The essay ‘Fever Faker’, from Sloane Crosley’s collection, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, begins with this disclaimer: “There are few diseases for which the cure is objectively as bad as the affliction. Cancer is one of them. Crack addiction is another. Lucky for me, I didn’t have either in the summer of 2005.” She goes on to recount a brush with hemochromatosis — a distinctly non-fatal blood iron imbalance. In a broad way, this passage exemplifies Crosley’s perspective throughout the book. She acknowledges, frankly, that she could have it much worse, that she’s glad she doesn’t, and from that point of departure she picks through the events of her experience realizing that part of what makes them accessible and funny is their relative smallness.
Above all else, Crosley’s essays are honest. She’s willing to accept the occasional ordinariness of her circumstances, and uses it to her advantage. When your biggest sins run from bad bridesmaid-ship to breaking vows of vegetarianism via rampant sushi consumption, it leaves you to examine the more commonplace parts of life — a hellish moving experience, an oppressive boss. And these occurrences are infinitely relatable; we remember the time we locked ourselves out, or the time we flaked on a volunteer assignment.
Crosley doesn’t shy away from the somewhat privileged timbre of her life, nor does she douse it in undue melodrama. In these stories, there’s no hard drug use, no nights on the street — there isn’t even much sex. But Crosley doesn’t deliver her essays covered in glitter, either. Her conversational tone, clever turns of phrase, and quick observations create an inviting, guileless space.
Ultimately, the title of Crosley’s collection says it all: we were told there’d be cake. And a parade for every new job, and a party every time we took out the trash. But we grow up, we move to the city, we separate our recyclables, and all we get is a new pile to separate next week. That our lives work in quiet ways does not necessarily surprise us or disappoint us. It does, though, let us commiserate and move on eagerly to the next chapter.