Monday, August 18, 2008

I Swear

I've been feeling a little guilty about the tone of my last entry, my cartoon curses and sailor's tone, especially since my husband thought I should lighten up and write a little bit about some of the good aspects of owning one's own business. When I find out what those things are, I'll let you know, but in the meantime my last entry got me thinking about my language. I feel like a bit of a hypocrite. We do have a lovely little bakery here. It's cheery, well lit, with frosting colored walls and cases filled with yummy sprinkle topped cupcakes. Our main customers are little ones and their parents. We make fun little cookie decorated cakes that are often iced in pink or baby blue. Don't you just imagine Snow White in the kitchen, happily humming a tune as perfection emerges from her offset spatula? Well, OK, that IS Jess, our pastry chef, (most of the time) but it's not me. And that's the thing. This is the food business. Anyone who ever waited tables for a summer during college, or even just read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, knows that kitchens are foul-mouthed places, with f-bombs flying by the minute. While that's not exactly the case here, it could be. I enjoy swearing very much. It releases the tension. Since this is food, food to order with multi-faceted specifications here and there, and lots of orders that are all over the place in terms of designs and colors and names and messages to get right and ways to package them, things get f*#@ed up. I usually walk in the door to greet my co-workers not with "Good Morning!" but with "Anything bad?" Meaning, did the sh@$ hit the fan while I was out making a delivery or getting supplies. Food is a stressful business. People who go into food, I believe, generally have an earnest desire to please others. When this goes awry, even in the smallest way -- perhaps we don't live up to our own standards, not necessarily the customers' -- we feel it deeply. To compensate for the disappointment and frustration that comes with the job, I could drink or smoke or do drugs, but that's all very expensive and time consuming. My chosen vice is swearing. Mind you, I've cut it down since opening the store, for fear of little ones in earshot, and that it seems to unnerve the staff, but there was a time when it was much worse.

I used to share a bakery space with another cake person who ended up becoming a dear friend. I will out her here by saying she likes to swear, too. I won't say we bonded over it, but neither of us blinked an eye over a G*d d@#$%it or m&*(her f#%*er every so often. In fact, after I had my son and was out of the business for over a year, we would see or talk to one another as often as we could to catch up. She was in the throes of her successful business and of writing a book. And I remember noticing to myself when we chatted, she swore A LOT. Actually, I have no idea if it was a lot. It was some, but I had been out of the food business for so long and been dealing with a little baby instead of a little business, that any seemed like a lot. Without the food business, there was different stress that for some reason didn't call for that brand of swearing. But, a year and a half later, I was back in business, and back to my old ways.

So really, who cares, right? You may be wondering what this Polly Anna is going on about? Everyone swears. Yes, many do. Some even at work. Everyone while driving. I am less concerned about my French, and more concerned about this Mary Poppins/Eddie Murphy dichotomy I've got going. Is it a betrayal to all those who visit our bakery or website and get a warm fuzzy feeling from what we do to learn that it's a job, and an often frustrating, maddening, difficult one that drives people to seek solace in lunatic rants? Does it rain on the parade of all future cake decorators choosing this career for its sugarplums and moonbeams? Yes, it does. And I feel bad about that. But f#$& it.