01 October 2015



 “Do you want me to make you anything special for your birthday?” Dave asks.

     “Yes,” I say, “cake.”

    His mouth falls open.

    “With ice cream. And hot fudge.”

    “Are you serious?” he asks. My husband’s expression, his entire body language shouts, I’ve been waiting all year for this!

    We decided to avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners this year as much as possible. The no’s started on New Year’s Day. No cake, no cookies, no candy, no chocolate chips. Worse, no ice cream.

    Amazing the prepared foods laced with sugar: bread, snack crackers, red beans, creamed corn, dried fruit, light mayo, marshmallows. Many others. 

    We’ve changed our eating habits. No coffee creamer. No dry cereal with any taste. We now dress salads with oil and vinegar. For dessert, bananas—or apples, almonds, plain yogurt, muffins made with fruit juice concentrate instead of sugar, and so on.

    I’ve been resolute. (Dave calls it stubborn.) I’m like that. Once my mind clamps down on an idea I’ll face hell and high water before I let go.

    Of late I’ve met Count Chocula’s gaze without flinching. Told the NestlĂ© bunny to get lost. And shed 30 pounds since January. This strengthens my resolve.

    So my birthday request surprises Dave. “What kind of cake do you want?” he asks.

    “Something light,” I say, grabbing a vintage cookbook. “Here: Dorothy’s Fabulous Oatmeal Cake. But just a half-recipe, please—one layer.”

    A few days later Dave unveils his masterpiece: a nine-inch round cut in half, stacked two layers high, slathered with coconut-pecan penuche. I forget to breathe.

    I want that cake. I WANT it. It surprises and shames me how much I want it. Want all of it. Am prepared to face down anyone who’d dare stop me, even Dave.

    I’ve forgotten sugar has this effect on me.

    My intense craving reminds me of a gruesome passage I read, maybe in one of Anne Rice’s vampire novels.

    Two sexy young men fall for each other. Their love is doomed. Not only does medieval society forbid such relationships, a vampire wants one of them as his new boy toy.

    The vampire stakes his claim during a bloody necking session. The youth resists the older man’s advances, then refuses to embrace his own fateful transformation.

    The young lovers are imprisoned separately in a castle dungeon. Jailers ply the one with food; they starve the other.

    Crazed with hunger and a thirst he’s never known, the boy toy collapses against his cell door. It opens. He wanders a dark corridor, senses a warm-blooded animal presence ahead. His lips pull back from his teeth. He snarls.

    He nearly flies down the hallway, attacks, eats, drinks. Only afterward does he realize he’s killed his lover. No matter. The transformation is complete. He is vampire.

    Eying my birthday cake, I can relate.

    Desire is the thing with teeth. I know this. Although I’m a novice when it comes to erotica, I can devote hours looking at pictures of sexy men. That photos still fascinate me my friend Jim finds quaint. Like most gay men I know, he prefers online videos.

    “A magazine with nude pictures used to excite me,” he says. “Now it’s passĂ©. I’ve been desensitized. It takes more and more extreme images to get me off. Some nights I spend two hours surfing for the one video that will do it.”

    He pauses. “And you know what? It’s dampened my desire for one-on-one human contact. The men I meet in real life never measure up to what I can see online.”

    Another friend tells me he stopped watching internet porn after hearing a TED talk about how pornography zaps the power of the imagination. He abstained for three months.

    I’d probably last three days. My steadfast refusal to get wired is in part, self-preservation. If we had internet access at home I fear I’d turn vampire. I forget that eye candy, like ice cream, is best enjoyed in moderation. Desire bites the hand that feeds it. Sometimes the neck.

Image credit: detail, Temptation of Saint Anthony, by Grünewald