I feel like I have to preface this story with an observation. Bear with me.
You know how, when you socialize with a group of couples, that there are always different dynamics at play in their personal relationships that bleed out in social situations? Like, the super-lovey newlyweds who can’t keep their hands off each other at the dinner table, or the couple that finish each other’s sentences, always? And sometimes, there is that other couple, that couple that is just outright mean to and about each other throughout every conversation, but pretend that all that hostility and hatred is some form of kidding around with each other, and they explain it away as ‘that is just how we joke around’, but it isn’t ever funny, and whenever one of them opens their mouth, you kind of cringe and start looking away and pretending to have a lot of business involving your bread roll and the napkin on your lap, while the husband refers to his wife as a fat heifer, or the wife cracks jokes about her husband’s impotence? You know – those people.
Yeah. We aren’t those people, I swear. But we do have a select few insider jokes as a couple that, if they were said out loud in front of witnesses, would sound so terrible, and border on sounding like one of those couples. This story is one of them.
It all started with our Xmas cards after we had kids, and one of those stupid married-people fights we were having about the cards, and how we couldn’t get one decent picture of both kids to put on it, and how ridiculously large our Xmas card list was getting, and it sort of all came to a head when we had to give the printer some pithy little phrase to include inside of our cards, a phrase that can’t include the word ‘Christmas’ or read in a way that assumes the receiver’s religion has a winter holiday, or indeed, that the receiver has any kind of religion at all, because our list is a pretty diverse set of people. Good Heavens, those first Christmas cards are such serious business, aren’t they? I felt like we were disarming the cold war single-handedly, while solving global warming, making those cards.
So there we were, at least 2 weeks late on getting these damned cards printed, and the days were running into printing dates that meant that nobody in my family would even get the card before the holidays because they all live in other countries, and we were both blaming each other for everything wrong with these cards at that point, and incidentally, every other thing that ever went wrong with a project we had to do undertake jointly, and from there to everything wrong in the world today, and nobody was going to back down from this one, this epic Holiday Fight From Hell, when my husband brought up that we still hadn’t cut the list down to a manageable size, and he didn’t even recognize half the names on it, and we still did not have a phrase to print inside of them, and I snapped back that we should just be honest and have our cards printed to say, “Happy Christmas, Asshole”.
We did not do that, but it did disarm the battle, and to this day, it has become a code phrase between us, a shorthand to remind us to stay on the same team, and on odd holidays since then, one or the other of us will wish each other a “Happy Birthday, asshole”, or “Happy Valentine’s Day, asshole”. It is just such an awful, awful word to pair with anything celebratory that you cannot help but laugh.
So … my wedding anniversary and my husband’s birthday are the same day, thus insuring I forget both every year. But this year, I had a plan – a funny plan. Since we are super over-scheduled this month, and also have just undertaken a huge renovation on the new house (and therefore are super broke), this isn’t the year for the grand gesture, the big present, the wow moment, and I decided instead that it would be funny if I bought him a supermarket cake, and had them ice the phrase, “Happy Birthday, Asshole” on the top. But it turns out, not one bakery I contacted would do it. Apparently, even though I explained it was a silly inside joke, and he would love it, it is such an offensive idea that two bakeries said no outright, and one spent an extra ten minutes trying to anoint me with some old-fashioned Christian guilt about it.
I guess it’s cool with them that every cake I have ever gotten has had my name misspelled on it, but one swear word and everybody had to put down their frosting and get all judgmental and sanctimonious. Our anniversary and his birthday coincided with swim practice for the kids, so as we roasted in the hot chlorinated air of the pool’s viewing deck, I told my husband how bakery assistants all over town were firmly on Team Him, and nobody was willing to swear on his birthday cake, and he started laughing, and …
reader, I swear, this is how I know we are made to be married to each other …
he said, “I know. I couldn’t get them to write, ‘Happy Anniversary, Asshole’ on a cake for you, either.” And with that kind ofyuánfèn, what could I do, gentle reader, but swoon? We are just the 21st century Gift of the Magi, every day, around here.
So, I made my husband a mix cake from a box. And here is the worst part of the story – I don’t know what happened to it, but this was, hands’ down, the worst cake and frosting we have ever eaten, ever. Not just in the expected ‘from a box’ sort of way. the whole thing fell apart while being iced, slowly sliding in different directions, while the frosting from a can, rock hard at room temperature, ripped the top off of it and balled into little chunks of icing. Gamely, we tried to eat it, but … reader, I don’t say this lightly, but … it has to be thrown out. It is inedible. I never thought there was such a thing as bad cake, but there is, and I made one, and the best part of this whole story is, if I could have just gotten a cake that said, “Happy Birthday, Asshole” at least it would have tasted good.