Of all the human emotions, love is the one we are most dishonest about. We lie and say we feel it when we don’t, for all kinds of reasons, including to avoid causing pain, to get laid and to get other advantages. We say we don’t feel it when we do, to avoid awkwardness and complication, to protect ourselves and others. We’re often not even honest with ourselves about our own feelings, because it is frequently easier not to even go there.
Love is a good thing. Perhaps the best thing there is in this life. It brings joy, wonder, profound connections, and it can get you laid, and that can be glorious. Love begets children and enables enduring connections between people – not always sexual. It underpins co-operation and allows us to have a positive experience of our lives, cultures, landscapes, and other life forms. Without love, being human would be a rather cold and sorry business, I think.
So let’s talk about cake. Most of us like cake – if we can find sorts that suit our needs and appeal to our senses. Cake is one of life’s good things, it brings sweetness and comfort. Talking about cake is also easier than talking about love.
Would we say we wanted cake when really we didn’t? Would we worry that if we say no to cake today, no one will ever offer us cake again? Is this the only cake we are ever going to get? Is no better cake imaginable? Must we make do with a cake that has the wrong jam in it, and lie about liking the jam? If we want some cake, do we feel ashamed to admit this? Do we worry that people will be alarmed or affronted if we tell them how much we like their cake?
But of course cake is not as vulnerable and personal as love… it only connects to our style and buying power, to our body shape and body image. If we make them, they are full of effort and a desire to win approval and recognition. Cake is loaded with deeply personal things, but only a minority of us have eating disorders. Most of us know how to handle cake far better than we know how to handle love.
I learned a long time ago to mostly avoid mentioning how deeply I care about the people around me. I form powerful, enduring emotional attachments, I put heart and soul into anything that is more than a passing acquaintance and I’ve watched people step back if I so much as imply that there is a serious feeling on my part. Too much, too intense, too willing to give even… I’ve had plenty of conversations along the way where I’ve been asked to tone down, step back, or just plain go away. I find it difficult because I know this is the most and best I have to give, and learning how not to even put that on the table where anyone can see it most of the time, has been hard.
It takes a lot, these days, for me to chance telling someone that I love them, outside of already established connections. I have to trust that person not to hear demand or proposition in my words, or to be alarmed and threatened by it. There are few things more demoralising than baring you soul, and have that act of exposure cause someone you really cared about to push you away. Love is more exposed than cake. I wonder sometimes what life would be like in a culture where emotional openness and generosity were encouraged rather than frowned on. Where we supported each other in caring rather than hiding our hearts defensively. I rather feel it would be a better and happier way to live. Whether you can get there from here remains to be seen.
So, anyone for cake?