I Was Told There'd Be Cake

I Was Told There'd Be Cake

by Sloane Crosley


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Hailed by David Sedaris as "perfectly, relentlessly funny" and by Colson Whitehead as "sardonic without being cruel, tender without being sentimental," from the author of the new collection Look Alive Out There

Wry, hilarious, and profoundly genuine, this debut collection of literary essays is a celebration of fallibility and haplessness in all their glory.

From despoiling an exhibit at the Natural History Museum to provoking the ire of her first boss to siccing the cops on her mysterious neighbor, Crosley can do no right despite the best of intentions — or perhaps because of them. Together, these essays create a startlingly funny and revealing portrait of a complex and utterly recognizable character who aims for the stars but hits the ceiling, and the inimitable city that has helped shape who she is. I Was Told There'd Be Cake introduces a strikingly original voice, chronicling the struggles and unexpected beauty of modern urban life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594483066
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/01/2008
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 137,385
Product dimensions: 7.94(w) x 5.08(h) x 0.62(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Sloane Crosley is the author of the new collection Look Alive Out There, the novel The Clasp, and the bestselling essay collections How Did You Get This Number and I Was Told There'd Be Cake, which was a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor. Her essays and criticism have appeared in The New York Times, New York Observer, the Village Voice, Playboy, Teen Vogue, Salon, Black Book, Radar, Maxim, and The Believer. She lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

The Pony Problem

As most New Yorkers have done, I have given serious and generous thought to the state of my apartment should I get killed during the day. Say someone pushes me onto the subway tracks. Or I get accidentally blown up. Or a woman with a headset and a baby carriage wheels over my big toe, backing me into some scaffolding which shakes loose a lead pipe which lands on my skull. What then? After the ambulance, the hospital, the funeral, the trays of cheese cubes on foil toothpicks…
Back in the apartment I never should have left, the bed has gone unmade and the dishes unwashed. 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. I have pictured my loved ones coming to my apartment to collect my things and I have hoped that it would only be “lived-in” messy—bras drying on the shower curtain rod, muddy sneakers by the door. But that is never going to happen. My dust balls have a manifest destiny that drives them far beyond the ruffle of the same name.

I like to think that these hypothetical loved ones would persist in their devotion to dead me no matter what. They would literally be blinded by grief, too upset putting sweaters in boxes to notice that I hadn’t dry-cleaned them in a year. That is, until one of them made his or her way to the kitchen.

“Where are you going?” my father would ask.

“Packing up her bedroom’s much too painful,” my mother would tell him, choking back the tears. “I’m going to start on the kitchen.”

This is the part I dread. This is the part where my mother would open the drawer beneath my sink only to discover my stash of plastic toy ponies. There are about seven of them in there. Correction: one’s a Pegasus, blue with ice skates. The rest vary in size, texture, and realism. Some are covered in brown felt, some have rhinestone eyes. Some come with their own grooming brushes; others with the price sticker still on their haunches. If they arrived in plastic and cardboard packaging, they remain unopened as if they will appreciate like Star Wars figurines. Perhaps they are not the dirtiest of dirty secrets, but they’re about as high as one can get on the oddity scale without a ringer like toenail clippings.

I’m not exactly sure how the ponies happened. Though I have an inkling: “Can I get you anything?” I’ll say, getting up from a dinner table, “Coffee, tea, a pony?” People rarely laugh at this, especially if they’ve heard it before. “This party’s supposed to be fun.” a friend will say. “Really?” I’ll respond, “Will there be pony rides?” It’s a nervous tic and a cheap joke, cheapened further by the frequency with which I use it. For that same reason, it’s hard to weed out of my speech—most of the time I don’t even realize I’m saying it. There are little elements in a person’s life, minor fibers that become unintentionally tangled with our personality. Sometimes it’s a patent phrase, sometimes it’s a perfume, sometimes it’s a wristwatch. For me, it is the constant referencing of ponies.

