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Marie Antoinette said, "Let them eat cake." Of course she was beheaded at the tender age of 39. Might she have suggested that women should be able to have their cake and eat it too? That type of statement could cause a woman lots of headaches (o.k., one terrible pun occasionally is allowed). Werenít we told growing up that life is not a "cakewalk?" By the time we reach "a certain age" weíve come face to face with the stark reality that life is also NOT a "piece of cake." Does anyone else remember the song "Sixteen Candles," popular when we were girls? That "ditty" essentially proclaimed if we had that many little tapers on a birthday cake we had "arrived" as it were.

There are those of us now who only have to look at cake to gain weight. Letís not forget the standard bachelor party fare for years was a scantily clad "girl" jumping out of a cake. What is this whole cake thing about? All this sounds like way too much of a preoccupation with dessert. However, look up confection in your Websterís and youíll find the word sweet and that may be part of the answer.

Are young girlís today told to "be sweet?" Was that an admonition more often conveyed to "southern belles" in the Ď50s and early Ď60s? If so, Scarlett OíHara was absent the day that lesson was taught. She did, however, turn on the "sweetness" when she was manipulating men or other women. Cake has played a significant role in some of the major events in our lives. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, christenings, bat mitzvahs, anniversaries and so on, are usually celebrations which are accompanied by baked goods. The fact is, cakes have become symbolic of achievement in American culture.

Cakes rank right up there with blue ribbons, trophies, and other forms of recognition. Can we honestly say we no longer need them simply because we are overcoming middle-age? Maybe.

Perhaps, we reach a point in time when just the fact that weíre alive and kicking is all the acknowledgment we need to realize our true worth. Oh sure, we can still have fruit cakes, angel food, devilsí food, or upside down cakes to commemorate an occasion. ( Actually, those sound more than a little apropos of forgettable moments in our lives.) We donít, however, have to rely on the presence of a cake, with or without candles to pay tribute to ourselves.

Women who have lived through things like a depression, a World War, a few "non World Wars" like Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf, the assassination of a President, the impeachment of another, and the murder of more than a few national leaders, the introduction into our society of panty hose, birth control pills, computers, and more technological advances in one 40 year period than all of recorded time leading up to it--women like us, donít, in fact, need a cake to signal that we have "arrived." But those of us who have endured, persevered, and progressed, would probably agree with Marie Antoinette--letís eat cake and worry about the consequences tomorrow. As Scarlett so famously said, "After all, tomorrow is another day." Remember the song, "If I Knew You Were Cominí Iíd A Baked A Cake,?" Well, grab a fork and dig in while itís still fresh!

Recommended reading: A Southern Belle Primer: or why Princess Margaret will never be a Kappa Kappa Gamma, by Marilyn Schwartz