tropes, truths, and of course, cake
I read this article in the NYT and had a mini revelation. (To ignore my musings, scroll down for a most delicious reason to put Widow Jane in your fairy cakes.)
I live in Brooklyn, I’ve got bangs, I’m all boobs and eyeballs and suffer from awkward social interactions that come off as charming. On the sliding scale of one to Zooey Deschanel, I’m just about to hit Elizabethtown. Yet regardless of my place on the manicpixiedreamgirl scale, the romantic indie comedy story lines of my life get constantly derailed from their scripts; the credits roll too early. The protagonist doesn’t follow a road map back to me; I don’t return in the autumnal postscript to show the broken-hearted hero the bling on my finger and my new quelled, calmed demeanor.
Yet, unlike the author, it’s not because I believe some ultra original love story exists. (I’ll blame some combination of too much lit theory and reincarnation on that one.) No, the revelation is I’ve been reading the wrong part. I’m the protagonist, and I was in love with a manicpixiedreamboy.
Whatever the trope, I fell hard.
It started off as an accident – one of those friend I-never-noticed-you-like-that situations, followed by we-shouldn’t-do-that-again. Then a few fateful run-ins, the hesitation and bad idea-ness begging to be acted upon. Then the friend-of-his-kissing-me one night as we were all leaving a bar, which prompted wild proclamations of I-need-yous and let’s-do-this over my protestations that this-would-never-work because you’re a nice boy and I’m a manicpixiewithbangs.
It did work. For a while. It worked when I thought I was the one that needed to be fixed, when I was spiraling and reeling and not ready. Together, we created art. We were inspired. I met his parents. I thought I was pulling him out of the dark, showing him the white spaces between the ominous shadows with muse-like sorcery, but it was the other way around.I was the one stuck. I was the one justifying, calming, anchoring. And when it got too close to domesticity, he was the one that would freak out.
“I just can’t have a girlfriend right now”
“I don’t need to be your girlfriend” I would respond, thinking the problem was in the signifier and not the situation. I’m free! I’m crazy! I’m manicpixieimperfectionperfection!
Ignoring every red flag I would wait patiently for mymanicurbanwoodsmandreamboy to come back to me after the flings with other girls, all of them, in my mind, mean or vapid or otherwise temporary. And each time he would, I would count it as a small victory. I’m a manicmusepixiedrug!
“We can’t do this!”, we would say, and do it all over again; breaking whatever good was left a little more each time.
But I can fix this.
And suddenly there I was, trying to rescue him when he didn’t need rescuing. I was the boring, patient, square believing I can fix this if I just love hard enough, want it enough, make that third act bold gesture, repeatedly, just in case it wasn’t the third act yet.
But no gesture, no bold act, can save what isn’t there. There is no worthy rewrite when the characters are just all wrong. I wasn’t the manicpixiegirlofhisdreams, and therefore I didn’t get to flit away into the presumably magic and wonderful elsewhere. I didn’t even end up happily-ever-after like some mainstream rom-com heroine.
The revelation is I have to be the protagonist in my own story, not the literary device. As the hero of the indie flick of this relationship, I had to learn to let go. The process of release made for a nice montage: woeful walks over bridges, wistful lingering at old haunts, moping about in his old sweatshirt posting melancholy instagram photos hinting at inner sadness while convincing everyone I’mfinethankyouverymuch.
I was pathetic, and not adorable Joseph Gordon-Levitt pathetic. Just pathetic pathetic.
True to form, my manicurbanwoodsmandreamboy showed up a few months after our final final goodbye with a wedding ring and a happily-ever-after.
I didn’t have any of those things. I had a thousand dollar therapy bill. I had even returned the sweatshirt. But I did have a new sense of character.
When the next manicurbanwoodsmandreamboy said “this will never work!” I took him at his word, and I let him go without a fight. Maybe we could have been the love story for the ages, but it wasn’t the role he, or I, was ready to play.
Fairy Cakes (ManicPixieDreamBoy Cake)
Pixies are like fairies, and in the UK, a fairy cake is like a tiny cross between a sponge cake and a yellow cake, but without the heaps of American cupcake frosting. I’ve urbanwoodsman-ed them up with some small batch bourbon and dreamy citrus.
- 8 Tbs (one stick) unsalted butter (softened)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- zest from one orange
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon bourbon
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 teas salt
- 1 1/4 teas baking powder
- 1/4 cup whole milk
for the icing
- 3 Tbs bourbon
- 3 Tbs fresh squeezed orange juice
- dash or three of bitters
- 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line twelve standard cupcake tins with paper liners.
- Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl, set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the vanilla and bourbon; add to the butter and sugar and beat until well combined.
- With the mixer on low, add flour mixture in two parts, alternating with the milk until just combined.
- Divide batter among 12 standard cupcake tins and bake for 18-22 mins until golden brown on the edges and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Mix all of icing ingredients in a small bowl; spoon icing onto cupcakes. Let sit for 30 minutes, serve or store in sealed container for up to 3 days.