I don’t even like ponies. If I made one of my throwaway equine requests and someone produced an actual pony, Juan Valdez-style, I would run very fast in the other direction. During a few summers at camp, I rode a chronically dehydrated pony named Brandy who would jolt down without notice to lick the grass outside the corral and I would careen forward, my helmet tipping to cover my eyes. I do, however, like ponies in the abstract. Who doesn’t? It’s like those movies with animated insects. Sure the baby cockroach seems cute with CGI eyelashes, but how would you feel about fifty of her real-life counterparts living in your oven? And that’s precisely the manner in which the ponies clomped their way into my regular speech: abstractly. “I have something for you,” a guy will say on our first date. “Is it a pony?” No. It’s usually a movie ticket or his cell phone number or a slobbery tongue kiss. But on our second date, if I ask again, I’m pretty sure I’m getting a pony.
And thus the pony drawer came to be. It’s uncomfortable to admit, but almost every guy I have ever dated has unwittingly made a contribution to the stable. The retro pony from the ’50s was from the most thoughtful guy I have ever known. The one with the glitter horseshoes was from a boy who would later turn out to be gay. The one with the rainbow haunches was from a pot dealer, and the one with the price tag stuck on the back was given to me by a narcissist who was so impressed with his gift he forgot to remove the sticker. Each one of them marks the beginning of a relationship. I don’t mean to hint. It’s not a hint, it’s a flat out demand: I. Want. A. Pony. I think what happens is that young relationships are eager to build up a romantic repertoire of private jokes, especially in the city where there’s not always a great “how we met” story behind every great love affair. People meet at bars, through mutual friends, on dating sites, or because they work in the same industry. Just once a guy asked me out between two express stops on the N train. We were holding the same pole and he said “I know this sounds crazy but would you like to go to a very public place and have a drink with me?” I looked into his seemingly non-psycho-killing, rent-paying, Sunday Times-subscribing eyes and said, “Yes, yes I would.” He never bought me a pony. But he didn’t have to.

If I subtract the overarching strangeness of being a grown woman with a toy collection, I like to think of the ponies as a tribute to my type—I date people for whom it would occur to them to do this. This is not such a bad thing. These are men who are creative and kind. They hold open doors and pour wine. If I joined a cult, I like to think they would come rescue me. No, the fulfilling of the request isn’t the problem. It’s the requesting that’s off. They don’t know yet that I make it all the time and I don’t have the heart to tell them how whorish I am with my asking. They give me the pony and I laugh and hug them. For them, it’s a deleted scene out of Good Will Hunting. For me, it’s Groundhog Day. They have no reason to believe they’re being unoriginal. Probably because they’re not: I am. What am I asking when I ask for a pony but to be taken for more unique than I probably am?

The ponies, if by accident, have come to represent the most overtly sentimental part of my life. Because all of these relationships have ended, they have ended more or less badly. No affair that begins with such an orchestrated overture can end on a simple note. What I am left with is the relics of those relationships.

After a break-up, I’ll conduct the normal break-up rituals. I’ll cut up photographs, erase voice mails, gather his dark concert t-shirts I once slept in and douse them with bleach before I use them to clean my bathtub. But not the ponies. When I go to throw them away, I feel like a mother about to slap her child for the first time, to cross a line she never intended to cross. She’s spitting mad. The arm flies up. And it never comes down.

Yet I feel a pressure to do something with the ponies. Statistically speaking, my chances of getting smacked on the head with a lead pipe are increasing every time I lock the door behind me. Also, a drawer full of beady-eyed toys is insanely creepy. But what to do?

Actual love letters I do in stages. I biannually clean out drawers of nonsensical items—receipts, loose Double “A” batteries, rubber bands and paperclips of indeterminate origin—and stumble across a love letter. Unable to throw it out, I stick it in another drawer, crammed at the bottom, until I clean that one out too, and finally, throw the letter out. One romantic note generally goes through a minimum of three locales before it gets tossed out for good. But the ponies are uncrammable. They’re three-dimensional and bubblegum-scented and impossible to hide, even from myself. Every time I open the drawer, it’s a trip down Memory Lane, which, if you don’t turn off at the right exit, merges straight into the Masochistic Nostalgia Highway. They are too embarrassing to leave out in the open, facing west like a collection of china elephants. They are too many to slide under the sofa. They are too plastic to wedge behind the radiator. I want to send them around the world like the Travelocity gnome, have them come back to me years from now when I have an attic in which to shut them away. As if all this weren’t enough, there is that flash of my mother dressed in black, staring aghast into the open kitchen drawer. In a city that provides so many strange options to be immortalized by the local tabloids, it is just as important to avoid humiliation in death as it is in life.

“What is it?” my father would shout, imagining of all the things you never like to think of your father imagining: flavored condoms, pregnancy tests, a complete set of Third Reich collectors’ cards.

“Look!” my mother would howl, picking up Ranch Princess Pony (with matching bridle and real horseshoe charm necklace!) by her faux flaxen mane. Just before she passed out.

My first thought is to go to the Salvation Army and donate the ponies to children. But the notion turns me into an insta-hippie—the ponies have bad karma. I wouldn’t just be giving some kid Stargazer (with the glow-in-the-dark mane) I would be giving her Manic-Depressive Simon, who talked back to billboards and infomercials and kicked me in his sleep. My next idea is to leave the ponies in the trash for a homeless person to find and sell on the street. But I can’t risk seeing them on a table with used books and polyester scarves as I walk to the subway each morning. I think about burying them in the park but have my doubts about the ponies’ biodegradability. I think about burning them, melting them into a puddle of plastic as their real-life counterparts had once been melted for glue. Maybe I’ll just sneak out to the reservoir after dark with a raft made from pool noodles and rubber bands and give them a Viking funeral.

While each subsequent idea is tilled from a progressively more unsophisticated plot, I know that I can’t simply throw the ponies out with the trash. The ponies have their roots in me, not the other person. They are my nervous habit, my odd little secret. While each serves as a memory of a specific individual, each memory is filtered through the same brain: mine. The ponies are a part of me—they deserve better than that. The keeping of love letters suddenly seems like a petty crime. I have the romantic equivalent of a body in the freezer.

So I put the ponies in a black plastic bag, grabbing them out of their drawer like a jewel thief who, for the sake of urgency, does not consider the preciousness of each object. I tie the bag in a knot, leave the apartment, and take them with me on the subway. I get on a sparsely populated car, drop them between my legs and begin casually pushing them further under the seat with my heels. Then, just as casually, I forget to take them with me when I get up. I leave them there on the N train, bound for Brooklyn.

Of course, the second the doors shut, I realize what I have done. Actually, that’s not true. The second the doors shut, I feel great. Sneaky and great and nostalgia-free.

The second after that I realize what I have done. In my effort to liberate myself from the ponies, I have given some poor girl at the end of the subway car a solid reason to think she might not make it back to her apartment that night: a suspiciously abandoned unmarked package on public transport. I wonder what must be racing through her mind as she sits motionless, unable to turn her gaze away from the lumpy plastic bag. I wonder if she flashes back to her apartment—to the dust, to the expired yogurt in the fridge, to the terrible DVDs which she won’t be able to explain were “a gift.” Perhaps she has her own holy grail of humiliation. Perhaps there’s a collection of porcelain bunnies in the medicine cabinet.

In any case, the ponies are gone. They are on their way to a borough where eventually they will hit the end of the line and cycle back into the heart of the city. Unless the bomb squad finds them first. They are finally out of my sight and not even an 8.5 on the Nostalgia Richter Scale can summon them back. I created them and now I have uncreated them and there is nothing I can do about it. Except maybe continue to look both ways before crossing the street and avoid areas with a high saturation of random violence. I breathe a sigh of resolute relief. From now on I will make a conscious effort to remember—should I find myself face-to-face or pipe-to-skull with the end of my life—that the real proof I have tried to love and that people have tried to love me back was never going to fit in a kitchen drawer.

What People are Saying About This

Jonathan Lethem

Sloane Crosley is another mordant and mercurial wit from the realm of Sedaris and Vowell. What makes her so funny is that she seems to be telling the truth, helplessly.

From the Publisher

“Whether you’re involved in a love/hate relationship with just yourself or with the entire world, these essays will charm the pants off you—but not so as you’ll feel violated. Sloane Crosley is bright and funny and enchanting. This is a sparkling debut.”
Meghan Daum, author of My Misspent Youth and The Quality of Life Report

  “Hilarious and affecting and only occasionally scatological, I Was Told There’d Be Cake is lively reminiscence about growing up strange. Sardonic without being cruel, tender without being sentimental, Sloane Crosley will win you over with this delightful debut.”
Colson Whitehead, author of Apex Hides the Hurt

“I love Sloane Crosley. In I Was Told There’d Be Cake, she navigates the social, the moral, the romantic experiences that prompt her to create her own voice and freshly define the world around her. Crosley is a post-modern Mary Tyler Moore, and this book is wry, generous, knowing—a perfect document of what it is to be young in today’s world.”
A.M. Homes, author of This Book Will Save Your Life and The Mistress’ Daughter

  “Sloane Crosley is another mordant and mercurial wit from the realm of Sedaris and Vowell. What makes her so funny is that she seems to be telling the truth, helplessly.” 
Jonathan Lethem, author of The Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn

“Charming, elegant, wise, and comedic, these essays absolutely sparkle and entertain. Sloane Crosley is a 21st Century Dorothy Parker, and this book is a gem and heralds a wry new voice in American letters. Gorgeous writing, outrageous humor—it’s all here!”
Jonathan Ames, author of Wake Up, Sir!

