Monday, June 24, 2013

Thoughts on Paula Deen or on Being Disappointed Yet Again

I really liked Paula Deen.  I really did.

And not in an ironic, hipster way.

I liked that she was a big, bawdy woman who said what she felt, slept with a parrot in her bed, and prayed for a tugboat captain to come and marry her. I liked her recipes for mayo and butter casseroles and I liked her plucky, all-American story.

I have her cookbooks, I've eaten at her restaurant, I owned her signature butter flavored chapstick, and I subscribed to her magazine. I even liked her furniture line!

But clouds have been on my fan horizon for quite sometime.

If you read her autobiography you will find some unsavory details of sordid affairs (literal, extramarital affairs) and a predilection for cursing - in print - which I found head scratchingly odd.  I mean can't you write out a better word?  At least in the editing phase?


"To each their own" I said!

At a public appearance I went to at a Borders in NYC - when asked by some incredibly fervent (and
downright stalkerish) fans how she balances work and family she didn't miss a beat to shill for her new endorsement. "I know we all lead busy lives," she said, "but now, with my partnership with Smithfield ham, you can save time on dinner."


"Well," I thought (disappointed), "she's gotta make a living too."

Then the diabetes debate.

I felt disappointed, again, but, again, I thought that her whole enterprise depended on food that most certainly causes diabetes and that might take some time to reconfigure.

But this is different. Like Chik-Fil-A different.


I am despondent about the revelation that Paula is a racist. I can never make something from her cookbook and say, "this is a Paula Deen recipe!" without feeling like a jerk or tell people I went to her restaurant on my honeymoon.

I'm not shocked that Paula has used the n-word. I'm not even terribly shocked that she doesn't even realize that she is a racist. That there is no such thing as saying the n-word in a "funny, non-mean" manner. I'm sure she has black acquaintances. I'm sure she grew up with black people. I'm sure she honestly doesn't think she is a racist. I've known enough old people (and the children of those people) who honestly think they aren't racist but who most certainly are. And at this point in American history I find it most depressing that they think the words they say and the stories they spin are not offensive. Everyone has prejudices. I think it's human nature. But you have to acknowledge those prejudices and do what you can to overcome them. Even if you are from the South and "of a certain age."

The great thing about being a grown-up is that you are released from your childhood and whatever racist, sexist, homophobic baggage you grew up with.

But you have to choose to do it.

And apparently Paula has not. And now she has thrown herself into the great pantheon of racist old whiteys. Like the ones in Congress who say some of the most offensive things to African-Americans, Hispanics, and women without even bothering to notice that they are growing into an old age of irrelevant opinions.

I can't quite put my finger on why this has bothered me so much. I think it has something to do with the fact that I'm exhausted of learning about all the flaws of people or brands I admire. I'm tired of the casual racism, the casual sexism, and casual homophobia. The complete tone deafness to what is actually kind or decent or modern. I'm tired of being let down.

Like the incredibly nice doctor who looked at JTS (after I had just had a minor medical procedure) and said, with only a slight wink, "there is no excuse for her to not have dinner on the table at 6."


I bet you wouldn't even need three guesses to figure out that he was an over 60 white man. Who also happened to give me his cell phone number in case I needed him in an emergency. And who called me at 7:30 pm to give me test results because he knew I would be worried.

How do you reconcile that incredibly generous and thoughtful doctor with the one who thought (at the very least) it was a funny joke that the woman should get dinner on the table?

How do you reconcile drinking your favorite sweet lemonade from Chik-Fil-A (a brand I grew up with) with the fact that your money goes to physically hurting gay men in Africa?

How do you reconcile a delicious tomato and mayo pie with a woman who seriously pondered throwing a plantation themed party complete with slaves?

I'm constantly sad to constantly be disappointed in this generation. I know it's human nature to err, but dammit Paula, you can't sit in a deposition and act like you have nothing to apologize for. Not even one moment of contriteness.

And so now, another one bites the dust. I think I'll make one last tomato pie to cry into before I rework the recipe a little and call it my own.

No comments: