So I'm reading my newest favorite blog, www.cakewrecks.blogspot.com. The cover cake wreck is a three dimensional rendering of the twin towers in NY with an emotive "We will never forget" in curlicue writing at the base of the towers. Trolling through more than 175 comments I find this curious nugget:
"In my opinion cake is normally used for celebration. (At funerals you usually see pie[.])"
True? I must admit I'm not a big fan of funerals. I express my sympathy better in writing, and my sadness in less public forums. But, of the five or six funerals I have attended, I can say for certain I've never seen cake NOR have I seen pie. I've seen plenty of deli platters and pre-fab fruit platters, and I have a vague recollection of one of those giant chocolate chip cookies decorated like a cake. And never have I heard someone say, "At funerals you see pie." What makes pie more suitable, more solemn, more commemorative than a cake? I know plenty of women (and some men) who drown their sorrows in brownies and cookies. Is there something about pie that just says, "So sorry someone died"? I don't get this comment at all.
This brings me to another question. What is it with funerals and grocery store catering? Where are all of the people who channel their grief and sadness into cooking? Why haven't they opened "Funeral Foods Catering Company" so they can make delicious food for post-funeral gatherings and wakes for the foodies who are too bereft to cook? Maybe this will be a challenge on the next Top Chef the funeral food challenge? What foods would you want to assuage your sadness at a funeral?
"I don't believe in traffic rotaries." This is a misuse of the English language that burns me the most. You don't BELIEVE in traffic rotaries? How can you not BELIEVE in them? They obviously exist, and it is likely you, the non-believer, has driven through one and found them aggravating or scary or frustrating. I think what you MEAN to say is "I don't LIKE traffic rotaries."
It is likely you, dear readers, have heard (or perhaps committed) similar misuse of the word "believe."
"I don't believe in red bean ice cream." "I don't believe in women serving in combat roles in the military." "I don't believe in zoos."
Most of the time, when I've heard people misuse the word "believe" what they are implying is they either don't like something, or don't endorse it. Try it. Insert the word "like" or "endorse" in any of the three phrases above. It works. And, it makes the speaker sound far more sane than your average holocaust denier.
Which leads me to my question. What is happening in our society that the weighty word "believe" has become a stand-in for the lighter word "like" or more emphatic "endorse"? Is this a natural outcome of the increasing role of the Christian right in our social life, where fundamental values and beliefs become the yardstick by which grocery store purchases and entertainment options are weighed? Is it simply a by-product of the American tendency to go to extremes in all manner of things?
Whatever the reason, I can say definitively that I don't believe in it.
"Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit, and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these."
--Susan B. Anthony