightly painted lips. Conversation will bloom out of the fertile subject matter at hand: the refreshments served and the graduates' career prospects.

Grateful parents will shake the ceremony-wearied hands of professors. Graduated students will shed their uncomfortable gowns. We will make hasty retreats to local bars and eateries.

And then graduation will be over for another semester. I have a year to go, yet, until my graduation day bakery cake is served. I should begin planning which piece I want to get.


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