My husband Z turned 33 last week. When I asked him what cake he wanted as a present, he said a chocolate cake that’s “not too rich”. Ever heard of a chocolate cake that wasn’t rich? I haven’t. It’s like asking for steak without meat.
But that’s what you get when you suddenly find yourself with a health-conscious, iron-pumping husband in the house. It all started when a few of his b-boy friends dropped by a few weeks ago. Believe it or not, Z was a founding member of Radikal Forze, a pioneering breakdancing crew that started when hip-hop first took root in Singapore 10 years ago. He and his posse of breakers used to spin holes into the dancefloor in Zouk, sporting oversized jerseys and baseball caps way before it became standard attire for teenage boys everywhere.
He quit the group after two years but a few of the members carried on. F, who is now group frontman and one of the most respected b-boys in Asia, came by our house with three others for a visit. Because they pretty much make a living out of breaking, they have bodies as tight as pitbulls and, as Z described, rare muscle groups that were last seen on Brad Pitt in The Fight Club.
“Imagine if I’d continued with them,” Z said after they left, regaling me with tales of their conquests of overseas competitions and easy girls. And, as if to make up for the lost years, he started lifting weights every night, huffing and puffing in front of the bedroom mirror. In between sets, he would turn to me with triumphant shouts of “Bam!”
I’d ignore him, but inside, I found this recapturing of a former life a bit unsettling. Blame it on my postpartum hormones, but I began to wonder, could Z be regretting the life he chose when he married me? After all, I met him when he was only 26 and about to leave for London for an unscripted life of adventure. I was a greenie to his world of clubbing and all-night raves, an older woman with “Baggage” written all over my forehead. And yet, to borrow an expression from Beyonce, he liked it enough to put a ring on it.
He cancelled London and all of its freewheeling possibilities. Now, seven years later, he is leading a far less glamorous life with me, changing diapers and coaxing our kid in an Elmo voice to finish her food.
“What do you think would have happened if you went to London?” I asked him the other day.
“I’d become a rock star,” he said.
“No, seriously,” I said.
“I’d probably end up dead,” he said. Okay, that was a bit morbid. But I took it that he prefers the life he has now. There are no regrets.
So anyway, about the cake. I actually found a recipe that met his odd request – a guilt-free chocolate chiffon cake taken from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible. Because it contained no butter, it carried only 110mg of cholesterol. Moist and light as air, it was absolutely delicious taken with some mascarpone whipped cream. Z has been wolfing down big slabs of it every night after his workouts, pleased as punch about this healthy birthday present.
But the cake is really just a red herring. Z has often grumbled about how I always make fun of him in my blog. So this year, my real birthday present to him is this rare public declaration of affection. Happy birthday, Ah Chut. You’re my hero and I’m glad you took the detour.