I’ve been a bit remiss in posting, apologies! I’m working on finishing my M.A. (due Tuesday, eep!) and just started an internship so I’ve been busy – not to mention my spontaneous surprise trip home to NYC for the weekend. PHEW. There’ll be a post on that soon, I think, but for now I want to do a quick post about something that happened on Wednesday.
My friend Genna (who I’ve posted about before) and I went to get some tea and cake before she herself goes back to NY for a bit. We walked into Inspiral in Camden, and were instantly greeted by a very weird experience. We each wanted a piece of cake, or dessert of some description. When it was finally our turn, I ordered a vegan raw cheesecake, and then Genna realised there was ice-cream. Her instant comment was “Oh, do you have the ice cream tubs?!” all bubbly with excitement. The man behind the counter instead went and retrieved two pieces of cake. His reasoning:
“Trust me, if men see you two eating this cake they will fall in love with you!”. By now he’d already taken both pieces out. Genna turned to me with a look of utter shock on her face. “I eat cake for myself, not for a man,” she said. I could feel anger and shock and something like disgust bubbling up in me. It was a joke, but it wasn’t harmless.
As he took our money, he referred to us as “my future wives” to which we both bristled so visibly he felt the need to then clarify it’s a joke he says to all women. Then he proceeded to serve the next woman, saying “what can I get for you my future wife?” It certainly didn’t make it better – in fact, it only made it more horrifying. We had been reduced to a function of our gender.
I wonder what would happen if the roles were reversed? Would a man be offended? Flattered? Would a woman think it was her prerogative to assume that level of familiarity with a stranger? If I were a lesbian and serving a woman and said that, how would that other woman feel? Or man? Or if I were trans and didn’t want to be anyone’s wife but someone’s husband? Why is it that people (men in this case) feel they can assume not only personal connection but, in a sense, domination over someone else (women in this case, me and Genna). We both have boyfriends, but that is somehow irrelevant. The fact that as women on our own we instantly exist for men’s gratification, in what we eat and how we dress and behave, is a fact of culture that is so pervasive that even at a place like Inspiral (a hippie-dippy vegan/raw cafe in Camden) it’s rife.
All I know is I love cake, and I will eat it whether men like it or not. Because it’s cake. And I won’t be going back to Inspiral. Not only because of the service I received, but because there’s no substitute, to me, for real cheesecake.