C.S. Lewis’ Anti-Vivisection Argument

I had to schlep to the library my alma mater, UC Davis, to find C.S. Lewis’ essay, “Vivisection.”640px-UCDavis_PeterJShieldsLibrary
Above: The UC Davis Shields Library, photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons

In other words, it took some effort to track it down, which is why I am posting the essay online. I found the essay included in C.S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces (pp. 693-697).

I first became aware of the essay through its mention in an excellent recent biography of Lewis authored by Alister McGrath, called, C.S. Lewis A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet.
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Above: C.S. Lewis enters The Wardrobe: Statue in Belfast, Ireland (his birthplace), photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons

The entire essay called “Vivisection” was difficult to come by. I could find the piece locally neither in a library nor bookstore, and not only, it was difficult for me (and therefore would be for others, I assume) to find, I am posting the essay online without permission, in order that it can be read for the widest number of people as possible. I do not endorse the reproduction of this material for the use of financial gain, and do not intend to maliciously violate any copyright laws.

Those who may be tempted to call C.S. Lewis an animal rights activist are, to my mind, getting to wrong. In fact, the essay highlights not the argument against any experimentation or testing on animals, but that the testing on what may be considered “lower” creatures actually creates a pathway to experimenting on humans who are not in a position to protect themselves.
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Above: An unidentified prisoner is experimented on during World War II, in Japan, photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons

Written in 1946, he points out the chilling truth that humans have been experimented on already, especially in the German concentration camps of World War II. Lewis implies that the moral justification for incarcerating and torturing these imprisoned peoples was that they were considered lower than humans: they were thought of as animals.

[106] Vivisection

This first appeared as a pamphlet from the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (Boston, 1947), and was reprinted in England by the National Anti-Vivisection Society in 1948. It was then reprinted in Undeceptions (1971) and First and Second Things (1985), and is now in Compelling Reasons (1998).

It is the rarest thing in the world to hear a rational discussion of vivisection. Those who disapprove of it are commonly accused of ‘sentimentality’, and very often their arguments justify the accusation. They paint pictures of pretty little dogs on dissecting tables. But the other side lie open to exactly the same charge. They also often defend the practice by drawing pictures of suffering women and children whose pain can be relieved (we are assured) only by the fruits of vivisection. The one appeal, quite as clearly as the other, is addressed to emotion, to the particular emotion we call pity. And neither appeal proves anything. If the thing is right – and if right at all, it is a duty – then pity for the animal is one of the temptations we must resist in order to perform that duty. If the thing is wrong, then pity for human suffering is precisely the temptation which will most probably lure us into doing that wrong thing. But the real question – whether it is right or wrong – remains meanwhile just where it was.

A rational discussion of this subject begins by inquiring whether pain is, or is not, an evil. If it is not, then the case against vivisection falls. But then so does the case for vivisection. If it is not defended on the ground that it reduces human suffering, on what ground can it be defended? And if pain is not an evil, why should human suffering be reduced? We must therefore assume as a basis for the whole discussion that pain is an evil, otherwise there is nothing to be discussed.

Now if pain is an evil then the infliction of pain, considered in itself, must clearly be an evil act. But there are such things as necessary evils. Some acts which would be bad, simply in themselves, may be excusable and even laudable when they are necessary means to a greater good. In saying that the infliction of pain, simply in itself, is bad, we are not saying that pain ought never to be inflicted. Most of us think that it can rightly be inflicted for a good purpose – as in dentistry or just and reformatory punishment. The point is that it always requires justification. On the man whom we find inflicting pain rests the burden of showing why an act which in itself would be simply bad is, in those particular circumstances, good. If we find a man giving pleasure it is for us to prove (if we criticise him) that his action is wrong. But if we find a man inflicting pain it is for him to prove that his action is right. If he cannot, he is a wicked man.

Now vivisection can only be defended by showing it to be right that one species should suffer in order that another species should be happier. And here we come to the parting of the ways. The Christian defender and the ordinary ‘scientific’ (i.e. naturalistic) defender of vivisection, have to take quite different lines.

