On Friday, my friend Sarah posted this picture on her Facebook with this message: “I’d like to order an anniversary cake for my partner. It should say, ‘Happy Anniversary, Lindsey! Love, Sarah’. Please make the cake in this picture (from the catalog), but with no balloons.” And this is what I got.”
The mess of a cake and the overall bigoted treatment Lindsey and Sarah received on their special day rightly appalled scores of people who began sharing the story and photo, creating quite the unexpected buzz. Yesterday, after being flooded with calls and messages, and experiencing pressure from many to release the name of the bakery, Lindsey asked me if we would share their story and why they have responded as they did. I gladly agreed. Here it is, in their own words:
Hi! I’m Lindsey! My weekend has been far from quiet, given that a picture of our anniversary cake seems to be going viral. My partner Sarah and I have gotten a lot of reactions from all sorts of different people. Most people can’t seem to understand our approach to the event. I’ll begin by filling you in on the story from my perspective before sharing more about why Sarah and I have responded the way we have.
Sarah’s been indicating to me for a while that she had some small surprises planned for me at the end of this week. We’ve been doing a lot of celebrating over the past month as we’ve been together as a couple for a year. We often joke that you couldn’t put our story into fiction because no one would believe it. Even though we’re living it, it’s hard for us to believe sometimes too. Friday definitely fit the mold.
I knew Sarah was planning on making me dinner on Friday. The two of us were going to enjoy a quiet dinner at home. I can’t help that my introverted self relishes in the fact that meant an ideal Friday night for me. At noon, I got a text message telling me “One of my surprises for you is more of a surprise than I thought.” Sarah wasn’t quite sure the story would wait until I got home so I went out on my lunch break. During lunch, I received a picture message with the now-infamous cake. We both were laughing hysterically about the bakery’s inability to follow instructions. Some poor cake decorator had written “No ballons” on a cake clearly with balloons as decoration. I had previously shown Sarah the website for cakewrecks, and we thought we had a perfect contender.
After Sarah had shown me the picture, she shared the picture on Facebook. From there, the universe began to blow up a little as friends made all sorts of comments about our poorly decorated cake. I learned that the bakery had refunded Sarah’s money and offered her a second cake. We’re only two people so she declined the second cake. Sarah did try to advocate for a proper cake while at the bakery, but the manager wouldn’t budge on sending the scrawled cake out the door. We weren’t exactly planning on sharing our anniversary with the universe, but our emotions were oscillating and we wanted people to know that someone tried to rain on our (very small, very quiet) parade. It’s been great to see our friends being so fantastic and supportive. At some point, someone passed Sarah’s contact information to a reporter from the Advocate. Sarah agreed to the interview with the understanding that the reporter would only share our first names and would not be told the name of the bakery.
Since we first shared the picture and especially after the Advocate published the story, Sarah and I have faced all sorts of exhortations to name the bakery. People have urged us to consider everything from alerting the Better Business Bureau to publicly naming the bakery on every outlet possible. We’ve chosen not to reveal the name of the bakery, much to the chagrin and dismay of a few friends and several strangers.
We made our decision intentionally. I thought it would be worth sharing why we’ve made the decision that we made. Here goes some of our rationale in no particular order:
- The bakery is a local business in Arlington VA. Most of our friends who want to know the name of the bakery live no where near the Washington DC area. This bakery is not a chain. They naturally avoid the bakery by living in different locations.
- It’s our anniversary. Call us nuts, but we’d like the focus to be on us and our special day. We’re not interested in having our friends zoom their energies on determining an “appropriate” response to this bakery. Since our friends aren’t exactly local, we don’t want to knowingly cause a wave of protests against this bakery. We live in DC, one of the most politically active areas of the country.
- Naming and shaming creates an atmosphere of “good guys” and “bad guys.” When you call someone out publicly, all of a sudden everyone can direct their rage at an individual (or an individual business). All too often it seems that the “fight for equality” means finding the “bad guys” and doing whatever it takes to mow them over. Anyone who earns the label of “bad guy” is still a person; and, in today’s political climate around GLBT issues, there are plenty of people willing to call a “bad guy” the “good guy” and vice versa. Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day happened because a group of people thought a business called out for their stance on marriage equality was worth supporting.
- We’re not interested in becoming a target ourselves. At the end of the day, we’re having to make choices about how to best approach this situation given our best interests. We know that the bakery has all the necessary details to pursue Sarah. It’s part of the joy of being someone’s customer.
- Focusing on individuals can ignore bigger problems. As things stand, we have shared our story with a lot of people. We’re not rolling over silently and just taking an insult. The story has gone far wider than either Sarah or I could have ever predicted. But, even looking at the questions of LGBT rights in the public sphere, NOT naming the bakery gives us an opportunity to raise more substantive questions. Consider that what the bakery did is perfectly legal in the state of VA. They broke no laws, only rendered bad service. Sarah and I both work in VA where it’s perfectly legal for us to be harassed on the job if our status as LGBT people became widely known. Additionally, it was surprising that this cake was produced. However, our own experience suggested that we had some reason to be wary of bakeries in VA. The political makeup of northern VA is generally colored red. If this story causes all bakeries in Arlington to look in the mirror to figure out if they could have had some part in making this cake, then I think that reflection is worth while.
- The LGBT community is often portrayed as crying wolf and digging for reasons to pull someone into court. Let’s be honest. If this bakery would have told us that they couldn’t have fulfilled our order, we wouldn’t have had a problem going to another baker. We care about this bakery, their customers, and their service. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing to keep their identity private. The bakery knows who they are… and if they want to come out of the woodwork and identify themselves, that’s their prerogative. We’re not going to force the issue.
Whether you agree or disagree with Lindsey and Sarah’s approach, I think it’s clear that their hearts are in the right places and their motives more intentional and kind than what many of us would be able to claim in such a moment. So please take some time to leave your love and support for this couple in your comments below. Questions are permitted but, on this post, I’m ruling out commentary. Let’s just flood them with kindness.