The math is simple.
Please take a moment to read the following scenario, then close your eyes and imagine it. OK. You’re at work, settling into your workspace for a medium-productive day of labor to benefit your—I can only assume—villainous top-hatted and mustachioed boss. (Do not close your eyes yet.) Your workspace is practically colorless, a smattering of grays with hints of beige. Your coworker Sharon comes in carrying a small bag. “I was getting a pain au chocolat,” she says, “so I got you one, too. Want it?” Oh, my God. Now close your eyes and imagine what happens next. Does the world turn to color? Do your work clothes turn to stylish work-appropriate clothes that you could also wear after work? Does your disposition turn from “sleepy medium” to “lightly energized medium-plus”?
And it’s all because your coworker (Sharon) got you a pastry, too.
What I’m going to propose to you now might at first seem outrageous but, I believe, will eventually come to be not only de rigueur but de rigueur toujours: You should buy a pastry for a friend, too, when you’re buying one for yourself.
Buying your friend a pastry, too, when you buy one for yourself allows for a number of things. It allows you, selfishly, to feel less selfish. Because you brought a bit of joy to someone else, your indulgence feels less like a thing where you’re treating yourself to a moment of decadence for no reason and more like a thing where you participated in a shared moment of human joy that will buoy your spirit and soothe your soul until the devil finally takes you back into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, back to the realm of the dead, back from whence you came.
It also allows you to have a better treat time! A pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese icing is nice on an autumn day, but a pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese icing for yourself and a person who sits near you at work or a friend you’re meeting at the bar? Well, now you’re having a party. Now it’s a special day. Now it’s treat time. This is relevant for any treat, but it is particularly relevant for when you visit a place that has a “special” treat—if you’re getting a chocolate chip cookie at Levain, for example, or a cannoli at Ferrara, or you’re at a German Christmas market and you’re getting one of those big gingerbread cookies that says “Ich Liebe Dich.”
The more odious among us will certainly see the “buy a pastry [a term we are using loosely] for your friend, too” idea as a tit-for-tat way to ensure a surprise treat for themselves one day, when a friend “pays [you] back” for when you got them the palmier. No. This calculated selfishness has no place in my argument, and to act as sort of a smudging ritual, I would like you to close the Internet browser and open it back up again. (Preferably from a different IP address.)
I suppose we should address the fact that buying a pastry for your friend, too, or additional treats for your coworkers when you’re having a treat during work time, or anything like this, will cost you at least twice as much as not doing it. OK. You’re not made of money, I know. But if I might take a guess at what you are made of at the moment, at least in a part larger than you would like, my guess would be: deep sadness. Yes? Everyone is now. So maybe it’s worth it, to do the thing with the pastry.