The Christian defender, especially in the Latin countries, is very apt to say that we are entitled to do anything we please to animals because they ‘have no souls.’ But what does this mean? If it means that animals have no consciousness, then how is this known? They certainly behave as if they had, or at least the higher animals do. I myself am inclined to think that far fewer animals than is supposed have what we should recognise as consciousness. But that is only an opinion. Unless we know on other grounds that vivisection is right we must not take the moral risk of tormenting them on a mere opinion. On the other hand, the statement that they ‘have no souls’ may mean that they have no moral responsibilities and are not immortal. But the absence of ‘soul’ in that sense makes the infliction of pain upon them not easier but harder to justify. For it means that animals cannot deserve pain, nor profit morally by the discipline of pain, nor be recompensed by happiness in another life for suffering in this. Thus all the factors which render pain more tolerable or make it less totally evil in the case of human beings will be lacking in the beasts. ‘Soullessness’, in so far as it is relevant to the question at all, is an argument against vivisection.

The only rational line for the Christian vivisectionist to take is to say that the superiority of man over beast is a real objective fact, guaranteed by Revelation, and that the propriety of sacrificing beast to man is a logical consequence. We are ‘worth more than many sparrows’ (Matthew 10:31), and in sayiing this we are not merely expressing a natural preference for our own species simply because it is our own but conforming to a hierarchical order created by God and really present in the universe whether anyone acknowledges it or not. The position may not be satisfactory. We may fail to see how a benevolent Deity could wish us to draw such conclusions from the hierarchical order He has created. We may find it difficult to formulate a human right of tormenting beasts in terms which would not equally imply an angelic right of tormenting men. And we may feel that though objective superiority is rightly claimed for men, yet that very superiority ought partly to consist in not behaving like a vivisector: that we ought to prove ourselves better than the beasts precisely by the fact of acknowledging duties to them which they do not acknowledge to us. But on all these questions different opinions can be honestly held. If on grounds of our real, divinely ordained, superiority a Christian pathologist thinks it is right to vivisect, and does so with scrupulous care to avoid the least dram or scruple of unnecessary pain, in a trembling awe at the responsibility which he assumes, and with a vivid sense of the high mode in which human life must be lived if it is to justify the sacrifices made for it, then (whether we agree with him or not) we can respect his point of view.

But of course the vast majority of vivisectors have no such theological background. They are most of them naturalistic and Darwinian. Now here, surely, we come up against a very alarming fact. The very same people who will most contemptuously brush aside any consideration of animal suffering if it stands in the way of ‘research’ will also, on another context, most vehemently deny that there is any radical difference between man and the other animals. On the naturalistic view the beasts are at bottom just the same sort of thing as ourselves. Man is simply the cleverest of the anthropoids. All the grounds on which a Christian must defend vivisection are thus cut from under our feet. We sacrifice other species to our own not because our own has any objective metaphysical privilege over others, but simply because it is ours. It may be very natural to have this loyalty to our own species, but let us hear no more from the naturalists about the ‘sentimentality’ of anti-vivisectionists. If loyalty to our own species, preference for man simply because we are men, is not a sentiment, then what is? It may be a good sentiment or a bad one. But a sentiment it certainly is. Try to base it on logic and see what happens!

But the most sinister thing about modern vivisection is this. If a mere sentiment justifies cruelty, why stop at a sentiment for the whole human race? There is also a sentiment for the white man against the black, for a Herrenvolk [“Master Race”] against the non-Aryans, for ‘civilised’ or ‘progressive’ peoples against ‘savages’ or ‘backward’ peoples. Finally, for our own country, party or class against others. Once the old Christian idea of a total difference in kind between man and beast has been abandoned, then no argument for experiments on animals can be found which is not also an argument for experiments on inferior men. If we cut up beasts simply because they cannot prevent us and because we are backing up our own side in the struggle for existence, it is only logical to cut up imbeciles, criminals, enemies or capitalists for the same reasons. Indeed, experiments on men have already begun. We all hear that Nazi scientists have done them. We all suspect that our own scientists may begin to do so, in secret, at any moment.

