Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Charlotte Russe

Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Charlotte Russe

Article excerpt

A small round piece of sponge cake topped by a mountain of whipped cream with a cherry at its peak. Your mother buys it for you. On a silent walk under the El in the Rockaways when the trains aren't running, pass the bungalows emptied by fall weather. Far away from your father and your two brothers in the apartment you live in, where graham crackers are the designated dessert and where you have eaten boxes of graham crackers to feel as wonderful as you do with the one charlotte russe that your mother buys you and it is just the two of you walking.

In the apartment you are blamed for eating too many graham crackers in your search for sweetness, pleasure, joy, and those other homes where children are given ice cream regularly, where they bake cookies and eat dough filled with huge chunks of chocolate.

Boxed cookies for relatives are hidden in department store bags under the sink with detergents. To eat them you risk being poisoned and found out. Still they are not sweet enough. They are ordinary. You use what allowance money you have saved to replace them, along with your father's ice cream that he needs for his ulcer, his chocolate bridge mix, and the peppermint patties in your mother's pocketbook. You are sure you will be arrested for stealing the sweetness out of their mouths and for having a sweet tooth just like them. Your father's childhood nickname was Chubby.

But these days, when your mother walks with you and buys you a charlotte russe, there is nothing to feel bad about. The bakery, Pomerantz's, welcomes you with its sweet air. The good things are no longer hidden. The world is alive, friendly, easy to taste, and full of possibilities. …

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