I promise this is the last time I will mention my children's birthday, but I have a few words to say about the cake I made them. I will concede that the icing (that's English for frosting, y'all) was incredible. It was so soft and fluffy; it was like licking a pillow. But the cake itself tasted like an old boot, and I ran out of m&ms in the colours I needed, and the icing got totally full of cake crumbs (because the cake was so dry) and overall it failed to deliver the amount of self-satisfied, smug pride I was hoping for.
What happened was this: rather than finishing it and thinking 'hey look, I made a perfectly adequate cake!' I stepped back and looked at it and felt a huge rush of disappointment. Because it looked like this:
|Hey look! A perfectly adequate cake!|
But in my head, of course, I was thinking it would look like this:
|Now that's what I call a cake!|
Why would I feel disappointed? Why would I expect that my children should have some kind of food-as-sculpture experience for their third birthday? Frankly, I could have iced a shoebox and they would have thought it was great, so my disappointment was definitely not about them.
I blame Pinterest. And this is about more than cakes, and more than Pinterest. It's about how easy I find it to be disappointed with every aspect of my life, when I compare it to what other normal people are doing in the online-o-verse: blogs and facebook and all of it. I can ignore magazines - everybody knows that stuff isn't real - but these days there is a new level of voyeurism (and, okay, exhibitionism) about ordinary people's ordinary lives. I feel like every aspect of other people's lives is displayed on my laptop screen, and what I'm looking at always seems so fabulous.
If I'm being honest, I find it weird and sometimes difficult, being surrounded by this much fabulousness. I find that after too much time on social media, I feel like I must be unusually blobby and uncoordinated, live in an unusually small house, work in an unusually boring job, sew an unusually small number of hand-printed hand-woven organic toys, eat an unusually bad diet which is unusually low in kale, overall live an unusually mundane life and - also - make unusually bad cakes.
I wonder: is it because people stick whatever it is that they are best at all over social media? The cake people cover pinterest in cakes. The amazing photographers fill their blogs with lust-worthy photos. The people with incredible houses show us their spectacular interiors. The super-fit post their running updates. The crafters display their creations. The people with fabulous, flexible, jealousy-inducing jobs tell us about their schedules and their travel arrangements. And I...just have to admit that the conglomeration of all of it makes me feel bad about myself. I feel like everyone else is doing everything because I can see all of it all at once.
I know in my head that it is very, very unlikely that anybody is fabulous at all of these things. But somehow, that head-knowledge doesn't matter. All of this stuff blends together in my consciousness, and it feels like everyone blends together into a perfect, all-capable internet woman. She's vaguely crunchy, conscious, and intentional about everything she does. She's not perfect - oh no! but she's imperfect in an interesting, self-deprecating way, rather than a messy, boring, selfish way (like I am). In short, she has the 'I made it myself during my layover in Hong Kong and then I used it as a teachable moment and then my children wrote a song about it' life that I feel like everybody on the internet is living except for me.
(Please don't tell me that I shouldn't feel like this. I know I shouldn't feel like this, but the thing is, I do. And see, I think that you are judging me for feeling this way because you are Internet Woman, and Internet Woman doesn't give in to negative thought patterns like I do).
So the problem with Pinterest - and the rest of the internet - is that sometimes, it makes me really dissatisfied with myself and my life.
Apart from that, of course, I think it's fabulous.
I was talking a bit to my father about this (my parents have been visiting; hence the lack of posts) and bemoaning my lack of mad cake skilz. I had to make a second cake (a few days after the perfectly adequate one) for all the grandparents and he offered a solution culled from his favourite female columnist. (Incidentally, do not get me started on columnists - is there ever a job that was more alienating to the 99% of us who have to go and sit in an office to earn money? It seems to me that being a lifestyle columnist means being paid to write about problems with things that most of us will never experience. Maybe it's a UK thing, but it always seems to be witty anecdotes about how their favourite organic deli was out of cruelty-free salami or how the nanny doesn't speak fluent Japanese. That is NOT A REAL PROBLEM. Do you know how to get puke out of a twenty-dollar IKEA rug? Because that's the kind of life advice I need right now). Anyway, apparently this woman isn't that kind of lifestyle columnist, and I warmed to her when I heard the cake solution - basically, forget the cake. Buy a tub of icecream, buy a whole bunch of sweets (that's English for candy, y'all) and press the sweets into the surface of the icecream as if it was an iced cake.
I thought this was genius.
I'm going to cut a long story short here, people, and just tell you that it was a hot day. Hot day + ice cream + trying to balance large round chocolates on the edges of a rapidly melting tub of ice cream = NOT SMART. NOT SMART AT ALL. The takeaway here is that in a fight between gravity and a malteser, gravity is always going to win. And an idea that sounds too good to be true probably is.
And because I would hate for any of you to ever think that I am Internet Woman (not that I think there's much danger...) I'm going to show you a picture of the finished product, complete with m&m avalanche. Yes, I really served this to guests. So, jJust in case any of you struggle with feelings of internet inadequacy, I've got two words for you: