Last week my friend Don invited me to a surprise birthday party for his partner, Benjamin. When I asked what I could bring, he coyly asked, "Do you remember that tres leches cake you made that one time? Could you make that?!" Of course by 'that one time,' he meant a dinner party two and a half years ago. I had to take a minute to think back to it and, as I did, I found myself wondering, if Don remembered the cake two years later, was it really that good?
At the end of the party, I went to hug Don goodbye and remembered that I had a pressing question that needed an answer. As I approached Don, I confronted him about an unfathomable decision he had made a few months earlier when, without warning, he quit facebook. I meant to ask him about it when I got there, but found myself enjoying the company so much that I forgot all about his lack of internet presence [funny how that whole 'in-person interaction thing' works, isn't it?].
Talking to Don reaffirmed so much about what I had been ruminating over last week at Big Summer Potluck. In creating a facebook profile, you're presenting an image of yourself that's rarely a complete representation of who you are. Often times, I feel pressured to live up to this identity that's online because when I see people in person they see me as the Youtube videos I post, the snarky status updates, and, of course, the endless pictures of baked goods. But, if I wasn't worried about getting affirmation from a digitized thumbs up, what would I no longer be afraid to post? And would that profile really be a clearer, more multifaceted, accurate picture of me? Maybe, but most likely not. For all of the "other" things I put up, people associate me with food and respond most to those posts. **SPOILER ALERT** This may come as a shock, but I am way more than the cookies I bake. I have weird quirks, silly gestures, other hobbies (gasp!), and numerous interests that I like talking about... and some that I just don't. It can be exhausting to present a limited version of yourself to the world and even more so to then try to live up to it.
The other issue that came up was memory--how facebook just won't let things die. Sure, you can untag yourself from that picture of you and your ex, but it'll still be floating around your timeline when 12 of your mutual friends comment on it. Let's not forget friendships that were once vibrant and happy. When things go sour or you grow apart, facebook is there to remind you that you don't talk, that you had no idea s/he got a new job, that you weren't invited to the wedding. Maybe this makes you angry or leaves you with a pang of regret. Maybe you try to salvage things and maintain a shallow friendship or maybe it moves you to make futile efforts to save the sinking ship that has become your friendship.
The beauty of memory is that we can look back with fondness and maybe a tear at what used to be. We allow ourselves to remember friends as we want to, perhaps in more joyful times, rather than being reminded of the current state of affairs and guilting us because things will never live up to that image again.
What does this all have to do with cake? Well, the tres leches was a hot mess. I poured the three milks onto the cake, let them soak in and hermetically sealed the pan in 8 layers of saran to safety bike it to South Philly. Let's just say that, despite my efforts, it wasn't going to win any beauty pageants by the time it got to the party. Don is a Georgia boy, so I smothered it in the rest of the bourbon peaches from my failed BSP3 cheesecake tarts and blanketed that with a layer of dimpled, slightly overbeaten whipped cream. It still wasn't pretty. But, as my friend Ted pointed out, the cake wasn't trying to be anything delicate or chic looking. I knew it'd be messy to cut into just by looking at it. Despite its appearance, both Don and Benjamin agreed that it was better than the version they'd had two years prior. I didn't take a picture of the final cake (and I'm glad) because, judging by the way people rolled their eyes back at the first bite or how Don clutched the bowl of leftover cake to his chest like he was hoarding gold, I knew that the joy that the hot mess tres leches brought them would stay in their memory longer than any Pinterest-worthy picture would.