Excerpt from I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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I Was Told There'd Be Cake

By Sloane Crosley

I Was Told There'd Be Cake
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  • Paperback: Apr 2008,
    240 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa A. Goldstein

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BASTARD OUT OF WESTCHESTER

If I ever have kids, this is what I’m going to do with them: I am going to give birth to them on foreign soil—preferably the soil of someplace like Oostende or Antwerp—destinations that have the allure of being obscure, freezing, and impossibly cultured. These are places in which people are casually trilingual and everyone knows how to make good coffee and gourmet dinners at home without having to shop for specific ingredients. Everyone has hip European sneakers that effortlessly look like the exact pair you’ve been searching for your whole life. Everything is sweetened with honey and even the generic-brand Q-tips are aesthetically packaged. People die from old age or crimes of passion or because they fall off glaciers. All the women are either thin, thin and happy, fat and happy, or thin and miserable in a glamorous way. Somehow none of their Italian heels get caught in the fifteenth-century cobblestone. Ever.

This is where I want to raise my children—until the age of, say, ten, when I’ll cruelly rip them out of the stream where they’re fly-fishing with their other lederhosened friends and move them to someplace like Lansdale, Pennsylvania. There, they can be not only the cool new kid, but also the Belgian kid. And none of that Toblerone-eating, Tintin-reading, tulip-growing crap. I want them to be obscurely, freezingly, impossibly Belgian. I want them to be fluent in Flemish and to pronounce “Antwerpen” with a hint of “vh” embedded in the “w.”

Why go through all the trouble of giving a ten-year-old an existential heart attack by applying culture shocks like they were nipple clamps? Because, ten-year-olds of the world, you shouldn’t believe what your teachers tell you about the beauty and specialness and uniqueness of you. Or, believe it, little snowflake, but know it won’t make a bit of difference until after puberty. It’s Newton’s lost law: anything that makes you unique later will get your chocolate milk stolen and your eye blackened as a kid. Won’t it, Sebastian? Oh, yes, it will, my little Mandarin Chinese–learning, Poe-reciting, high-top-wearing friend. God bless you, wherever you are.

Uniqueness is wasted on youth. Like a fine wine or a solid flossing habit, you’ll be grateful for it when you’re older. Naturally, being born in a foreign country is not the only coolness savings bond out there, but it is an automatic vehicle into self-possession if there are no other cars on the road. Maybe you don’t come from the mansion on the hill or the worst shack at the foot of it. Maybe you’re not religious or a spelling bee prodigy. Maybe you’re not the youngest of nine kids or the child of a B-list movie star. Oh, but imagine if you had a South African accent. At least foreign citizenship is something you can point to and say, “This is where I come from. This is who I am.” I almost had it myself.

A sophomore in high school, I was successfully plodding through my suburban existence when my mother called me into the living room and told me we were moving to Sydney, Australia. For a year my father had been working at a division of his company in Sydney, communicating with us largely via fax. Then one day we had visas and passports and private schools picked out. I was nervous about leaving my life—change was one thing, but this much change smacked of the Witness Protection Program. I expressed concern about finishing high school at an institution paved in gingham, a place that didn’t involve gum under the desks or drug paraphernalia in the halls. What kind of environment was that for a child?

“Everyone in Australia goes to private school,” my father explained, a statistic that still makes little to no sense.

But soon Australian realtors were calling the house. I tried to talk to them for as long as they’d let me before I passed the phone over to my mother. They all sounded wonderfully like Olivia Newton-John. Had a pervert called up and faked an accent, I would have told them the truth—that my mother wasn’t home—instead of employing the classic “She’s in the shower.” (Kids across the country have grown up accepting the idea that no one can harm your family if at least one of its adult members is in the shower. No one knows why.)

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Excerpted from I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley. Copyright © 2008 by Sloane Crosley. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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