Bitter Sweetener

So, once again, today, at Starbucks, my husband told me that I could not get a coffee cake or a marble cake slice along with my cappuccino. I don’t take well to being told I cannot do something. He did the same thing at Peet’s the other evening.

This afternoon, he gave me an Orange Alert even before we queued up behind a couple of others at Starbucks.“And you don’t need to eat all that,” he said, in his grim airline counter voice, pointing to the cakes. “You know you just had a big meal at the wedding an hour ago.”

“But there was no dessert.”

“No. There was burfi.”

“But that was big. Too big.” My husband doesn’t get it. I cannot eat burfis the size of South Dakota along with lunch.

“And, in any case, I wanted something sweeter,” I said. “And smaller.”

“There was that kheer.”

“That was before. Long before lunch.”

By now, it was our turn at the counter and the Starbucks lady seemed to be enjoying our bickering. “I’d like a small cappuccino,” I said, turning to the woman.

All of a sudden, I felt the inner glow of all the women who had gone before me. I heard the strident cry of Rani of Jhansi asking me to fight for my craving. I heard the slam of Kannagi’s anklet on the stone floor. I heeded Betty Freidan’s whisper: “The real enemy is women's denigration of themselves.” Then there were the words of Gloria Steinem in my ears: “Once we begin to ask [questions], there's no turning back.”

While the Starbucks clerk stood in front of me nonplussed, I broke into a crazy laugh. “You know what? I do want that coffee cake—the slice, not the other kind that looks like a muffin—AND I want a small cappuccino, extra hot.”

And while I hurried away from the counter, my good man pulled out his wallet, his face churlish. He remained that way for a while afterward although he knew that I knew that a giggle hovered at the edge of his lip.

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