Caramel Apple Cake: Trying to speak tenderly

For Husband

I’m bossy.  I admit it.  I spend my days bossing people around.  From the moment I wake up, to the moment I can sleep, I am bossy.  I have to tell Children what to do, Students what to do, Husband what to do, and most of the day I’m telling people what I want and how I want it done.

My most commonly used bossy phrases are:

1.  Hurry up.  We’re late.
2.  Put your clothes in the laundry basket.
3.  Practice piano, do your math, finish your homework.
4.  Clean your room.
5.  That thesis statement isn’t good enough.  Do it again.  And again.
6.  That sentence doesn’t make sense.  Write it again.
7.  That idea doesn’t make sense.  Think again.
8.  Eat your dinner.
9.  Brush your teeth.
10. Hurry up.  We’re late.

And since I spend a vast majority of my day bossing people around, I’m bossy.  I get it.  It’s just how I talk to people.

But in recent weeks, Husband has said on more than one occasion, “Can you speak to me more tenderly?”
or “Can you not use your teacher voice on me?”

The first time he said it, I brushed it off with a total snort.  The second and third time he repeated it, it gave me pause.  Speak tenderly?

I decided, after his repeated requests, to try, to just try and speak tenderly.  The first time I tried it, it sounded like a strangled dog whimpering out a phrase.   “Turn out the lights please,” I garbled.  Husband threw me a weird look and asked, “What was THAT?”

“That’s me.  Speaking tenderly,” I replied.

“That’s not tender.  That’s just weird,” Husband said, shaking his head.

I resolved internally to be better.  Next time, I asked, “Can you please turn off your computer?” and it came out in a high pitched squeak, much like a mouse.

“What’s THAT?” Husband asked again, completely confused.

“That’s not tender either?” I asked.

Husband retorted, “Just forget it.  You’re being weird.”

I decided to ask friends about speaking tenderly.  I asked a few girlfriends at dinner one night and the three of us sat thinking about which women we knew who actively spoke tenderly to their husbands.  We came up with a handful of women but the present company with me were not tender speakers either.  When I asked them to help me, both shook their heads saying, “We don’t speak tenderly.”

I was flummoxed for a few days, wondering how I was going to achieve this desired vocal effect, and what sort of exercises I might do in order to improve my tender talk.  It wasn’t until I was deep in a conversation with a friend who was relating to me her efforts with her signficant other during his prolonged absences.  The touching, heartfelt, sweet things she went out of her way to do made a lightbulb go off in my head and I pounced on her, saying, “HEY!  You can teach me tender talk!  You do the tender talk!!”

She took a step back and looked surprised.  “What are you talking about?”

“I need to speak tenderly to my husband.  I don’t know how.  Can you teach me?  Can you help me do it?  He keeps saying I sound fake.”

As she is a psychotherapist, she paused and looked straight at me and said, “Whatever you say, in order to sound geniune, has to come from a geniune place of tenderness.”

Uh.  I didn’t know if I could do it.

She guided me through a brief exercise, asking me what made me fall in love with my husband.  (wicked humor and good listening skills.)  She asked me what were the things he did that pleased me.  (hard and diligent worker, provider for our family, committed family man) She asked me to reconnect to those first days when I fell in love.

Suddenly I almost felt like crying.  (This was supposed to be a funny post, but suddenly now it’s all serious…kind of.)  I wondered if I had forgotten tenderness because I had forgotten the love and affection I felt for Husband.  I don’t know if forgotten is the right word, but perhaps I brushed it aside.  I thanked my friend and began to refresh my feelings towards Husband.

Now, if you ask Husband, he’ll probably respond that things aren’t much different in my tone of voice or in my tender talk.  But I’ll tell you, (and he’ll probably read this soon) that the feelings behind my voice ARE different and I’m remembering much more of the wonderful things he does when I do speak to him.  And soon, I’m convinced that the voice will become more tender as the feelings behind take over the voice itself.

I think the way I want my tender talk to sound is this cake.  Sweet, complex, fluffy and comforting.  There is something about apples, cinnamon and fall that just speak the idea tender to me.  I’m still chasing the tender in my voice, but I don’t need to chase it in this cake.  Perhaps whenever I want something, I should just give Husband the cake and let it speak for me.

Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze
Adapted from Nancie McDermott’s Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes 
Serves 16 to 24

3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups chopped apples (a firm apple is best -granny smith, fuji, or honeycrisp)

Brown Sugar Glaze
1 cup packed light brown sugar
6 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease a 9×13-inch pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until light and foamy. Add the oil and vanilla and mix well.

Stir in the flour mixture with a spoon and continue stirring the batter until the flour disappears. Add the apples; mix well. Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the cake on a wire rack to cool.

While the cake is still hot, prepare the glaze. Combine the brown sugar, butter, vanilla, and heavy cream in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Continue cooking for 3 minutes. Spoon the hot glaze over the still warm cake. Let the glazed cake cool completely before serving.

Printable recipe

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