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I Was Told There'd Be Cake 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 128 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I highly enjoyed this book. Sloane has a unique and profound way of looking at the world. I look forward to her next book.
Charlie9 More than 1 year ago
This book was a refreshing escape after a long day of work. The author is witty and delightfully self-deprecating in her storytelling about otherwise normal day-to-day life in New York. I was sad to finish it! Her writing is similar to Dave Sedaris. Looking forward to reading her other works.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very entertaining set of essays by the author of How Did You Get This Number? Specifically requested by a friend who had the other book.
SET More than 1 year ago
I saw that this book had mixed reviews, but based on what looked like a fun first chapter I gave it a shot anyway. Now I wish I had read a bit further. The writing style reminds me of some of the wittier columns written by journalism students at my college newspaper. A third of the way into it I'm wondering who this author knew in the publishing world and how she leveraged that into a boook deal. I'm not usually so neagative, but if I can stop one person from wasting their $12.99...
mishawaka-bookie More than 1 year ago
From the start Sloane Crosley's "I was told there'd be cake" tucks you into her magic world of sharply witted words and delectable charm---much the same way writer Dorothy Parker did nearly ninety years ago. Crosley's seemingly effortless flow of words and gabs, would have fit squarely in the infamous Algonquin Round Table made famous by Parker and her clever friends. Fresh eyes bring fresh insight, and to author Sloane these traits glue like butter to her psyche. If laughing out loud is for you when your reading, by all means grab this book and covet it. It won't disappoint. I'm only disappointed in the fact the book wasn't sold with a gem of a cake to indulge with along with it. Sliced right though, this book will do nothing but smile right back at you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If only you could rate it lower. I was so excited to get this book in the mail because I had been on an essay kick with the likes of Sarah Vowell and David Sedaris. The author/narrator of this book so so irritating that I was almost unable to get to the end of the book. On the other hand, if you are looking for a book to make you feel better about yourself, this could be stimulating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely hysterical! I would take this book during my commute into work and everyone on the bus would stare at me because I couldn't stop laughing out loud. Maybe because I am a late 20's new yorker myself, but I could totally relate to her stories. I felt like someone was telling the ridiculous stories that my friends and I have shared. Fun, lighthearted,get ready to laugh, read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was really excited to read this book and was pretty disappointed. I expected to laugh out loud and mostly just smiled a few times. Maybe I didn't understand her humor but the stories she told just seemed boring to me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I finished 'I was told There'd Be Cake' a good week ago and my face still smarts from laughing so hard and so often. Sloane Crosley is a rare, precocious talent and I'm permanently beholden.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was laughing outloud in public thanks to Sloane. The essays are more of a stream of consciousness than anything else. Luckily her thoughts are an endless parade of funny situations. I am waiting for more cake as well!!!
miriamparker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Funny and wry. Makes me wish that I had figured out a way to write about my relatively normal Westchester upbringing and career in book publishing. Now that's been done. Sigh.
alana_leigh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you're making an "authors to watch" list, I sincerely hope you add Sloane Crosley to it. I picked this up on a whim as a result of a Borders "buy one get one half off" deal. It was certainly worth the purchase, because what I received was an introduction to a delightful new voice. At first, I thought of her as somewhat reminiscent of David Sedaris (only in the form of a twenty-something straight female living in New York), but she didn't seem to be cannibalizing family and friends to the degree that Sedaris does. Of course, then I kept reading and found that she does, indeed, draw heavily on her family and friends, but not quite in the same way. Perhaps we should give her time on that one, though.By far, my favorite story was the very first one, "The Pony Problem," in which Crosley touches upon a fear that I myself have felt. (Indeed, the book is full of moments that feel familiar, but then, I'm also a twenty-something straight female living in New York.) She describes the fear that many New Yorkers have (though really, I don't see why it should be such a New York thing) of leaving our apartments in disarray because there is the chance that we could wind up dead... thus leaving our friends and family with this visual of our messy, cluttered apartment. But it's more than that. Everyone has something stashed in their apartment that they might not want a parent to find. (See the TV show Coupling for the definition of "porn buddy.") And for Sloane Crosley, this comes in the form of a drawer full of plastic ponies. During the course of her adult life, she has acquired several plastic ponies as a result of a nervous tic like joke that she makes, and her significant others misinterpret it as a unique joke between them... except it happens with every single one.Also delightful in all its painful glory is "The Ursula Cookie" where Crosley talks about her time as an assistant in terms of an abusive relationship. And if that's not enough, it gets even worse when in one of those "it seemed like a good idea at the time" moments, she bakes and decorates a cookie to look like her boss's head... and makes a present of it.I found Crosley to be delightfully funny and quite enchanting. I shall be recommending this as a quick read to many of my girlfriends... or perhaps I'll simply save it and give it to everyone for their birthdays.
