A couple months ago, one of my offspring (names have been removed to protect the guilty) confessed to eating too many cupcakes. The exact worry involved nutrition. “Cupcakes aren’t healthy enough. I should be eating healthier,” this person with DNA similar to mine said recently.
After discussing cupcake consumption with Said Descendant, as well as all the other, more nutritious foods being consumed regularly to offset the uptick in baked goods, I issued some brilliant maternal reassurance along the lines of “the cupcakes won’t kill you.” Then, in an effort to clarify this point, I repeated one of my Favorite All-Time Made-Up Principles, or FATMUPs, which amount to my system of rationalizing more or less everything in my life. The FATMUP governing housework, for instance: Sweep the floor when it crunches. The FATMUP governing cars: Buy a new one BEFORE a wheel falls off. (This is a long-held FATMUP of mine. Yup. Learned it from my mama. Yup. Baby-blue 1981 Chrysler K-car. Piece of shit. Yup. Right rear wheel. Clunk. Route 203, New Milford, Connecticut. Just like that. Yup.)
The FATMUP governing cupcakes, and all other forms of gustatory happiness in need of constant and hardcore rationalization, is one of my favorites. Simply put: Some foods have spiritual value. Some foods have nutritional value. Some have both. And some have neither, although these don’t merit FATMUP coverage and I have no idea, really, why such foods exist at all in our earthly realm. (Hello, God? This is Amy. What’s the reason for microwaveable breakfast sausage? Houseflies I can understand. And knee design. But why Jimmy Dean?)
Cupcakes, needless to say, have great spiritual value, containing the banked-up, baked-up, super-amazing power to make us happy, at least until we get high on glucose and then crash in an exhausted, sobbing heap 20 minutes later. Quinoa has great nutritional value, and while I am pro-quinoa, don’t you DARE suggest it has any kind of spiritual value comparable to a cupcake’s, because we both know it doesn’t. Some foods do, however, boast spiritual and nutritional value both: fresh blueberries, for instance. Roasted garlic. Dark chocolate, and don’t you DARE suggest it doesn’t have any kind of nutritional value whatsoever, because we both know it does. (Hello? Antioxidants?)
Which reminds me, I have a FATMUP governing dark chocolate specifically: Eat it while writing. And there’s a corollary: Eat it while not writing. My father owned two sets of pants, one pre-book, one post-book, because he always pounded away at his ding-a-licious manual typewriter with a stack of Hershey’s bars at his elbow. I don’t do manual typewriters. Or stacks of Hershey’s. I do a bar or so every few days, and it’s always the bitter stuff, 60 percent at least. Also, unlike my father, I have no need for two sets of clothes, BECAUSE I’M NEVER NOT EATING CHOCOLATE, SO WHAT WOULD BE THE POINT.
But seriously, folks. We shouldn’t belittle the import and impact of minor joys, because it’s often the minor joys that keep us going. The major joys are awesome: the ecstasy of romance, the miracle of birth, the parental love that fills and fills and fills us. But let us not diminish the power of the cupcake. Small things that bring us pleasure can help us make it to the big ones.
In his recent profile of the philanthropist Heinrich Medicus, my colleague Paul Grondahl wrote my favorite sentence all year: “He credits his happiness and longevity to wine and chocolate.” Go, Heinrich.
Sounds like a FATMUP to live by.