On Red Velvet Cake and Other Marital Mishaps

Earlier this week, Hubs and I celebrated our 13 year wedding anniversary. It’s widely known that home improvements are the traditional gift for the thirteenth year, right? (Okay, so really it’s lace, but… WHY?)

In any case, this year Hubs and I gave one another the super romantic gift of new windows for half the house. Nothing says “enduring love” like the tinkling sounds of hydraulic nail guns and long, whispered conversations about wood rot…

Since our actual anniversary took place amidst a flurry of construction, baseball practice, and meetings at the elementary school, we didn’t get out for a quiet dinner in a candlelit restaurant with white tablecloths or anything. But we did observe a time-honored tradition of enjoying one of our least favorite desserts, Red Velvet Cake.

Neither of us can say for sure how the Red Velvet Saga began. An early date, maybe? Before we knew one another well enough to be comfortable being totally honest? A visit to a restaurant where Red Velvet Cake is the signature dessert, at a time when our relationship was new and impressionable?

Red Velvet Cake Slices
Store-bought on paper plates on a weeknight – definitely our style.

At any rate, somehow each of us got the idea early on that Red Velvet was the other’s favorite dessert. And then, because we are both excruciatingly considerate about little things, we frequently each ordered or suggested Red Velvet Cake on future outings as a kindness to the other.

Hubs would point out that a restaurant had a yummy-looking cake on the menu because he thought I liked it. Which, of course, only reinforced my idea that it was his favorite. So when I picked up a box of gourmet cupcakes for a party or to celebrate our anniversary, I always made sure there was a red velvet in the mix. Which made him even more sure that I loved it the most….. and so on.

This went on for years. It was like The Gift of the Magi for baked goods. Sometimes I think of all the chocolate mousse and tiramisu and key lime pie we missed during that time and nearly weep.

We were six or seven years into our marriage when we finally figured it out. While the details are fuzzy, I remember standing in our kitchen, looking at an untouched cupcake or to-go slice and telling Hubs, “you should eat that. It’s your favorite.”

He looked genuinely confused. “No. It’s your favorite.”

“What? You love it. You’re always ordering it.”

“For you. Because you love it.”

“Are you kidding? Do you think I’m someone else?”

Well. You get the idea.

What we learned that day was that, while both of us think Red Velvet Cake is just fine every once in a while, neither of us would order it first given other options.

We learned that both of us are stubbornly kind and loving, and make a tremendous effort to politely meet one another’s needs. A good thing, on the whole, I’d say.

We also learned that sometimes it’s possible to be too polite and considerate of one another’s needs. A loving relationship should be a safe place to say what you like and don’t like. And to ask for what you want first, sometimes.

I can’t remember how it came up again, but we told this story to the kids a few weeks ago. They both thought it was hysterical and that special kind of weird only parents can be.

So when I came home on our 13th Anniversary this week with a store-bought red velvet cake to eat after baseball practice, it was an immediate, shared inside joke with the kids. We laughed together, we lit silly candles, and we told the whole stupid story again. None of us finished our slices, though. Apparently ambivalence toward Red Velvet is an inherited trait…

This is how family stories start, I think: one funny thing leads to another, and sharing it over and over brings more connection, until it’s part of the foundation of who we are together.

And you know what? I couldn’t ask for a better anniversary gift than that.

Hungry for More?

Easy as Pie Book Cover

My new contemporary romance novella Easy as Pie is out this week! Fill up on tasty food truck cuisine, reality TV drama and a delicious Irish bartender… all in a short, two-hour read, and all for under $2!

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MJ Pullen

M.J. Pullen is a distracted writer and the mom of two boys in Roswell, Georgia, where she is absolutely late for something important right now. Her books include quirky romantic comedies and playful women's fiction. She blogs erratically with writing advice, random observations, and reflections on raising very loud kids and dogs. Join her Distracted Readers newsletter list for updates, free content, giveaways and more.

2 thoughts on “On Red Velvet Cake and Other Marital Mishaps”

  1. JenniferJennifer

    When I was a kid growing up, we always had strawberry shortcake for my dad’s birthday (in May). Sometimes with pound cake (his mother), sometimes with angel food cake (my mother), but always, always, it was strawberry shortcake.

    UNTIL, that is, that one year when the cake was served and only my father and I were seated at the table. He fisted the fork, preparing to dig in…then paused and looked at me. “I HATE strawberry shortcake,” he announced with the resignation of a doomed man, before drawing a deep, fortifying breath and eating every bite.

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