Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Casualty of Hostess Cupcakes and the Egyptian Uprising

I made it to the gym today for the first time in a while. I hopped on one of the treadmills with a TV screen and plugged my earphones in for what I expected to be a 5-mile run. This is pushing the limits of what my recovering heel will handle, but I had some guilt calories to work off.

Before I hit the gym, I stopped by Magothy River Middle School to lead my son's 6th grade Recreational Reading group. I really enjoy facilitating these book discussions. The kids are always entertaining and engaged. To make sure they are willing participants, I always bribe them with tasty snacks, which we are asked to bring. Normally, I bake cookies or brownies, but time did not permit on this occasion, so I stopped by Graul's to grab some treats. I generally try to take something salty and something sweet, so I picked up some water bottles, a carton of Goldfish, and then went to find something sugary.

I had Valentine's Day on the brain, so the box of pretty pink strawberry Hostess cupcakes caught my eye (surprisingly enough, Hostess cupcakes are on the list of "healthful" snacks provided by the organizers - certainly fine for an occasional treat or bribe, but hardly healthful). Hostess products aren't something I routinely purchase, but I was sucked in by the seasonal color, and like I said, it's all about buying off the kids. Middle schoolers can be scary if you aren't on their good side. Plus, unlike elementary school when cupcakes are in front of the kids practically every day for one celebration or another, I believe they are rarer in middle school. I grabbed the cupcakes and also picked up a box of Valentine Tasty Cakes to be sure I had enough and headed off for my book club.

Pretty Pink Sugar Bombs

I knew most of the kids in my group this time, and they were all delighted with their snacks. Except one little girl, that is. We'll call her Susie. Susie proceeded to politely inform the group that she had NEVER eaten a Hostess or Tasty Cake product and that she NEVER would. "They are loaded with fat and calories!" In the same breath, she rattled off that she had read not only the assigned book but the entire series and, "I read at a college level, you know." I told her she was absolutely right, that I was very impressed with her reading ability, that I didn't doubt either of her claims, but that I didn't believe there was any harm in indulging in the occasional treat (her classmates were already happily doing just that).

We launched into our discussion, which was animated and inclusive as I've known it to be in the past. Everyone seemed to be having a fine time, and Susie lead the field with her contributions. About halfway through our time, I noticed her eyeing the box of Tasty Cakes. She stopped mid-sentence in her description of one of the events in the book and said, "I think I'm going to try one of these just to see how it tastes." I told her she was welcome to but not to feel pressured. She slowly and tentatively bit into the forbidden cake to the delight of all her companions.

Well, she made a big show of HATING it, but managed to choke it down. We all applauded her willingness to try it and appreciated the sacrifice and courage. I suspect the flavor will stay in her subconscious for a very long time and tempt her again one day when she's not expecting it. I also worry that I might get a call from an angry mother later this evening! ("Mrs. Roberts fed us HOSTESS CUPCAKES and TASTY CAKES at rec reading today...")

So what does any of that have to do with the uprising in Egypt? Well, first, as I left the school, the one remaining Hostess cupcake peeked at me from my bag. As I savored all 190 calories of it, I rationalized that I would add a mile and a slight incline to my planned run on the treadmill. Once I reached the gym, I hopped on said treadmill and tuned into CNN to see what was going on in the streets of Cairo. As I ran, I watched with great interest the unfolding events in Tahrir square, which I had the good fortune to visit during my college days.  That was early in Hosni Mubarak's "reign". Who would have thought he'd still be in office all these years later? If the Egyptian people have their way, he won't be much longer.

Tahrir Square, Cairo

At any rate, I trudged through my four + one cupcake miles on the treadmill waiting for the promised recorded speech by Mubarak announcing his intention to not run for election in the fall. I was curious to see what the reaction would be from the massive crowd which claimed they would accept nothing less than his immediate departure. As I passed mile five, the address still had not been broadcast. Mile six, no address. Finally, at a very unintended mile seven, CNN was still blowing filler waiting for Egypt's president, and I was starting to feel some real pain in my 44-year old ankles and knees. I called it quits but bought another couple of minutes stretching on the treadmill. Finally, I noticed the after-work crowd arriving and didn't want to overstay my welcome, so I headed on out the door.

Of course, I just missed the speech. Eight miles would have gotten me there, but I would be even more of a casualty than I already am after running much farther than I am in shape to. I will pay the price tomorrow as it is.

Still, monumental changes and accomplishments were afoot today in different worlds. Egypt is taking its first real bite in over 30 years of the sweet but fraught taste of democracy. I took a significant but painful seven-mile bite out of ten miles, which I haven't done in over two years. And Susie took a small bite of her first Tasty Cake... EVER.

Wishing everyone courage, wisdom, strength, and restraint as we all stretch forward in our individual ways... www.tips-fb.com

No comments: