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Happy Birthday

A Story and Social Commentary on Food Waste, and How We Use Food to Cement Our Status - Real or Fake

“A few of my friends and I are going out for my birthday next week. Do you want to join us?” 

I looked at Lilia in shock. We had only been roommates for one semester, and although we got along well, I had never hung out with her and her friends before. Of German and Spanish descent, but born and raised in Toronto, Lilia was beautiful, trilingual, and the most musically inclined person I had ever met. 

“Um, sure. I guess I could come. Where are you going?” I asked.


“Isn’t that a little expensive?”

“It normally is but they have a deal if you’re born on a leap day. You and four friends get a four-course meal for $80. You just have to bring a piece of valid ID to show that you were born on the 29th.”

“Wow.” I smiled. “I had no idea you were a leap-day baby. $80 split between five people doesn’t sound bad at all—especially for Tate’s.”

“Well, it’s actually $80 per person,” Lilia explained.

“Per person?” I exclaimed. “That’s a ton of money!”

“Yeah, but if you think about it, Tate’s normally sells one plate of food at $80. However, we’re getting four courses for the cost of one. Not bad in my opinion.” Lilia regarded me with a look that told me I had already committed whether I liked it or not. 

“Well, it does sound like fun.” I tried to sound as if I was genuinely excited, “Plus, not everyone can say that they got to eat at Tate’s.”

“That’s the spirit!” Lilia exclaimed as she clapped her hands together.

A week later, I met Lilia and her friends at the music department. I had dug out my fanciest outfit from my closet, but it was still a sad requirement for the usual clientele at Tate’s. As usual, Lilia looked extremely well put-together, and so did her friends. 

“Kenna!” Lilia came rushing over to me, and enveloped me in a massive bear hug. “Kenna, these are my friends; Addison, Mel, and Tara. Ladies, this is Kenna.” 

I smiled at Lilia’s friends and gave a little wave. They all smiled back, and gave me a general, “Hey.”


Amy sat shivering in a downtown entryway squashed between Tate’s and the hair salon next door. A victim of a broken foster system, Amy was determined to ensure this day lived up to her expectations for it. “Just a few more dollars, and I’ll have enough,” she thought. She smiled in anticipation of what was to come, pulling her thin jacket tighter around her, and eyeing her desired destination across the street.


We sat at the table with our drinks, awaiting our first course. Mel stood up, and clinked her glass. “Attention! Attention everyone! I would like to wish our dear friend, Lilia, a very happy fifth birthday!” Everyone laughed, and raised their glasses in mutual celebration as the appetizer made its appearance. I couldn’t identify half the ingredients the waiter said was in my salad, but it tasted alright, so I gobbled it down. The other girls "oohed" and "awed" over the dish, and babbled on about some professor they all had who put them to sleep during lectures. Smiling, and trying to add my two cents wherever possible, I secretly prayed that the night would be over sooner rather than later.

By the time the second course arrived, Lilia and her friends had moved on to discussing another professor’s "gorgeousness," as Addison had described it. At this point, I had managed to engage Tara in a conversation not involving their professors, so I missed the name of the dish. Luckily, I paid attention at the third course, and discovered I would be consuming braised lamb shanks in a mint sauce. “Fancy,” I thought. The other girls continued the chatter about their program, and some guy that Tara was into. I continued to struggle to find a place in the conversation. At long last the dessert arrived—crème brûlée. “Wow, Tate’s is really under-doing themselves,” I joked. No one laughed, but Lilia gave me an appreciative smile.

When the waiter returned, I inquired about getting a takeout container for my leftover lamb shanks I had saved in order to have a lunch tomorrow. The waiter looked at me as if I had just asked him for a million dollars, but said that he would see what he could do. As the debit machine was making its way around the table, I noticed that Addison hadn’t eaten most of her food. “Are you not going to take that to go?” I asked. 

“Oh, no way,” Addison replied. “I don’t know how people eat reheated food, especially meat. I feel like it gets all squishy and weird.”

We stepped out of the restaurant, myself with my takeaway, and the other girls with a satisfactory evening. I, however, felt cheated. The portion sizes were smaller than a Happy Meal from McDonald’s, but quadruple the price. The company had been nice, but we had had nothing in common, and I was $80 poorer than I would have preferred to have been. I walked with the group toward the bus stop, and noticed a girl about my age wrapped in a spring jacket with a ball cap turned upside down for money. For a second, she looked up and eyed my container. I was about to offer it to her, when a little voice in my head warned me, “No way, Kenna. You’re nearly broke.” I shuffled on, determined that I had justified my decision.


Amy watched as the container full of leftover Tate’s passed her by, the girl who carried it clearly the outsider of the group of other girls. 

“Kenna! Hurry up! We’re going to miss the bus!” 

Amy scoffed at the girls. Tate’s, followed by a ride on public transit back to residence. She often marveled at the things university students seemed to be able to afford. Weren’t they supposed to be poor like her? A stranger passed by and threw some change in her cap. Finally, she had enough. Amy jumped up from her spot, and stashed the money in her jacket pocket. Excitedly, she crossed the street, and entered the city’s best donut shop, Holy Moly’s Donut Bar. She had forgone a day’s worth of food for this moment, but it would all be worth it in a matter of minutes.

As she approached the till, she noticed the girl behind counter eyeing her suspiciously. This, of course, was no matter to Amy—stares were something she could live with. “Hello,” said the cashier, narrowing her eyes. “How can I help you today?”

“I’d like the Moly’s Supremely Sensational, please.”

“That’s our most expensive donut,” said the girl flatly. “It’s $9.75.”

Amy took a deep breath, and closed her eyes. She reopened them to see the cashier with the same judgmental look she wore when Amy had first entered the shop. “I know,” she said coolly, “And I would like one, please.”

The girl turned reluctantly, grabbed the donut off the shelf, and plopped it in a bag rather unceremoniously. 

“Here you go then,” she mumbled, and Amy handed her the required amount. The cashier tossed it in the register. “Have a good evening,” she said, while handing Amy the bag.

“Thanks,” Amy replied bitterly. “It’s my birthday.”

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