The alarming thing is that the vivisectors have won the first round. In the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries a man was not stamped as a ‘crank’ for protesting against vivisection. Lewis Carroll [1832-1898] protested, if I remember his famous letter correctly, on the very same ground which I have just used. (‘Vivisection as a Sign of the Times’, The Works of Lewis Carroll, ed. by Roger Lancelyn Green (London, 1965), pp. 1089-92. See also ‘Some Popular Fallacies about Vivisection’, ibid, pp. 1092-1100.) Dr. [Samuel] Johnson [1709-1784] – a man whose mind had as much iron in it as any man’s – protested in a note on Cymbeline which is worth quoting in full. In Act I, scene v, the Queen explains to the Doctor that she wants poisons to experiment on ‘such creatures as We count not worth the hanging – but none human’. (Shakespeare, Cymbeline, I, v, 19-20.) The Doctor replies:

Your Highness
Shall from this practice but make hard your heart.

(Shakespeare, Cymbeline, I, v, 23.)

Johnson comments: ‘The thought would probably have been more amplified, had our author lived to be shocked with such experiments as have been published in later times, by a race of men that have practised tortures without pity, and related them without shame, and are yet suffered to erect their heads among human beings.’ (Johnson on Shakespeare: Essays and Notes Selected and Set Forth with an Introduction by Sir Walter Raleigh (London 1908), p. 181.)

The words are his, not mine, and in truth we hardly dare in these days to use such calmly stern language. The reason why we do not dare is that the other side has in fact won. And though cruelty even to beasts is an important matter, their victory is symptomatic of matters more important still. The victory of vivisection marks a great advance in the triumph of ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism over the old world of ethical law; a triumph in which we, as well as animals, are already the victims, and of which Dachau and Hiroshima mark the more recent achievements. In justifying cruelty to animals we put ourselves also on the animal level. We choose the jungle and must abide by our choice.

You will notice I have spent no time in discussing what actually goes on in the laboratories. We shall be told, of course, that there is surprisingly little cruelty. That is a question with which, at present, I have nothing to do. We must first decide what should be allowed: after that is is for the police to discover what is already being done.

How to Feel Like an Old Woman

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How to feel like an old woman:
1. Visit your college alma mater (in my case, UC Davis)
2. Go to its alumni center
3. Chat with the 18 year-old working at the front desk
4. Ask her about joining the alumni situation
5. Have her say, “You probably graduated a while ago, huh?!”
6. Realize that to her, you look like the lady pictured above…

Image url: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AUhde_Old_woman_with_a_pitcher.JPG

Making Out: How Far Should You Go?

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I remember I was almost thirty when I had to sheepishly ask someone about the system of measurement used in high school whereby guys, especially, evaluated “how far” they had gotten with a girl. 

For those not in the know:

1st base = “French” kissing (kissing that involves tongues in each others’ mouths, as opposed to the lips simply pressed together

2nd base = hand-to-(female) breast contact

3rd base = hand-down-the-pants: the vagina is touched

Homerun/scoring = sexual intercourse

Now, that was embarrassing to type out.

But it is a convenient, if childish, way to refer to the various levels of physical affection. (I will not use those terms here, though: I merely list the above as a public service!)

There are some women who may never feel the need to ask themselves the question of how much physical affection they are willing express while dating, and I respect that.

For me, though, waiting to have sex (um, again) before marriage is part of being a Christian. And part of the reason I created this blog is that I believe that no matter a woman’s religion (or lack thereof) it is spiritually – and emotionally – healthy to refrain from casual sex.

I have found it important to set limits for myself when it comes to, well, “making out” with a guy. I have been a Christian since high school, and before I had so much as kissed a guy, I had vowed to save sex until after I was married. Culturally, that had been the acceptable norm for my parents and their peers: which is to say, the older Baby Boomers.  Then, came the ’60s and the Sexual Revolution. Things got complicated.

And they got especially complicated for me when during my college years I finally met a handsome, sexy guy who was as enamored with me as I was with him: something that seemed miraculous. All of my hypothetical resolve melted once real lust was at stake and the real-life chance for sex was finally at hand. I didn’t last long.

I’m not proud to say that being young, I foolishly acquiesced to sex with this young man because he said that if we didn’t have sex we might as well break up.  I think this is common, though — and perhaps the more lonely a woman feels, the more likely she is to cave. I was just getting used to this uncommon privilege of having a boyfriend and I didn’t want to lose him. So I lost my virginity instead.