librarygeek33 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I couldn't get through this. The first story was hilarious. It was worth 2 stars on its own. Maybe I should have soldiered on and read the third selection. Oh well. Too many books to read, too little time.
sacrain on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was interesting. I kept waiting for it to make me laugh out loud, like David Sedaris or Laurie Notaro, but it was more of a quietly clever read. Sloan Crosley is definitely a talented writer, and I think if my expectations had been more realistic going into this book I would have given it a 4.5. Her essays were clever and there are several turns of phrase that were impressive. But it also felt a little like listening in on one of her therapy sessions.I would recommend this book to anyone in their mid 20's. Or anyone trying to relate to young women in their mid 20's. I know that's kind of a generic recommdation, but I think that's the target group for this book.
kaelirenee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Eh--it's another way-too-New York City type memoir. I guess for some folks, hearing as much as possible about NYC is great. The parts of the novel when she actually talked about other issues were much more interesting. The author and I are the same age, so I went through many of the same things she did. I loved the section on the Oregon Trail. The chapter on her name was also wonderful because, being named Kaeli, I can relate (Mozilla is currently telling me I've spelled my name wrong). So, in short, I like this better than Nora Ephron's 'I Fell Bad About My Neck,' but only because the author and I are closer in age.If I could have eliminated any NYC-heavy story and left myself with the stories about trying to get a one-night stand and being the only non-Christian in a Christian summer camp, I would have been a very happy camper.
alanna1122 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this collection of essays. I was drawn in by the title which is - I believe - the best title possibly ever.Crosley's stories about life as a 20 something in New York were funny and rang true. I am really tired of reading the same old NYC stories - and no longer in my 20s I didn't know if I would find her essays entertaining. It was all a happy surprise. She is funny, a little offbeat and decidedly self-effacing. A really enjoyable read - she is someone I wouldn't mind hanging out with - she was that real - and that entertaining.
helpfulsnowman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a quirky, fast collection of essays. The first essay, the one I liked best, is the one to read if you're not sure if you'll like the book. If you don't get into it, I'd say leave the book alone. But if you like it, keep on truckin'. Oh, and this book also contains the most complete treatise on the PC game Oregon Trail that you'll find anywhere.
SeeHeidiRun on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A collection of short essays, autobiographical in nature. The funniest is "You on a stick," which details Crosley's experiences as a maid-of-honor to an old friend (Whom, by the way, she hasn't seen in approximately a decade). Pretty funny stuff.
delphica on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Everyone I know said this was meh, and it was meh. There were a few interesting bits -- I always like a good wacky summer camp story -- but overall the author is a little too convinced of her own sparkly uniqueness.Grade: C-Recommended: Meh.
loafhunter13 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Humor, New York, self-discovery, witty, essays
_________jt_________ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you love David Sedaris, you won't hate Sloane Crosley.
nivramkoorb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very funny and very well written. Of course she will be compared to David Sedaris but the more writers like David Sedaris the better. She was just in San Francisco and I am sorry that I missed her. It is easy with authors like this to be critical because they write from a privileged point of view. Books like these are a good change of pace and give me a good chance to tie in to the young single view point.
Ellen-The-Librarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Yes, my parents named me "Slow." That's because they hate me and made me sleep in the linen closet subsisting only on bath salts and scope." I had high hopes for "I Was Told There'd Be Cake." With a pithy title and great reviews, Sloan Crosley was being compared to David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell. I wanted to like this book, I expected to like it but, unfortunately, I think Crosley falls short of the mark she was reaching for. Don't get me wrong, there are some very funny parts to this book. Parts that made me snort diet coke through my nose. Being funny isn't Crosley's problem, it's being sincere. I found myself skipping the last few pages of each essay, or at the very least wishing I had skipped those pages, when she tries to wrap everything up in a pretty bow and tell you what she's learned from these mock-adventures. I like Crosley's writing style and I think that if she had stuck with just being funny without having to tie in a "moral of the story" she would have come out with a better product.
nglofile_reads_2008 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Funny beyond my expectations. Perhaps I enjoyed it so much because I wasn't aware of the hype, but I can't help but sometimes wish my writing were this entertaining.
tipsister on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm never sure what to expect when I read non-fiction. Sometimes it can be extremely dry, sometimes it can be warm and sometimes it can be a lot of fun. In the book, I Was Told There'd Be Cake, Sloane Crosley shares moments in her life through a series of essays.I enjoyed the book for the most part. I read it fairly quickly and read some of it out loud to various friends and family. The author does not portray herself as a warm and fuzzy person which caused the stories to lack emotion. I'm sure that she is a perfectly nice person but I found myself wondering how she really felt in the situations she described. That was lacking for me.I also was looking for more of a timeline but since these were essays on her life, and not a straight memoir, I understood the reason for it. I'm just a very linear person. All in all, it's a good read. I recommend it to those who enjoy reading David Sedaris or Jen Lancaster. I find Ms. Crosley to fit between the two. Not as jaded as Sedaris and not as funny as Lancaster.