I’m standing outside the restaurant after my son’s birthday party. It’s a warm night on the King’s Road and I’m holding what’s left of his very large and chocolaty birthday cake to take home. As I wait for the guests to gather their jackets, my eye is caught by a woman approaching along the street. She is of a “certain age”. The one when you become certain you never want it mentioned. But she is clearly undernourished, paper thin, her Bulgari bracelets rattle like barrel hoops around her biro thick wrists.
A wave of pity overwhelms me. Can I really stand by, holding over 3000 calories of creamy good chocolate cake, while a fellow human, close to starvation, one who has probably not even tasted cake for thirty years, just passes by?
It just seems too inhuman.
‘Cake.’ I insist as she comes close. ‘Please, I’ve got plenty.’
She looks at it in terror. As if I had just reminded her of a traumatic memory she had obliterated along with butter, cream and chips.
‘I know it’s only Sainsbury’s but it’s still…’
Then, like a little fragile dying bird, with all her might, she summons what muscles in her mouth are left uninfected with botulism and gives me a polite tiny smile. With the slightest tremor of her head she declines before looking me up and down and recoiling from my own middle age spread as if it was Nutella.
And she is not alone. The King’s Road teems with the cake-free; emaciated cadavers being blown past shop windows in the breeze. Would you not spare some cake for these poor creatures? Could there not be a cake campaign: cake donors stationed at London’s most fashionable corners to help, or taunt, the fashionably famished?
Maybe, with people really starving in this world our sympathy is misplaced here? A life less cakeful is their choice after all. Isn’t it?
Thinness is the West’s burqa: marketed as a choice but so laden with cultural agendas and identity pressures – is it really possible to decide on objectively? Have these cakeless skeletons really chosen, or have they been enslaved by the cult, the idea of thin? If thinness weren’t a status statement, would anyone really choose to live entirely without cake? Thinness comes at a cost and status is all about what we can afford. It’s discipline, abstinence, low carb, excess leisure hours down the gym, it’s high metabolic stress caused by busy high flying jobs; in the world’s second most obese country, thinness is an elite club. It just says so much… with so little.
For my cake denier, my calories have come too late. Years of studied malnutrition have taken their toll: her skin hangs like fluttering shreds of translucent tan toilet paper; her cheekbones jut out to keep her pale shoulders in permanent night-time and as I watch her go I notice her shoulder blades protrude so prominently I wonder if she hasn’t just put her bra on backwards.
Once, it’s clear, she was a trophy but now she’s just atrophy; stuck in the competitive sport that teen girls eternally play with their gastro-intestinal systems. She hasn’t noticed she’s no longer a contender. It’s a young girl’s game. Fat and fifteen may be sad but thin and fifty is just wrong.
‘Come on,’ I chase after her. ‘it’ll do you good.’
I wave the cake after her but then in a sudden surge of melancholy realise that when you start to see women as too thin you’re no longer young, you’re no longer stirred in the loins by the fit, you’re middle aged, you’re a tut-tutting dad. You’re your dad.
I stop in envy of her delusional youth. It’s all too sad, I feel I could cry.
Luckily there’s some cake present.
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