I was 22, and now I’m 37. Nowadays, of course, if a man dared to issue that sort of ultimatum to me, I would be out the door before he finished his sentence, laughing scornfully on my way out. But I was so very attracted to this young man, and wanted so much to please him, that my virginity seemed worth sacrificing.

I think two seconds after my now-infant niece finally turns twelve, I am going to warn her of the time-tested lines that no doubt young men still use with their girlfriends today to push them into having sex. If I believed them fifteen years ago, no doubt there are girls still believing these lies today:

We should have sex because…

“Once you start, you can’t stop.” (I think that eventually became the ad line for a popular potato chip brand)

“You can’t get me excited like this and then just stop things.”

“It hurts when I (get an erection) and I don’t have sex.”

And if the girl wants to wait until she’s married?

“I love you.”

“We’re going to get married anyway.”

The most ridiculous one is, “Now that we’ve gone this far, we have to go all the way.” The implication was that once the guy had an erection, my not having sex with him was some outrageous violation of his human rights. How cruel of me! What teases we women are! Oh, I have been called a tease, believe me.

I once asked a male friend of mine, a young Christian man whom I respected a lot (I still do) – about what the truth was when it came to a guy getting “stimulated” and what happens if he doesn’t get to have sex. Did it really hurt him? Did he simply have to take his pants off at this point?

He actually laughed at this (though not at me)! He said that of course that wasn’t true — that it didn’t even make sense that a man who had an erection “had” to have sex, or at least have to somehow ejaculate — as if he was a female cow who would suffer in pain unless she was milked before sundown.

After all, I’ve never had an erection, but I do know that it would not be convenient or socially acceptable to simply demand sex of whomever was around every time you had an erection. Neither could you probably masturbate conveniently every time this happened.

*

I remember in college a Christian girlfriend told me about a mutual friend – also a Christian – who had begun dating a fellow Christian man, and it was pretty serious. Right from the start, they decided they wouldn’t even kiss until and unless they got married!

My friend reacted with a kind of awe and admiration: wonder, even. But to me: no kissing? Why date, right? I pretty much saw dating as a way to get kissed, and a convenient thing to do if you ran out of things to talk about.

Then, of course, came that gem of a guy who said have-sex-or-we-break-up. But since that time, I have managed to avoid intercourse. Sadly, I have not been celibate, however: I have not managed to refrain from sex altogether. And I didn’t always want to refrain, either.

But it took me years to get over the heartbreak of that first boyfriend. And I knew it was because of our sexual relationship. Knowing that helped build my resolve to wait until marriage.

But I believe that remaining celibate has to do with regarding your body as a sacred thing: not just anyone can touch it.  In other words, keeping yourself healthy emotionally and spiritually while dating means setting stricter limits (beyond swearing off sex) when it comes to physical affection.

For instance, I remember the heartbreak I felt when things ended with a man I had only known for a few weeks, but whom I felt pretty close to: an artificial closeness based, in part, on the fact that we had made out to the point where we were both naked, although we never did have sex.

In contrast, a few months later I dated a man with whom things actually became serious. We even planned (prematurely) to get married, and yet this time I decided to put on the brakes. Kissing only. That’s it. Nothing more. And however sad I was that we broke up, I never felt that almost physical sensation of my heart being wrung out like a wet towel. And I believe that the lack of long-term pain was due to our commitment to holding off on short-term pleasure.

In my experience, once you get comfortable kissing and feel confidence in your own desirability, it’s all-too-easy to go from kissing to having sex. In fact, as soon as your is in his mouth, you’re on the way to sex and it’s up to you to put on the brakes. If you let the part of your brain take over that demands instant and easy gratification – consequences be damned — well, you’re going to have to plan ahead if you don’t want to get pregnant.

Once I found out how easy it was to slide into sex, I understood the reasoning of the weird-sounding Christian couple who decided to  avoiding even kissing.

That is not to say that I am ready and able to take on that policy: I just recognize its wisdom.

PS: It would not be fair to avoid answering the question I posed in the title to this post. Thus, I will say from personal experience that you should stop at French kissing. It’s worked for me.

Image: The Kiss, by Italian artist Francesco Hayez, 1859; available via public domain, thanks to Wikimedia

 

 

 

(Less) Fun with Feminine Hygiene

The following might read like a joke, but believe me, it’s not funny: how long do you need to try to inserting a Diva Cup before realizing it’s time to give up?

