Along with frozen chocolate chip cookies, your uncle Michael loved white cake with CHOCOLATE ICING. WHITE CAKE, not yellow cake, that came in a box so no recipe here because the box is pretty straight forward. The CHOCOLATE ICING, though was a family staple back when we used to make cakes as a regular occurrence. I was never much of a cake making mom. I tended to make brownies, pies and cookies more than cakes, but as I write this to you, I am reminiscing about cake. I too used to love white cake and at the last birthday celebration of Uncle Michael’s, I made him one to celebrate his final birthday, his 25th. I actually have a picture of me with a birthday hat on, and him in his hospital bed in his apartment chemo and cancer dying skinny, blowing out the candles. It is too sad to include here, but I will show it to you sometime.
The word white has been coming up a lot as of late in this wacky political climate and in writing about WHITE CAKE I wanted to share with you the odd experience I have had at my Providence location this past year. As you know my second location was opened over ten years ago on the beautiful East Side of Providence. When we first opened, the name of our business was ‘alayne white spa + body boutique.’ After a few years, the name became too cumbersome and we shortened it to ‘alayne white spa.’ As time went on, a few changes started to occur both inside and outside the walls. Inside we decided to eliminate some of our peripheral services like massage and pedicures and really focus on skin. Outside though strange events were happening that included the word “spa” and they weren’t pretty. Prostitution rings behind the word, illegal sex trafficking with minors- offering “massage” when clearly massage was a misaligned name otherwise know as child abuse.
I no longer wanted to associate my name with the word spa. So as our business model changed, I decided that the word ‘skin’ would better describe the services we were offering. My name is alayne white, we offer skin services and so I loved the idea of ‘alayne white skin.’ It looked so hip and polished on our $1500 brand new turquoise awning. This new title gave us a new outlook and we got to shake things up with a different direction. After all, why would I want to continue associating my brand with a now sordid word like spa when all of this bad illegal and abusive behavior was happening with underage girls in dark and windowless back rooms of buildings all over Rhode Island.
Within a few months of our new and beautiful awning, some local women who lived in the community walked in and used some language with my team implying that my choice of wording of ‘alayne white skin’ and the small letters I was using for my name was deliberately tongue and cheek and that it was offensive. Someone actually said that they felt like they were living back in the segregated 1950s.
I laughed it off. Alayne White is my name. Give me a break, I thought. My answer was to tell them to take their energy and use it in places that need that energy, like with the problems of human sex trafficking taking place in our very state on the easy and accessible 95 corridor for example. But then someone else came in. Alayne White is my name, I kept repeating to my frustrated team who had to deal with these comments. I was never there to hear the comments, I told my team to give them my number and have them call me directly. No one ever called me directly.
I donate over 10k a year to a variety of charities in both of my locations. The last intention I would ever have would be to be tongue and cheek in a way that could be misinterpreted as racist for Christ’s sake. It was seriously some of the most ridiculous commentary I had ever even considered. Talk about looking for shit to create unnecessary energy around. But then it happened again. Someone else came by, then a few students came by and took some pictures and I started considering that this could become “a thing.” I saw myself on Channel 10 being interviewed in front of the ‘illicit’ awning by Alison Bologna defending my right to use my name on my awning for my business. I saw my business as the topic of social injustice classes on local college campuses. It was starting to take up space in my brain that I wanted to allocate to other more joyful topics. I considered the possibilites if I still had my maiden name and was using this as my business name, it would be a non issue. ‘alayne horowitz skin,’ doesn’t have the same ring, does it and IT IS NOT MY NAME. Alayne White is my name. Or what if I used my mother’s maiden name, ‘alayne black skin,’ perhaps this would be more acceptable? As I write this I am thinking, is this where our world is at now? Are we looking for problems to create out of problems that don’t exist rather than problems to solve?
I don’t know, I started asking my friends and family their opinions and every single person I asked would roll their eyes in complete disbelief that this was even a topic. Then another person came in and said something else. Every single person that came in was a white person. I started to tire of having to defend my own damn name, I grew tired of my poor team having to answer for this as well. It was a quickly ripening issue I was getting sick of spending my time addressing. Michael, you know me, I am one of the biggest bleeding heart liberals you know. The thought that anyone would think that I would deliberately use my name and your name for that matter to offend anyone was appalling. I am a charitable giving business woman who has a strong reputation in our state for running a beautiful business. I like to give and as a matter of fact I give to everyone who asks. Everytime.
Today was a sad day for your mother. I made the decision to take down the awning and think about my wording so as not to offend. This was a painful decision for me and my team because we never did anything wrong or ill-intentioned and taking down the awning felt like we were admitting defeat. We weren’t. I just don’t want to make my business a political voice. I actually consciously stay out of politics in my business. Rule # 1.
My business is about peace and joy and great skin. Ask anyone who knows me and knows my heart and they will tell you this. When I put my head on my pillow every night, this is the measure of my personal truth serum. I have never questioned my integrity or my moral compass regarding this issue in particular. I want to put this topic to rest and the best way to do this is to spend the five hundred dollars it will cost to change the awning so it is more pleasing for the few people who have mistakenly found offense in something that is so non offensive. I hope the same people won’t mind me saying no when they ask for the donation they need for their local charity because the five hundred dollars I would have otherwise given is now sponsoring my less offensive awning. So now my donation to Mount Hope Farm in beautiful Bristol, RI to sponsor a goat can only afford one and not two goats. Yes for real. That sounds a little passive aggressive, doesn’t it? (Now that was deliberate.)
I am not sure what the lesson here is my son, sometimes life comes at you in ways you least expect. Me getting cancer twice and a my recent double mastectomy, you never knowing your Uncle Michael because he died so young of cancer likely because of the BRCA2 gene, you and I both waiting for the results of your own BRCA2 test. The joyful trip we are about to take to celebrate your great grandfather’s 100th birthday. There are so many bigger important life coming at us events and I guess my answer to the lesson is that sometimes the high road is the best road. Sometimes you just have to say fuck it and eat the cake with the icing and then eat some more and enjoy the little life we have as the specks on the planet we are. Sometimes if small stuff is getting to be big stuff, you just have to let E-GO and change your course.
The one thing I know for sure is that I love you and I know you know me and when I am no longer around to challenge your thinking, I hope this story is one you will look back on and smile.
WHITE CAKE and CHOCOLATE ICING
Box of white cake
Except for Michael’s last birthday when I made this cake round and layered, I always made this cake in a rectangular pan with the frosting on top. We would cut it in squares and usually eat it with vanilla ice cream.
CHOCOLATE ICING (AKA FROSTING)
This isn’t one of those frostings that is super creamy but more like a syrupy texture, but very easy and delicious and most importantly homemade, the only way to do frosting if you ask me.
1 square of unsweetened chocolate
1 T. butter
Melt together in a double boiler, (this is a pan within a pan of hot water, hopefully you are using the one that I had in my kitchen that I have hopefully given to you by the time you are making this) Don’t fill up the pan with too much water because it will boil over and into the chocolate mixture. You will only do this once and that will be your cooking lesson on how to not use a double boiler for the rest of time.
Once melted remove from heat and add:
1 cup of sifted confectionary sugar (don’t skip the sifting step)
2 T boiling water.
Beat until smooth and not stiff. (Use an electric beater for this)
Let cool slightly along with the slightly cooled cake and spread messily over the cake. Make sure it is messy because life is messy and the mess is where you find the depths, the beauty and the lessons.
I LOVE YOU.