|A Review By Rebecca James|
|I Was Told There'd Be Cake Sloane Crosley (2008)
I always try to watch the address bar instead of my fingers (perhaps if I'd shown "any effort at all" in Mrs. Hoffsteader's 9th grade typing class it wouldn't be such a challenge) as I begin to type in the website name: www.fac... and then it pops up all on its own. My new favorite social game, Facebook. With glee and a cup of coffee in hand, I completely reject the notion that I need to buy a TV for my new apartment. Who needs it? Facebook combines all of my favorite elements of texting, phoning, meeting, emailing, and gossiping. I hate to talk on the phone, but I love to keep in touch in a more remote way. I am truly a 21st century communicator. When I signed up, however, the pressure I felt to lengthen my friend list was daunting. How can it be that no one I know has an account? Other people have hundreds of "friends" online. Then it dawns on me. This is a new version of reality. These don't have to be people I see every day. This is how I remotely keep in touch with the people I don't get to see all the time. Slowly, the list is growing. It's fun to hear from people I haven't seen in years. I would have never dreamed to call them, but in this venue, it is perfectly acceptable to change the rules of socializing. It would have been great for my teenage self. I was a wild-looking but shy-acting kid who loved to create various identities for myself. Facebook would have been the perfect tool. It is possible to create and support only the aspects of yourself that you like. For a little while, at least. Then your brother posts a picture of you taking a tequila shot at an Annapolis bar while dancing between two of his friends and the whole refined, well-rounded, responsible individual comes tumbling down like, well, a girl with too many shots of tequila.
In her recently published collection of memoir essays, I Was Told There'd Be Cake, author Sloane Crosley revisits this favorite theme of mine, self-identity, throughout her essays. Although each essay could stand independent of one another, Crosley's humor and obvious amusement at her own childhood and adult thoughts and actions make for a great read. She moves easily among various ages, beginning with one of my favorite adult woman confessionals "The Pony Problem" and slipping easily into her middle school summer camp days in the following essay. Far from disjointed, Crosley's collection is like having a conversation with my friend Karen: her stories can leapsometimes wildlythrough time and space, but somehow she always comes back to some kind of point and a delicate thread to pull them all together. Fasten your seatbelt, I always think as I listen to Karen begin to digress. Like Cake, the ride is always fun.
"The Pony Problem," which Crosley places first in the book, caught my attention with her pages-long discussion of her innate fear of dying on the street with a dirty apartment at home. She claims this is a fear held by many of her fellow New Yorkers, but I have to admit it plagues me too. I am incapable of leaving the house without at least lining up the red wine-stained glasses next to the sink and piling up a week's worth of newspapers in a to-be-read stack on the coffee table. Then it would be plausible for the people investigating my death (I always imagine CSI New York, although I'm not sure why they'd be in Bethehem, PAI wouldn't want Stella or Mack to think I always had a layer of cat hair glued to the center of my couch; at least this way they might say something like, "this mess doesn't seem to fit her Facebook profile. She must have been in a hurry to leave. I wonder if that's our clue!?") Crosley describes the same phenomenon with her self-deprecating humor: "The day I get shot in a bodega (buying cigarettes, naturally) will in all likelihood be the day before laundry Sunday and the day after I decided to clean out my closet, got bored halfway through, and opted to watch sitcoms in my prom dress instead."
She goes on to describe what she fears the most: the discovery of her toy pony collection under the kitchen sink. In a brilliant connection, Crosley brings the dirty apartment story back to the main point. What she's writing all of her essays about is our struggle, in her case and mine that of a thirty-something single woman living in a technology-driven world, to have our constructed identities match our true selves, or was it the other way around?
Rebecca James divides her time between grad study and teaching in Pennsylvania and reading and relaxing in Rehoboth Beach. Direct comments and book suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 08 June 27, 2008