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The short answer, unfortunately, is: FOREVER. At least, that is, if you heed the instructional insert which tells a girl something it would be helpful (though deadly from a selling standpoint) to print on the box: this device is non-returnable.

Luckily, your ability to get your money back is not necessarily up to DivaCup: it’s up to the store where you might need to return the thing. And so if you think you can work up your nerve to bring in a used (albeit, cleaned up) menstrual cup back into the store, check in advance with the store in question in advance.

And of course, being a completely kick-ass kind of place, Good Earth Foods in Fairfax, California did that for me!  (Sorry guys: I really did plan to keep it.)

And believe me, you’re going to want to return it, unless you’re Oprah Winfrey, whose menstruating days are probably a thing of the past anyway. The DivaCup, in all of it’s non-disposable goodness, costs around $35-$40. It might be a bit cheaper to buy online, but with postage and handling, I don’t know that you’ll make out any better.Paying $40 for a single toiletry item is a big commitment.

That is why I was DETERMINED to make the DivaCup thing work: dammit!

But ladies? Remember what a pain in the you-know-where it was to get your first tampon up in thar?

Picture having to shove a much larger, rubber/plastic-type device up your vagina, all the while thinking, “If I don’t make this work, I’ll have just wasted 40 bucks!”

Now this brings up an interesting point, re: celibacy.  I began to wonder: if I was sexually active, or had given birth, would it be easier to insert something like the DivaCup? I don’t know: it’s not worth doing either to find out! But I do know I bought the smallest size, and it still wasn’t small enough.

Bear in mind, too, that a tampon seems to be shaped specially with insertion in mind. But the menstrual cup almost seems like they had someone design the thing, and only later mentioned to her that it would actually need to be put inside a vagina. “Oh,” the inventor of the DivaCup would respond, hesitantly. “I suppose if the woman kind of folded it up first? 
The DivaCup revealed:

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Maybe she could get it up there?”

Maybe. If the darn thing stayed folded up. But. Good luck with that.

And I am so sorry to say that!  Gotta love the convenience and minimum-spot-on-white-pants risk that a tampon gives me, but the prospect of all of that non-biodegradable flushable stuff is really depressing. I doubt the DivaCup itself is biodegradable. But since the thing is meant for long-term reuse, that helps ease one’s guilt.

Thus, I have yet to find a “sustainable” tampon.
Which reminds me, I should probably test-drive more than one option before giving up entirely.

Really? You mean right here in the store?!

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Maybe I would take them up on the offer, if I had decided I didn’t care if I was ever welcome back at Good Earth Natural Foods, in Fairfax, California. As seen November 17, 2013.

F*ck Yeah! Chocolate Cake

F*ck Yeah! Chocolate Cake

The Worst Thing About Online Dating is Everything

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Perhaps saying “everything” about online dating is bad is going a bit far. I mean, online dating has its virtues, right? Absolutely not.

In fact, I have a new theory. The reason that anyone ever tries online dating is that they know of heard of “someone” who has meet “someone” online.

I submit to you the following: WE ARE ALL TALKING ABOUT THE SAME COUPLE (who just happen to have a wide circle of friends).

If it sounds like I have just had a bad experience on lonely.people.are.suckers.com*, then you’re right. (*fictional website: so far. millions can no doubt be made.)

The sad truth is, it wasn’t even the worst experience I have ever had using my computer to find a future… whatever.
It’s just that when I recently gave online dating another try, enough time had passed that I forgotten what a stinking cesspool it can be.

But to be serious, I realized that the key problem that haunts all but the Kens and Barbies amongst us are the photos which accompany a person’s online profile.And it’s not even that most people are not photogenic, though that’s a given.

But if any guy happens to be reading this, I gotta tell you: I never, ever open a profile where the photo features a guy taking a picture of himself in the bathroom, and you can see his reflection in the mirror, holding the camera. So cheesy. Even worse: the webcam shot.

Please show me that you:
1) Have enough social skills and/or friends that you can convince someone to take your picture
-and-
2) You occasionally get up from your computer and leave the house.
And if you haven’t posted a profile photo? Oh, come on. At least wait until after I meet you to find out you’re a Neanderthal.

