Someone at the office had their last day at work today. Two of my friends had their birthdays last week. Another friend of mine celebrated her “half-birthday” in the previous month.
(No, she wasn’t peeking out of the tunnel for 6 months before getting the full birthday she deserved, it was the six month anniversary from her last birthday. I honestly had no clue such a thing existed until she told me. If you’re someone who celebrates their half birthday, just know that you might not have reached your half virginity losing day yet. And I’m sure if you’re reading this, conservative estimate, you’ve been living for 12 years, at least)
All the above events entailed a very important ceremony in the midst of all the people who mattered to the individual in focus. A ritual we have been following since time memorial, yes, memorial because obviously, our parents “never cut cakes” on their birthdays. We feel like it comes naturally to us, cutting cakes and making merry while doing it. Wrong. Very wrong. I write this post because I feel like this issue of getting exceedingly uncomfortable during cake cuttings needs to be addressed.
If there was ever an awkward moment in you life when you felt exceedingly embarrassed to even exist, there have to be at least ten cake cuttings that take your top five spots. Let’s break it down and see why.
The awkwardness starts at the moment someone enters the room with a box that could possibly contain a cake. The instant that image registers in your brain, your neural reflex is to correct the way the person is holding the cake, because all the cream is going to be sticking to the cardboard when you open it and you’ll hate the transporter for it. As soon as your brain registers cake, cream and sticking, it thinks about how much you actually care about the cake. It sends a signal to the mouth and instantly, in unison with yours, at least a dozen mouths thrust the deadliest question on the transporter,”What flavour is the cake?”
Now the transporter regrets his decision to take responsibility for getting the cake, because he didn’t think this through. He knows it’s chocolate truffle, or say red velvet, or maybe shahi anjeer or Pan American Pan Masala Pancake cake (I don’t know man, people have weird tastes, and capitalism isn’t helping). He knows exactly what flavour it is, but he will tell you that he doesn’t know, so he can put the point across that he did not order the cake, he’s just responsible for getting the cake there. Once the box is placed at it’s occupants’ guillotine, almost all passing lines of sight are falling on it.
Then comes the part, where someone who feels entitled enough over the person who is being celebrated, comes forward. This individual has a lot of responsibility now, almost like a second in command. They are now the emcee for this special gathering. This is the moment when the awkwardness levels for everyone else go up by 10x, and the celebrated person’s self worth has hit the roof. Once the cake is taken out of the box and is made ready to be wedged, half of the people are clearly disappointed with the flavour not being of their uncles’ mother in law’s neighbour’s 2 year old granddaughter’s liking. Anyway, they guess they can “make do” with a slice. Someone will inevitably come up to the cake, look at it as if they could make the cake talk if they tried hard enough, and ask, “Is this eggless, because I’m a vegetarian”. Sometimes the question is worse, “Is this cake Jain/vegan, because I like to pretend to be on a moral high ground in already awkward social situations.” What intrigues me is if there was ever milk obtained from underground cows, who would it offend more, Jains or vegans?
Anyway, now everyone is utterly awkward, not knowing whether to creep the cake out with their hungry eyes and appreciate the beauty verbally, or just ignore its presence and look at the individual who’s going to be cutting it, with jealousy in one eye and impatience in the other. Eventually, 100% of the people present are forced to do one of the two aforementioned tasks. At this point, someone has to start saying something, maybe crack a shitty joke involving the special individual or the emcee, or say crack a shitty joke involving the special individual and the emcee. Because if that doesn’t happen, it seems like everyone is only there to eat cake and get the hell out. Which is the case, in fact. But who cares.
The wait is now over, the weapon is unsheathed, and now our special person is awkward. They don’t know where to look, how much to smile without it being disgusting, or what to do with their other hand. Without extending the pain, they jump right in for the kill. This is when it hits the audience that they are expected to somehow appreciate the special’s knife wielding skills, either by awkwardly applauding their performance, or worse, by singing the half-birthday song for them. To add to the awkwardness, we now have the first slice of cake, and the big decision on the shoulders of the special. Of all these people, who do I feed the first slice to? It is at this moment when the special misses their parents, had they been here, this would have been easy. All this while, you are standing in the audience, wondering whether you’re important enough to make it to the list of people who the special is going to be feeding cake with their own hands. Your school’s prefectorial election, your engineering entrances, your college elections, your job interviews, everything flashes in your mind in a matter of seconds. The special has, meanwhile, started eating the cake himself after exhausting his list.
Your dreams are shattered and now you’re smiling sheepishly, pretending that it didn’t even matter to you in the first place. Now everyone is advancing towards the cake but you have to maintain your stance and show that you don’t care. Two minutes pass and now everyone has almost finished their slice. Except you, you’ve not even budged. It hits you then that it’s too late now. If you go in for a slice now, everyone is going to think that it’s your second slice, and you look like the greedy pig. You try to weigh your options, being considered a greedy pig or getting a bite of that heavenly-looking shahi anjeer cake.
Panic sets in when you realise that the cake is dwindling fast, and the greedy pigs have been dogeared. You let your pride win, but your gluttony is not weak either. It IS a part of you, after all. As lesser and lesser of the cake is left, it’s value multiplies in your mind. You rush towards it, but there are too many people in your way and you have to be polite. You almost instinctively extend your hand from two feet away, and you’re going to get that last slice. But sadly, the special stands right above the cake, “It WAS a great cake, emcee. Thanks a lot”. Special hands reach for it, and all you can do is switch your ‘that slice is mine’ hand to a ‘let’s clear this place up’ hand.
At least this abomination is done with. But was the cake really that good? You’ll never know.