The real problem, however, with conducting an online search on these dating sites and receiving a list of profile photos is this: the worst possible way to judge someone that is by his or her appearance*, and that’s exactly what we’re doing by selecting someone through an online dating site. (*Unless, that is, a person’s appearance reveals a lack of attention to basic hygiene. In that case, judge away!)

Okay, I’m going to get specific here, and just trust that the benefit of having an obscure blog means that I can talk about people I know (except my boss: never a good idea) and they’ll be none the wiser.

Anyway, my most recent delve into the online dating universe was with christiancafe.com. It took me a while to find a legitimate Christian dating website. I hadn’t been impressed with christianmingle, although it has been some years since I’ve tried it. Ironically, the most disturbing dating sites I have encountered have been “Christian.” But perhaps I’ll post about that another time.

But feeling how I do about celibacy before marriage, sites like match.com, where you can select something meaningless such as “Spiritual, But Not Religious,” as your “religion” had become out of the question.

The only problem with christiancafe – and it’s a big one – is that those folks must have an advertising budget of zero. Thus, few have heard of it, and therefore there simply aren’t enough users.

However, despite the user shortage, I actually had better luck finding potential matches that lived, say, 50 miles or so away from me than I ever did with eharm_your_ego_ny_dot_com, which sent me mostly matches from Arizona and Oregon. I’m in San Francisco, and I rarely even received matches from within California!

EDIT: I just deleted an anecdote from my experience at christiancafe that would no doubt hurt the feelings of the guy who is the subject of the tale. However unlikely it is that he would find and read my blog, it was uncool of me to be so specific.

I can complain all I want about the male fixation on good lucks — for instance, why one earth would an overweight guy in his 50s admit that he is “looking” for a woman in her 20s with a hot bod? And yet. I have certainly selected people to write based on their profile photos.

If this makes me sound like the most shallow person in the world, well, I’m aware of that. And maybe until I look like (insert name of current hot female celebrity in her late thirties: hopefully, that’s not a paradox!) — well, who am I to criticize?

But if you simply aren’t attracted to someone, well, there’s not much you can do right?

And therein lies the real problem: when you meet someone in real life, you may find them initially unattractive. But we all have known someone, surely, who objectively speaking is not at all pleasing to the eye, but his or her personality is such where they are actually really sexy.
And that dude that looks like Daniel Craig? Start talking to him, and you may begin to long for the attention of one of the creepier Bond villains, as their company would be preferable.

To be honest, I don’t think anything would induce me to long for the company of “Fat Bastard” of Austin Powers fame, but honestly, that mostly had to do with his vulgur behavior.

Mostly.

Ryan Gosling: Sexiest Man Alive

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Even Barbie Has Bad Dates

Even Barbie Has Bad Dates

I saw this Barbie recently at the store, and it just cracked me up: with it’s drawing (!) of Ken in the background, and Barbie sitting there alone, as if she’s fantasizing she’s on a real date. Too real-life-to-be-funny (sort of).

At Home, Changing the Kitty Litter

…Instead of browsing City Lights delights, I am sitting in my pajamas, enjoying fudge cake  and he (Quintessential Single Guy Safeway Shopper) is home masturbating, and not about me. Guaranteed.

I am 36, and am At That Age where men on the street are done gawking and have taken to ignoring… except for a 7-foot homeless Black guy I passed earlier on the way home from Mara’s Italian Pastry, clutching my 3-layer dark chocolate fudge cake as if it was my first-born: in fact, I was hugging it tighter than I would a child — how hard is it to get knocked up compared with finding orgasm-inducing  chocolate cake?

“Hello, Gorgeous,” said Homeless Guy… which were the same words I had uttered to the cake, when I eyed it behind the glass of the bakery. I shook my head no, and murmured, “Farewell, my Love… Endeavour to think well of me, as I will of you… Always” to the Black Forest Cake, with its dark chocolate shavings, the  crispy chocolate custard eclairs, and airy – nay! – buxom cream puffs. Having departed with them on good terms, I could not begrudge them the company of others. Or could I? They had better be there tomorrow, waiting for me, I thought jealously. Or better yet, not: for pastry, unlike men, is best when fresh, is it not?